Thursday, April 30, 2020

Happy Birthday Mom

As usual I am late.

My mother would have been 91 yesterday had she not died last summer.  She had aunts on both sides of her family who lived to be close to 100, so I always thought she would be one of those bright ladies living on to 100 or later.  Sadly she developed dementia around her 88th birthday and slowly declined.

While clearing my electronic schedule which has been decimated by the COVID crisis, I noted my mother’s birthday.  I deleted it.  It was a recurring event so my computer asked me if I wanted to delete all future events so I did that.  I felt a little sad but really she isn’t going to be having any more birthdays.

Of course on facebook, yesterday a picture I had taken of her 3 years ago appeared.  It was her 88th birthday and the picture was taken at the Oak Bay Marina where I always took my parents when I visited them in Victoria and of course for special occasions.  My parents were by then in a seniors home and it was already apparent that she going to have to go into a higher level of care.  By then my mother couldn’t read the menu and forgot anyway what she said she wanted so I just ordered what I figured she wanted.  She didn’t have much of an appetite and mostly pushed her meal around her plate.  This was the last time I ever took my parents out to supper or for that matter ate at the Oak Bay Marina. 

I did repost the picture on Facebook and a lot of people “liked” it which should make me feel better I guess.

About 3 and a half months later we had to place my mother in what is called a “reminiscence unit” at another seniors facility which meant separating my parents for the first time since 1952, although my dad moved into the same building in different room a few months later.

Just over a year from that birthday picture my father fell, broke his hip and died of complications.  The first time I visited my mom, she of course asked what had happened to her husband and I told her he had died.  She got sad and then forgot about it, so every time she asked from then on, I just said he was resting which he sort of was.

Later my mother fell and broke her pelvis, which I thought was going to be the end of her but she was discharged back to the home, used a wheelchair for a while and then actually learned to walk with a walker, something that had been thought impossible due to her dementia and her fragility.  

I tried to visit every month.  It is no hardship to visit Victoria.  I would visit for an hour in morning, go somewhere for lunch and spend an hour in the afternoon.  She of course never remembered the morning visit.  If I stayed overnight, I could visit again the next morning.

Last July, I saw her for what was the last time.  We had what I remembered as a nice visit, given that by that time she didn’t know who I was.

Last summer in August  just after I had surgery for a facial smash, I got a phone call that my mother was in hospital with a perforated bowel.  I talked to the emergency room doctor and we agreed on no surgery.  She lingered on a few days and finally died in the afternoon on a Sunday.  I was after my surgery in no shape to travel.  I reassured myself that we had had a good visit in July and that she was no longer suffering.

My wife and I visited Victoria later that year on our way to Bella Coola.  I had to reflect on how weird it was to visit Victoria and not visit my parents.  

Some people will say she is in a better place.  My mother was not terribly religious.  She made us go to church and Sunday school and even taught Sunday school because that is what everybody did in the 1960s.  Our whole family stopped going to church when I was 13.  I suspect she was an atheist so she didn’t believe in an afterlife.  I remember her saying that you live on through your children.

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