Last week I read an article in a recent issue of People Magazine about lifesaving pets. The stories were all uniquely different but all had a core of unity - animal awareness and their humans who heard and responded. I think this must be a very rare occurrance or we would hear more about such events. More common are the times that unusual animal behavior is overlooked. Such an event happened during the first hour of mom's stroke.
Her next door neighbors in the building had a small dog and they would take him out to walk every morning. When they came back into the building, the little dog started whining and crying and scatching at mom's door. Being responsible pet owners and not wanting to cause a disruption, they pulled the dog away and hurried him into their apartment. Later, when mom was discovered they realized that the dog was hearing something that they could not - mom crying out for help. I know they felt badly later for not "getting it", but really it was no more their fault than it was the Gloria scheduled an early morning appointment or that I wrapped myself up in a false blanket of security regarding her safety. Life happens as it happens and all the could haves and what ifs in the world won't do anything except make one miserable and guilt-ridden and angry.
Two years into her stroke recovery, I had finally come to accept the fact that mom had come as far as she would be able. We had her safe and settled at St. Thomas. She had two rooms to herself, she was surrounded by the things she cared about, she had daily Mass and Holy Nuns watching over her. I had allowed myself to slip into that safe place that told me that mom had at last come to her final home and barring any drastic illness, would quietly and gently slip away in God's time. I had come to believe that my prayers for her eventual quiet passing had been answered. Her fall (such a minor thing) in early July shocked me back to reality.
Now two months into her recovery from her fall, I have found myself plagued by would have's, could have's, should have's, what if's, and if only's. And plague is just the right word. I feel like a plague has descended upon my head and its main objective, like any disease, is to keep me from finding my own way to self-healing and as a result I am of less benefit to my mother. Plague says "Be there twice a day no matter the quality of the visit", Healing says "Be there once a day and accept you mom in whatever mood you find her in". Plague says "You mom is being terrible to you. Punish her by staying away for a couple of days." Healing says "This is aging. This is a possible path to death that all of us might take. Love anyway."
Plague/Healing. Healing/Plague. For the past three days mom has been mainly sleeping whenever I, or like today with my brother Dave, show up. "What kind of quality is THAT?" Plague asks. Healing answers, "Accept where she is at. Look around for something during that time that you aren't with her that might benefit her." What an idea! and today that is exactly what I did.
Shortly after mom went into rehab, we started singing together. This is something mom always liked to do and when she would become aggitated, it would calm her down and redirect her emotions. I had discussed briefly the idea of getting a cassette player and headset with her speech therapist so that she could listen to a lot of the old tapes that we have, an idea the therapist loved. Plague told me for two weeks, "cassette players with headphones are old technology. You will never find a new one, go to Goodwill, find a piece of junk. Maybe it will work." How depressing is THAT? But today Healing said, "Go to Long's. Check it out. You might be surprised." One trip to Long's and my search was not only successful BUT it resulted in a sturdy and good-looking cassette player and was less than $10.00.
Leaving mom again today without much of a visit was sad but unlike previous visits, I wasn't despairing. And when I go to see her later today, I hope my musical surprise will bring a measure of pleasure to her days. Healing got through to me and I listened and now I've starting to pack up Guilt and Anger to send them on a well-deserved holiday to HELL. They will have lots of good company there.