I don’t know why this weekend was the weekend of tears, but it was. It’s not an anniversary. Or a birthday. Or a special date of any sort.
“Can you come over? I need to talk to you about something important,” Mom said. Talking on the phone can be confusing for her, so I got in the car and headed over.
“I just don’t like it here. I don’t belong here. I can’t sit in my room all day. Can I get a job?”
I put my arms around her and said, “That sounds hard. Tell me more.”
“All they do is complain. At dinner tonight the little old ladies were complaining about the food. The food is fine here. Why are they always complaining?”
I found this ironic, given that growing up my most vivid memories of my mom involved her complaining. About everything.
“What would you like to do?” I asked. “I don’t know; I just, I just can’t sit here.” The tears streamed down her face. I held her and tried to hide my tears. This isn’t how it was supposed to be.
I pulled out my computer and started looking for volunteer opportunities. Mom peeked over my shoulder. As I read each one out loud, she said, “no,” “no,” “no,” “no.”
Was this one of the things that she would forget about? How seriously did I need to take her inquiry? Would she remember tomorrow?
“Mom, the arboretum is open for another couple of hours. Let’s go for a walk.”
We walked through the empty grounds; no one else was there on a Friday night at 8:00 pm. We sat on benches and listened to fountains. We walked down mulched paths and watched fireflies light up. We read signs about NC native flora and fauna. We watched a hummingbird go from plant to plant to plant.
On the way home, I asked if she’d like to get ice cream. “Sure!” which has become her default answer to almost all questions. We sat outside in the heat, which was slowly becoming cool, eating the rapidly melting sweet cream.
I tried to meditate Saturday morning. I sat for about three minutes before the tears came. I tried to focus on my breath, and all I could do was sob. That would be my practice for the day. Tears.
Later in the day, after running errands, I decided to get my car washed. As I sat on the bench, waiting for them to finish vacuuming, I stared into the distance. Across the street was Range Urgent Care. Where we took Dad at Christmas 2017 when his legs were swollen and he was having trouble breathing. Where they told us to go to the ER right away and I had to ask, “Where is the ER?” being so new to town. I sat there, dark sunglasses on, hot tears streaming down my face in the warm afternoon.
I weeded the yard, much too late in the morning. Fearing heatstroke, I came inside, poured myself a tall glass of iced tea, and started reading. “How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies” had been recommended to me. Two pages in, and I started crying. I put the book down. I sobbed for what could have been minutes, but was actually hours.
I called Mom. “Would you like to go downtown with me?” “Sure!” “Okay. I’ll be there in about 30 minutes. Don’t go anywhere.” This last sentence was necessary because when I went to get her last week, I wasn’t in the lobby when she thought I should have been, and she just started walking. Fortunately, the concierge noticed, and called me. When I found her, I laughed it off, saying, “Oh, did you decide to go to lunch without me?” but inside I was terrified that this was a new stage – wandering.
I couldn’t put on makeup because my face and eyes were too swollen. I hoped that sunglasses would hide the redness and puffiness. She was in her apartment when I arrived. We walked around downtown, disappointed that so many stores were closed on Sunday. We stopped by Harris Teeter to buy ice cream. I put one half gallon in the buggy and she said, “More.” I put another half gallon in the buggy and she said, “More.” “Mom,” I said. “More,” she countered. I put another half gallon in the buggy and started walking away.
We got back to her apartment and put the groceries away. “Where are those books that talked about when Daddy and I travelled?” I looked in her bedroom and found the photo album labeled “Volume 2 – Thailand, Turkey, Italy, and France.” We turned through each page, looking at faded photographs and receipts and postcards and souvenirs Dad had pasted in the photo album. As we neared the end, I said, “That really was a great trip you took.” And the tears rolled down her face. “I miss him so much. I love him so much. It’s not supposed to be like this.”
I hugged her. “I know. I know. I know.”