Updated: Jun 1, 2020
This marks the eve of the 365-day anniversary of Meems' "Transitioning" to Heaven. On March 16th, 2020 I decided to no longer kiss her soft cheeks or gently stroke the paper-thin skin on her hands during my visits to protect her from the dreaded, skulking Coronavirus that had just begun to creep into the Texas Panhandle. Instead, I stood at the foot of her bed to chat with her during our visits. Now, it has been 76 days since I had physical contact with my mother. For 71 days, my visits with her have been through the large windows that overlook the back porch of her "home."
Meems loved to "pet" on people. She was a hug-patter and a foot massager. Touch was one of her many love languages. While my sister, Kathy, laid in a hospital bed in the Bone Marrow Transplant unit at Baylor hospital for weeks on end, Meems daily ever so gently apply lotion to Kathy's arms and legs with feather-like fingers. These soft strokes had little to do with the dryness of my sister's skin and much to do with the healing touch.
I remember the coolness of Meems' hand as she lightly rested it on my little girl forehead to see if I was feverish. When I was a third-grader, during my two-week confinement due to chickenpox followed by the mumps as I lay groaning in bed, she softly rubbed my back and flipped the cool, damp cloth on my forehead from the hot side to the cold side every few minutes. She sat with me until her touch lulled me to sleep.
Mom hasn't spoken many words in the past few weeks. Her vocabulary has been pared down to an occasional whispered "breakfast," "cold," "hot," and "supper." From time to time she can squeeze out a quiet "yes" when asked if she's ready to be taken to the supper table. Mostly, she sits and stares into the near distance or simply sits with her eyes closed - not asleep-closed. It's more like she has turned off her visual input for a while. A simple break from the color and movement in her line of vision.
Her hospice nurse and the staff at her facility tell me that since she continues to display signs of the transitioning (purple, cold hands and feet...) to the end-of-life, it will be hard to predict when Meems might be "heading that way" once and for all. Most likely, she will simply close her eyes and be gone. Not asleep closed. Not escaping-from-visual-stimulation closed. It will be the I-see-Jesus kind of eye closing.
Last week Alan and I sat on the back porch wondering how it is that my tiny, purple mother has stayed on this side of Heaven's gates for a whole year. Last June as Alan tried to comfort me at her bedside he said, "I think she'll be here for Christmas." I rolled my eyes.
Only a handful of her friends (the ones that are years younger) are still alive. She is kin to more people in Heaven than she is to people on Earth. What exactly motivates her to breathe each breath and swallow each morsel of food?
Alan pointed out that my mother, a Depression child, was very good at squeezing every cent out of a dollar. "She's probably lying there thinking 'If I hold on until the 15th of the month, another $3000 in retirement checks will flow into my bank account.' I think that she wants that for her daughter." Thinking back to how she scrimped and saved to raise us and how she taught us to become independent adults, it dawned on me that Alan might be right. For the first time in her whole life, she has the ability to lavish her daughter with the gift of Depression child wealth.
My theory has to do with the fact that she drove her cars until they gasped for breath and used butter tubs to save three bites of leftovers until the little yellow tubs cracked and died. She's not going to let a perfectly good body go to waste. She didn't spend all those years swimming a mile in the pool and doing the downward dog in her yoga class for nothing.
Sweet mother, you have already given me more than I ever deserved. But, if it's those checks that are keeping you here, I'm OK with that. Hang on to that thought until the State of Texas reopens assisted living homes. I would love to cash in on few more hugs and kisses.