(I started this on September 1st, and then Hurrican Irma happened, and two weeks have flown right on by!)
In thess than 24 hours, Tara and I will have been at home here in Florida for 6 months. We arrived at 2 am on April 2nd. After a rainy, traffic delayed journey that began at 11pm on 3/31!
The time has flown by. I don’t feel like it has been that long, and other times I feel like this has been home for far longer. We settled into life in our own space pretty quickly. It hasn’t been easy, there have been financial struggles, but at least we are comfortable and at home in our space. Our space, just Tara’s and my space! I don’t regret ever living with Mom, but our apartment was very crowded and many times we had to do things on Mom’s terms to keep the peace!
I keep wanting to document the story of our move, but I sit down to write and don’t know where to begin.
When we relocated back to PA in 2009, I had more time on my hands as I was not working the final 2 months, and I kept a regular journal on my blog. This move was such a whirlwind of activity, and emotions and “stuff”, that I barely had time to breath!
While the physical process was only three months, the story is much longer, so bear with me!
I’ve never really told the “story” of the weeks leading up to Mom’s death, and without Mom’s passing, we wouldn’t have made this journey at the time we did.
I miss Mom, every day and only take comfort in the fact that she was so very ready to go home!
Let’s back up to the beginning, almost back to the time we arrived back in PA in 2009.
I had attempted prior to our return in 2009 to have my mother move to Florida with us, but at that time she was still pretty active in church and camping activities, and at 85 it would have been difficult for her to move away from the only place she had ever lived. I understood that. Our house at that time in Florida would have worked well for our multi generational familym but we made the decision to return home. I wanted to be close to my mother in her later years. It had become difficult to be so far away.
When we moved back to PA to be near family and my mother as I aged Tara was just 12. I thought we would be able to cohabit with three generations of women in one space, but it quickly became clear that it was not going to be easy! Tara was coming into the teen years, and times and parenting has changed so much, that many times my mother and I clashed over my handling of situations. My mom was hard on Tara. In her heart and mind, she was helping me with comments she would make to Tara about certain things, but in reality, she complicated things. Our space was not designed for the three of us to be able to have our own spaces. Tara was never to really comfortably have friends in the house, as Mom just didn’t tolerate “noise” well. Tara quickly learned to spend as much time as she could with friends, which really in retrospect is sad. That a young teenager was never really comfortable in her own space.
I was the middle of the generational sandwhich constantly trying to keep everyone at least somewhat happy.
I have not regrets about the time we spent back in PA, it was just not always the easiest time. Family relationships were not always the best. I reconnected with old friends and family, had wonderful upstairs neighbors, found a job I enjoyed, and made many wonderful friends throughout my 7 years with Walgreens in Kulpsville!
Tara grew up during that time. It wasn’t always easy, but it could have been worse. Her issues were school related and we worked through those and she got her diploma. Brick and mortar schools aren’t for everyone, and on line school was our saving grace! Tara made some life long friends, found a musical niche, attending many concerts, and grew into an awesome young woman. (This was Tara the 1st day of her senior year)
We had talked about moving from time to time, but I could not leave my mother. Moving into a “home” was an option she would entertain from time to time, but when it really came down to it, I don’t think that was what she wanted.
Things started to get more and more stressful at home. Mom became less able to do the things she had always done for herself. Once she stopped driving at 90, after a broken femur, she felt she was a bother as she could not get herself places on her own. I never minded taking her to and picking her up from church or running errands with her, or even doing the grocery shopping, which she always enjoyed. I mean I hated shopping, and found ways to make it easier for myself, but she felt a bother many times.
By this time last year (Aug-Sept), she was acting more confused and was falling frequently. Tara and I were dealing with her behaviors mostly alone, trying to limit the length of time that she was home alone. She was hospitalized from a bad UTI/out of control blood sugar mid September. This was the beginning of the end. She seemed to be doing better, more like herself, but then the depression and sadness would return. She was just done, she was tired, and her body was failing her, and she was just not happy. It broke my heart. She hated needing help, and many times would fight me when I was trying to help her. Her dignity was being taken away. She prided herself in her independance throughout the years.
