Going Home

Discussion in 'Family of Origin' started by New Leaf, Sep 30, 2015.

  1. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Today I make a long hard journey to be by my Moms side. I will take in the crisp fresh country air, witness the splendor and glory of fall, and relish in the chance to see my Mom and spend precious time with her.
    We live far, far away from one another.

    An ocean and a continent away
    I am feeling sad today
    Wishing for brilliant orange, red, yellow leaves
    The brisk chill of frosty air
    Warmed by your hug
    and smile
    a cup of hot coffee
    and conversation
    I bask in the presence of your love

    I am getting that wish I longed for in this poem, and I am happy, and I am sad.
    Lost Dad three years ago after a six year battle of series of illness. His dogged determination to live was...unbelievable. He is still here with us, watching over, waiting for my Mom. He appears intermittently in a flash on her computer screen, an old photo she filed a couple years back, that mysteriously keeps popping up. His old documents sporadically show up on her desk top.
    He comes to me in songs, and moments, he loved the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and told us he was a rock, a tree, a bird. In the throes of his illness, I, desperate to go to my family, but unable due to distance, obligations, time, would go to the sea for comfort, and there would appear a beautiful white tern flying above me. Dad. I would journey home six times through his six year fight. After his passing, through my trials with my difficult children, I would constantly find beautiful feathers, glistening on the ground. Dad. I have collected them in a vase on my bureau. My difficult child sent me a picture of her youngest in a text. They were at a beach party. There was my granddaughter, in the evening, impish smile.I noticed a white orb behind her. I called my daughter and thanked her for the photo, "What is that in the background?" "Mom, there was nothing behind her." I expanded the photo and was astounded to see the filmy cloud enlarge to an image of a face of a man with glasses looking at my grandchild. The spitting image of... Dad.

    Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer just three short months after his passing. She barely had enough time to grieve her husbands death. She picked herself up by the bootstraps and underwent chemo, felt disgustingly ill and tired, lost her hair, built her courage in spite of it all, and has managed to survive three years, after being told at best she had six months. Mom.

    When I told her on her anniversary this summer that I was not sending her flowers, that I was sending her me, on this trip, she cried with joy. " I haven't seen you in nearly two years, her voice wavered and we broke down together as I do now, writing this. You see, she called me recently telling me she had a bout of coughing up blood-" Now don't worry it was just a little for three days and now it stopped. I will go to the doctors and let them know, I am sure it is nothing."
    I shoved back tears and worry, and said "Yes Mom, you have had a cold, maybe it is just an irritation. Let's be positive and think the best." Hung up and cried, racking, sobbing tears. Mom.
    I called her over the weekend. Her doctor wants to do a bronchoscopy, to see what is going on, the trouble is when she was first diagnosed, they did one and her gag reflex was so strong she stopped breathing. She nearly died, they had to "bag" her. This is the same procedure Joan Rivers had. I gently asked her why she needed to do it, swallowing my fears and my urge to impose my wishes on her NOT to do it. Old fashioned, retired R.N. response, "Oh Dear, my Doctor will be disappointed with me if I don't do it. He said if it is a spot, they can just zap it with one bit of radiation and that should take care of it."
    "Okay Mom, it is your body, your decision, I will support you and back you up, but I am worried."
    Monday she called and told me her appointment is on the 9th, apologetically, "I don't want to spoil your trip and your plans, but it is the first available spot, and there won't be another one for awhile. Your brother will take me and pick me up." Her voice got small and shaky "But I don't want to spend the night alone, I just need someone to be with me."
    " Mom, of course I will be there, I will make adjustments."
    We fly back on the 11th and had planned to make our way to Boston, stay with my sister overnight at her friends horse rescue farm, leave early morning, return our rental and catch the T into the city the day before the long trip home.
    I called my girls and told them we were changing our plans and going by what the cards were now dealing.

    Happy and sad, thankful to see my Mom and be with her. Sad and scared for what is to be. Our parents passing is inevitable. It is a dark unavoidable chasm in our lives. I relish the thought of being in her embrace.

