Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Blog 60: Another Year Older
Today is my mom’s birthday and she turned 77 years old. I don’t think she understands that, at least that’s how she seemed when I talked to her on the phone. There was no excitement, or even any complaints about being another year older. It was like this was just an ordinary day for her, full of confusion and sadness. But it was a special day for me. She doesn't have the memories that I have of her past birthdays. There were many good ones.
She’s getting up there in years but she is still young by many people’s standards. It’s all relative to how healthy and active you are I guess, and since she is sick, she is far from young. I know from volunteering in a nursing home that even people in their 50’s can be ‘old’, and then I see 70 year olds in the gym who are anything but old.
When I called for Mom one of the caregivers at the group home helped guide Mom with the phone since she doesn’t have good phone skills anymore. The same lady answers whenever I call. She doesn’t speak very good English, but she understands that I want to talk to my mom, and she is very good about helping her with the phone. I don't know what she does, but I imagine her standing close by, just observing and making sure Mom keeps the phone in her hands.
Mom knew who I was as soon as she heard my voice. That is always a relief to me. Hearing her say my name always melts my heart. At least she still knows my name, even though she can’t seem to remember anything else about me. I don't even know if she knows who I am, but the voice recognition seems to help her.
I told my mom I love her at least a dozen times during our 15 minute conversation…if you can call it a conversation. It was more one-sided, but that’s just the way it is now. Out of the many times of saying I love you, Mom said it back to me twice. I hold on to those words from her and that gets me through to the next time I get to talk to her. Her voice was so pure, so soft, and so quiet. As much as she has changed, her voice is still the same, even though it is weaker and quieter.
Mom used to like to spell words and she was so good at it up until some time in the past year, when those skills seem to have vanished. Now she doesn’t spell anything. She doesn’t even understand the question when I ask her if she wants to spell something.
I sang Happy Birthday to her but she didn’t really seem like she even knew why I was doing it. I made small talk with her but most of the time it was me asking her questions and her not answering me back. Many times I had to repeat myself after asking her if she could hear me. Her hearing seems to be a lot worse. Mom sounded very tired and weak, like she was ready to fall asleep, even though she had already had her morning nap.
I kept having to ask her if she was there because she was so quiet. I bet I said 'Mom' a hundred times. I said ‘Mom’ because I was continually asking her if she was still there. I said ‘Mom’ because I know the day will come that I won’t get to say ‘Mom’ to her because she won’t be here anymore, and I like saying 'Mom' because it's more than a word or a name, it's an emotion. Call me weird, but that's how I feel. She would quietly and weakly say, “what”, like she didn't even hear what I said, so I would tell her I love her again. I wanted to make sure if I said I love you enough times, she would hear it and remember.