By mid December it was harder and harder for me to care for her myself. I had to make sure she had breakfast at her bedside if I went to work early, I had to try and get her up and changed as well. Most days she just fought getting out of bad hard. Some days she would eat, some days she would not. She would not take her Metformin even when I laid them out for her unless I stood over her like a child. Yes, our roles had become reversed and I was not parenting my mother. At the end of a long shift at work, I would come home at 10:30pm only to fight to get her up and changed or to find that she had not eaten her food. It was upsetting, and frustrating and sometimes I preferred being at work instead of hom.
Leading up into Christmas is obviously a busy time in retail, there were not extra days off, and several nights I was at the store until after midnight. Tara was not working by this time, she was in between jobs and thankfully was very good with Mom. Mom responded better to her many times than me!
We tried to have Mom admitted to the hospital one more time. I was not home, and Tara called to tell me Mom was acting odd, and seemed to be very cold. My sister went over, and they tried their best to have her go in the ambulance to the ER, but she refused. She was in a better mental state this time and clearly voiced her opinion and they had to leave without her.
By the Thursday before Christmas I was at the end of my proverbial rope. Mom was no longer able to help me help her. I did not know where to turn. I called my cousin Dean, who always had a good way with Mom. He has law enforcement and emergency services background and just has a way with people in any situation. I was too close, too emotionally involved and upset, to rationally deal at this point. I was exhausted. Dean sent an angel named Mandy to me that day. She has a background in Geriatric care and hospice (I had never even thought that word was something I needed to think about, hospice = dying in my mind and I was not ready to go there). Mandy talked to me and spent a little time with Mom, and as everyone was gearing up for a long holiday weekend, she set a plan in place to get me help by way of hospice nurses.
Mom was restless and calling out at night. I Thursday and Friday night sleeping in her recliner in her room. She would occasionaly try and talk to me, and she asked me some strange questions. By Saturday morning, she tried to communicate, but it was just a jumble of words. Chad and Tasha visited with the twins and Ella, with little recognition.
Hospice had sent us some supplies, a “comfort package” that contained morphine. Why would we ever need that, she wasn’t in pain? A nurse arrived around 3pm and helped me get Mom changed and situated in bed. It was during this visit that her breathing changed, and the nurse told me she was actively dying. Those words were like a huge gut punch. Just a couple days before, we were thinking of hospice as an option to in home care, that might last weeks or even months. We talked about having a hospital bed delivered to make Mom’s care easier. I was told, all alone, just me and the nurse that she might make it through the night, she might make it through the week, but she really didn’t think so. This if you lost track was CHRISTMAS EVE.
I quickly made phone calls as other family had planned on stopping by Christmas to see here. I told them they should come right away. The nurse made a call for oxygen. I can’t say enough about all the people involved in keeping my mother comfortable on Christmas Eve. The oxygen arrived quickly, and morphine was administered. I was educated on the use of morphine to help keep Mom comfortable, not so much as a pain killer, but to help her “relax” as she transitioned.
Mom never really came back to us that evening. Jodie, Jerry and the boys visited, Linda was there, cousins stopped by, and Pastors visited. The first nurse stayed for a very long time, making sure we knew how and when to administer morphine, which she had already called to have the dosage changed to keep Mom out of distress. another nurse arrived and stayed for a bit, and then we were left to sit vigil and wait. She was given communion by the pastor from her church. I know whe would have appreciated that last sacreament.
Around 10pm everyone went home to try and get some sleep. Tara and I ran out to just get some air. We stopped by my Walgreens, it was my place of comfort with people who were as close to me as family. When we left Mom alone for what was just a few minutes, I told her we loved her, and that we would be back shortly. I also told her that if she was ready to go, but wanted to be alone (she did not like to be fussed over) that I would understand. We returned quickly and Mom was still with us. Tara and I took turns checking in on her every few minutes. I had some phone calls to make and Tara wanted to shower. Sometime between us checking on her at 11:30pm and 11:35pm, she passed quietly.
Thank goodness for hospice. I had to just make one phone call to them and they cared for everything else. I called, Linda and Jodie. Before too long the house was full of family. The hospice nurse returned to prepare mom for her final journey to the funeral home. The funeral home did not arrive until almost 2am. The entire process was handled with so much care and compassion. The folks left their homes in the middle of the night, early Christmas morning to help us with our final moments with Mom.
The next week is a blur, funeral arrangements, realizing things we always thought were paid for weren’t and realizing that our apartment complex would not work with us to move into a smaller apartment to fullfil our lease. So now, on top of planning our final send off for Mom, Tara and I had to start thinking about where we would live!
To be continued….