    I will spend time with my older sister, who encouraged my pixie cut, so we could be "twins" again. She was my childhood tormentor along with my brother, they were partners in relentless bullying. They tease me about my memories in poetry. I have learned to overcome the small child feelings, my sister has apologized, my brother remains stoic-"it wasn't that bad". We shall have some wine together, and I will play songs from the 70's on Youtube, while we sing along loudly, badly, unabashedly. My little sister is coming up from Pennsylvania for the weekend. Business like and wise from years of learning from our mistakes, she has become Mom's caretaker.

    So many memories. So many feelings.
    I am going home. It will be a whirlwind trip, 12 hour flight, 2 hour car ride, 6 hour time adjustment, 10 days. I am going home.
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  2. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    So poignant
  3. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Beautiful and poignant.....
  4. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    We are holding you, and your mother, in our thoughts, New Leaf. How lovely for you to be so exquisitely aware, so present, not only to grief, but to the poignancy of these moments. There is such color and richness in your writing about each of the sisters, singing and laughing and loving, and cooking together. I am sure you will be cooking wonderful food together and I am so happy for you that this is so.

    I wish you safe travel and a happy homecoming, New Leaf.

    I love the stories you shared with us about your father. Those rounded, misty white images often appear in photographs our daughter takes. We have not thought to expand them to search for a face. I will tell her.

    Thank you very much for sharing this time with us.


  5. Feeling Sad

    Feeling Sad Active Member

    Just beautifully written, Leafy. You are able to retain the true gems in life. Those special moments to cherish. Have a safe trip, my firend. Enjoy your special and well-earned time with your family. Our prayers are with you and yours. Soak up more precious memories.

    I see a hummingbird outside of my bedroom window in the morning sometimes when I am down. I feel that it is my mother. Yes, your father is with you.
  6. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    What a beautiful story. I hope and pray you get good news about your mom and that your visit is as wonderful as you describe, sounds like you have a very loving family.
  7. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Thank you so much dear Cedar, I am sitting outside in the fresh clear air after our long flight and drive. The leaves are just turning and we have a bit more of a drive before getting to Moms. It is very different driving these parts, thank goodness for GPS. My daughter has the talking app. we have named her Glinda. She is most helpful in calming my anxiousness about driving in unfamiliar territory.Being with my three grateful children and 15 year old sensible granddaughter is very pleasant and calming. Just a little while longer and I get to hug my Mom!Yay!
    My word for the day is BLESSED!
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  8. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Thank you dear Feeling Sad, I truly appreciate your good wishes,thoughts and prayers. Trying to stay up as late as possible to get into the time zone. I am a zombie!
  9. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    What are you cooking, Leafy?

    Apples are ripening, where I live. We made a delicious apple crisp yesterday, the apples freshly picked. D H chose between that and apple pie. There was a time I made and froze apple pies for our families to bake at Thanksgiving, to have something from us to share, though we were not here.

    That is what Fall smells like at our house.

    Wood fire, and cinnamon, and falling leaves and apples.

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  10. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    We are so happy for you, Leafy. Yay.
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  11. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    We cooked hearty beef stew to warm the chill off the day's activities. We sopped it up with toasted rosemary olive oil bread.
    We ventured off to the oldest fair in New England and walked about taking in the sites, big barns with cows, oxen, pigs, goats, alpaca's. Hot apple "cidah", steak and cheese subs and funnel cakes. We warmed ourselves indoors viewing best in show quilts, hand sewn braided rugs, tapestries and hand knit items of all sorts.I found some lovely local made lotions goat milk based with all natural ingredients.
    There is no comparison to freshly picked apples! We spoke of making a crisp, too. My sister brought over a big bag of apples someone brought to the horse rescue farm, she said the apples were too good to give to the horses. Cedar, such a thoughtful gift for Thanksgiving!
    My favorite time of the year, sigh.
  12. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Yum. It all sounds like a beautiful, delicious dream, Leafy. I am happy for you.

  13. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    It is delicious my dear Copa. I shall hold on to this time and cherish it.
    It feels good to breathe again. Thank you Copa.
  14. Feeling Sad

    Feeling Sad Active Member

    Okay. I spoke of moving in with Cedar...maybe you might want me? I have been back to New England twice....just lovely. How wonderful for you. Soak it up so that you may paint poignant water-colored images with your mind.

    You are truly in your element. This is what life is all about. Enjoy every pure magical moment, my dear Leafy!

