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Her Heart Still Beats   

Posted by Alexandra - May 10, 2015 - 9:30pm

I am sitting on my couch decompressing from two long days of intense labor at my “extra money moonlighting” job (a fruit arrangement shop) on their second largest gift holiday of the year. My muscles are sore and my right index finger and thumb are kind of numb and tingling from gripping fruit skewers (kind of like when you play the guitar for the first time in a long time), but there is Nag Champa incense burning and a cool evening breeze floating through the window...and all is well.

The holiday is of course Mother’s Day. A day that’s always been more than a little heartbreaking and difficult for me, as having children (and I mean bio-kids with a loving husband—the package deal) was one of my lifelong dreams that never happened. But doing the work at the shop helped keep me in the moment, focusing on one task at a time in an exhausting but Zenlike meditation. When I focused on each present moment as it happened, there was no room for thoughts in my head to cause suffering...for my “story” to take control of my well-being. (Thank you, Eckhart Tolle and all other Present Moment Awareness teachers)

And I almost…almost made it through the day without having to answer the question do you have kids?


But that’s not what I wanted to write about, really. I wanted to write about my own mother...who raised nine kids and has lived to see not only fourteen grandchildren, but eight (the latest just born this very morning!) great-grandchildren.

I honestly didn’t think Mom was going to stick around past wintertime of this year. Last autumn she was saying things that made me instinctively feel like she was done with this long life of hers—especially since she was moved into Assisted Living and her safe, comfortable home was emptied and sold. I knew that she realized it was the end of the road at that place. And then, for the third time in the last couple of years, she exhibited symptoms of a mini-stroke. That was the clincher. I was so sure she wouldn’t make it to the middle of 2015, that I made an impromptu trip back east for the holidays (with money I didn’t have) just so I could say goodbye.

I had a conversation with her on that trip, as we drove back from a lovely venture out in the surrounding countryside, that she likely didn't remember five minutes later (due to her dementia), but at least I got to say it to her. I told her that of all the people who would be clinging to her when it was her time to go, it would probably be me—her youngest. Who had shared a very special bond with her, having been the last of a large brood and who—in her words—she had finally been able to lavish with extra time and attention. So I said to her, “Mom, if you feel like it’s time to fly away, please don’t worry about me. I will find the courage to release you. So just fly.” I had no idea what her reaction would be. I thought for certain she would say, “What do you mean?” or else ask several questions in an endless loop trying to clarify things as her condition sometimes causes her to do. Instead, she was silent. I’m pretty sure she took it straight to heart.

But, well, springtime came and summer is nearly here. My 92 year-old mother is alive and kicking and feeling pretty healthy and content these days. I have never been so happy to be SO wrong. Her speech often sounds slower and she has to think harder for the right words sometimes, and her gait has turned to a slow shuffle. But she is doing great, otherwise. Despite the dementia, we still have some pretty lucid conversations where she doesn't ask the same questions over and over. She is visited weekly by two different sisters who each spend an entire day with her, and every other week by a third sister. The rest of the local siblings drop in when the mood strikes. My Mom has always had the ability to find and maintain contentment in the face of the most trying change or adversity, and I’d like to think that was the best thing I inherited from her.

I called her this morning before my nine-hour shift and wished her a Happy Mother’s Day, and told her to look out for a delivery person bringing her a box of chocolate dipped fruit. I thanked her for giving me life. She said more than once, “Well, I enjoyed raising you, Honey. You were a wonderful daughter.”

I told her I felt the same way. I was honored to be her child. I was so grateful for the special things we got to share, like going to Game 2 of the 1990 World Series together. And taking trips to California and North Carolina. I told her that one of the best things she ever did for me was pull me out of school for two weeks in the 8th Grade and whisk me from a snowy Ohio winter to sunny Florida to visit my snowbirding grandmother. I had been at a very low point back then, likely suffering from depression, and it helped me regain my footing and get a new lease on life.

For a mom who had me when she was one month shy of 44 and getting very worn out with child-rearing, she stepped up and went the extra nine yards. She found a way to relate to me and my generation. She picked out the perfect birthday and Christmas presents. She liked to laugh and be playful as much as she made me buckle down and learn responsibility. And she always, always supported me in all my adult life and career choices—even when they kept fluctuating so often.

I told her the four years I spent living with and caring for her back in Ohio (after moving back from California) couldn't even begin to repay everything she’s done for me — but was rewarding and soul-enriching anyway.

Again, she expressed delight and joy and gratitude at being my mother.

We are so fortunate and so blessed to still have Mom with us. As far as I’m concerned, every day is Mother’s Day, and I will savor each phone call and each webcam visit that I have left with her. With much gratitude and love.
Screenshot 2015-05-10 at 9.34.20 PM
9 comments on this journal entry.
Everybody's got to have a dream to help them make it down the stream
dave_porter Avatar

Posted: May 22, 2015 - 9:42am

Yet another life-enriching post from a brilliant daughter of a wonderful lady. Bless you both.
I get around
haresfur Avatar

Location: The Golden Triangle

Posted: May 12, 2015 - 3:18am

Shine On.
Coaxial Avatar

Location: 543 miles west of Paradis,1491 miles east of Paradise

Posted: May 11, 2015 - 9:13pm


Antigone Avatar

Location: A house, in a Virginian Valley

Posted: May 11, 2015 - 6:20pm

We're all riders on this train
ScottN Avatar

Location: Half inch above the K/T boundary

Posted: May 11, 2015 - 8:42am

Thank you for a well-written, lovely, joyful post. Hello, Mother of A!  {#Cheers},

meower Avatar

Location: i believe, i believe, it's silly, but I believe

Posted: May 11, 2015 - 6:40am

love you sister A!

miamizsun Avatar

Location: (3261.3 Miles SE of RP)

Posted: May 11, 2015 - 4:28am

memories  {#Hug}
Endeavor to Perservere
sirdroseph Avatar

Location: Yes

Posted: May 11, 2015 - 4:27am

Very nice, Alex. I hope your mom had a great Mothers Day!{#Daisy}