Sunday, May 7, 2017

My Mother's Purse

Yesterday was a sad day in the journey of taking care of my mother.   I cleaned out some clothes from her closet and found her purse in a drawer.  I asked the beloved care provider at the home about the purse and she confirmed that mom does not use it or look for it any longer.

A little over a year ago, my Dad left this planet and with him, the best medicine my mom ever had for her dementia.  They were a brain trust!  He talked to her and oriented her to the day's events and she fixed him food and cared for him like no other.

My parents were together for 50+ years. They blended two broken families crippled by the loss of a parent,  into one family and raised 10 kids. They worked together selling medical books, a job my mom took over when my dad "retired" stopped officially working. She was 16 years younger than my dad and the love of his life.  She was smart, capable, organized and had a successful professional career as a book salesman and  regional manager, that started when I (her baby) was in high school.

Twenty two years ago when we invited my parents to move out to some land and live next to us, we promised to take care of them as they aged.  I had no idea what we were promising.  My help which started out with taking care of their bills and travel arrangements, grew to running a staff of five and being "on call" at all hours to assist my parents with whatever they needed.

One of my favorite examples of this is the time they called me to tell me the phone wasn't working. I questioned this, as I pointed out we were talking on the phone  at this very moment.  They insisted it was a miracle we were talking and most of the phones in the house were "going down".  I raced home to help rescue the sinking ship of phones.

Once Dad was gone, we moved Mom to a board and care facility with memory assistance. I visited often and took her out on the town for mexican food, church, manicures and hamburgers.  In the home she was always asking and looking for my dad, her purse and me.  A little over a year  has passed and my mom is slipping away without my dad's diligent reminders and frequent nagging.  She is more settled in the home, but she is too weak to take out on outings and no longer is looking for her purse.

It took me aback when I stumbled onto it in her drawer. I am thankful she is more settled at her facility, but sad she is not missing her purse in a strange way. Another piece of my mom slipping away.

I brought the purse home and it sat on my desk for a while. Then I forced myself to go through  it. It doesn't feel right to go through someone's purse before their body has left this planet. It dawned on me, I never pictured doing this unless I had said my goodbyes and attended her funeral. But this is not the case with dementia.  The standard rules do not apply.  I placed her wallet in the financial box I keep my parent's paperwork in, next to my dad's wallet. Again the strange feelings washed over me, for my Dad was physically gone, but my mom is still here.  I had an urge to put her wallet back together and place it in her purse and rush it back to her.  I pushed those urges away as I wiped away a tear.

My mom is leaving this planet slowly, painfully and ever so slightly every day.  Her grey curly hair and blue eyes are still with us, but her grasp on who she was is vanishing.  I am thankful she still recognizes me and can laugh at my silly antics, but the body that I visit holds just a whisper of my mother.

Her purse now sits by my door and I am thinking of taking it to the goodwill or other charity organization where I have deposited far too many of my parent's belongings.  The purse may have to wait and go back in my closet until my mother's body and mind are together once again some day in heaven.  Perhaps, Then and only then will I truly believe she doesn't need it anymore.

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