    Even true warriors, need a much deserved rest!
  15. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Thank you dearest Feeling, how wonderful it would be a warrior sisters rest camp...
    I wish you sweet dreams and a relaxing weekend!
  16. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Apple picking today. Went to a different place than my last fall visit in 2012. Driving through winding country roads, we arrive at our destination to find parking guards juxtaposed near the busy farm stand. Cars parked with out of state plates, folks are fall leaf viewing, soaking up the sites. Can't blame the orchards for stepping it up a notch, trying to attract the tourists and make a couple bucks at the same time. The stand had a mix of local products and made in China stuff. I guess folks are looking for cheap deals, hand made is more expensive.
    We strolled through the rows and rows of apple trees and marveled at all the varieties, picking a few here and there, a sampling. There were lots of folks there enjoying the day. A bit crowded for my taste, the country has changed. So different from when I was younger. Ah, the good ole days.
    Being with family brings up a lot of memories and old stories. We sit around the dinner table weaving broken bits together, filling in the blanks to complete the tapestry of days gone by. I yearn for the simpler times of my childhood. Was it that things were more authentic then? We talked about the milk man delivering milk each week, the bread man would come too, how I loved to run out to the driveway as he rolled up the back door of the truck, a rush of fresh bread scent would fill the air, I stood there taking it all in as Mom would buy a few loaves for the week. That was then. Mom was young and strong.
    Now Mom is coughing like crazy. I look at my sister as Mom goes in to a fit of coughing. " She's gonna be ok, it is a cold." Mom has decided not to do the bronchoscope on Friday. " I am not doing it with this cough!" I am relieved. I found a note she had written by the phone. It must have been from her speaking with the doctors office. They have no record from the notes of her last scope that she had to be bagged. I gently asked her why not. She looked a bit confused. "Well I don't know why, I don't remember anything, I think it was your brother who told me that happened."
    That it did happen is ingrained in my mind because Mom called me afterwards and said in a shocked child like voice that they had to stop because she coughed and gagged so much they had to "bag" her.
    She would repeat this story in various versions for some time after, as if to purge herself of the experience. "They bagged me you know" "And did you know they had to BAG me?" " I stopped breathing, they bagged me"."I nearly died, they bagged me!
    I understand her trying to forget it, or pushing it away. What I cannot comprehend is that the clinic notes would not have it. I do not want to overstep, but feel that Mom needs someone to go and advocate for her. She is not feeble minded, she can be quite stubborn. The fact of the matter is, the health industry has changed too. We have become numbers. Records get lost in the shuffle. I do not want my Mom to needlessly suffer another procedure.
    Tomorrow we go to my brothers for lunch. Perhaps we can talk a bit about it and see what Mom says. It will be a touchy subject. Mom wants to make her decisions for herself, as she has a right to. We are scared for our Mom.
    I know Mom is scared. She is not ready to go. I feel her sadness. She has been to four funerals this fall. It must be so hard to lose so many around you, especially when faced with a terminal illness.
    Mom knows of our troubles with her two granddaughters. I could not keep it from her. "You know I wrote to them and told them family is everything, and life is short." She said, her voice trembling. I replied "I know Mom, they are making their own choices, all we can do is pray and hope they will turn their lives around." Photographs of visits home dot the house. We would come every four years or so. My children would see a world so vastly different from their island home. My Mom loved to take them around and buy them treats and tell anyone who would listen " These are my Hawaiian grandchildren!" Now, as she faces her last years, she longs for them to wake up. I hope they do before their Tutu joins their Grandpa.
    Mom has a tiny covered shakers basket on her windowsill, in it, a shriveled up colorless remnant of a penny candy stretchy bracelet my 27 year old left behind after our trip 23 years ago. I open it and cry. It so symbolizes my daughters state of mind, and our relationship right now.
    In reviewing what I write here, my story and feelings, it is an odd mix of past and present, time gone by and that yet to come. We have no control over what is to be, only how we react and respond. Though I yearn for simpler times, the future marches ever on, the cycle continues and what will be, will be.
    Life is like the changing seasons. We know there will be winter,spring, summer and fall, but the details in between are a mystery.
    The leaves are slowly turning, a bit late they say due to the drought. The recent cold spell might speed it up a bit.
    The trees will paint their colors as nature signals. The mountains and valleys eventually bursting into a brilliant symphony. Each day brings a different view.
    God help me to take in the glory of it all, accept what is, be thankful for what was, and be faithfully prepared for what comes.
  17. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    My mom created a notebook for my father, Leafy. It was a loose leaf with a plastic covering that enabled her to put pictures of my father beneath the plastic on the front of the notebook. There too were his nickname, and a brief description of his hobbies.

    Simple. Clean. Humanizing. Immediately available at a glance. The nickname was an especially important piece to include.

    Within the notebook were: A page of diagnoses, and of current medications. This would be the page for information regarding the bagging incident, and your mother's response to its trauma. A quote from her following a very brief description of the incident. If you can find a copy of the results of that procedure, include it. The following pages consisted of medical records, insurance information, who to call in an emergency. Favorite foods; likes and dislikes. This notebook went with my father to medical appointments and emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Because of the pictures of my father on the front, it was an interesting enough item for nurses or doctors to pick up and glance through.

    It humanized my father to the helping professionals caring for him.

    Could you create such a notebook for you mother, Leafy?

    The pictures on the front of my father's book were of him with huge fish, or of his boat. One, when he was a young boy.

    Holding you and yours in my thoughts, New Leaf.


    I enjoyed your description of the apple orchards. You write beautifully.

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  18. New Leaf

    New Leaf Well-Known Member

    Thank you kind Cedar for sharing this,it is a good idea. A notebook of procedures, medicines complete with photos-personalization plus clinical information. Perfect. I will share that with my brother and sister.
    The gang has moved lock, stock and barrel to my brothers. Staying at Moms has proved too difficult for her. First the racking cough, then a stopped up kitchen sink. Poor dear, she needs her space and rest. We are a commotion. She wrestled with hurrying us out, then said, " You will come back before you leave?" "Of course Mom, it is a bit much for you now,we understand!"
    So off we went in our "hobo" rental van to brothers.
    Life is a series of adjustments.sigh......
  19. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    When my mother was at the board and care home for those 10 weeks(horrible, terrible weeks for both of us) she was taken to the clinic and dropped off. Nobody stayed with her. She began to scream and scream. Nobody knew what to do with her. Her appointment was for the psychiatrist. Because nobody knew what to do or to take responsibility she was taken instead to the emergency hospital. She missed her appointment.

    My poor mother. I do not know how I let her stay there for almost 10 weeks. Those weeks were so horrible. I had thought she could go to day treatment every day in a van. The first day they came for her, they had to bring her back. She began screaming and told them she would turn them all in for elder abuse. She must have been so afraid. She must have scared the other old people. The director called me. I did not know what to do. She had visited that program and had wanted to go. I had had so much hope.

    I was over my head. That is when my depression began. I was truly over my head in a nightmare which has still not stopped.

    A binder would have been a good idea. Except if they let her go alone...would they really have respected a binder. How hard is dying. Sometimes.

    Leafy, it is painful to read about your mother. Do it anyway. We need to know. Only by sharing will you find a way to do this and to help your mother do so. I am sorry that you are both going through this. I wish it could be easier.

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  20. Feeling Sad

    Feeling Sad Active Member

    I love your last line....similar to the serenity poem. You write so beautifully, Leafy.

    Your name is so perfect, Leafy. You are there with your mother, enjoying the precious first turning of the leaves. From gteen, to bolder yellow, to brighter orange, and lastly...brave red.

    You, too, Leafy, are becoming more and more brave. You do not know the future, but now, right now, you are able to be there for your mom.

    I have lost both if my parents. Life is full of beautiful things...and some truly difficult things.

    Life roles are reversed. They raised you and guided you. Now it is your turn. You are being with her in the moment. The precious moment frozen in your memories...then another...and then another.

    Your are giving her the best gift possible now. Your pressence. Your love. Your help.

    I think that Cedar's notebook is a great idea.

    You are your mom's advocate. Know the staff. As the staff changes know them. I was always put in charge of things.

    But, more important than anything is listening to your mother and easing any fears. Let her talk to you and you can be the go between. Sometimes, the hospital prefers one family member. But then that person could write it in the journal and call the others.

    My mother was very, very vague in her wishes for the end. She just had stated in her power of attorney, my job, that she didn't want us to give up on her too soon or keep her around suffering too long. I think it sad at least 4 doctors have to state there is no chance.

    I was exhausted. There was no place to lie down. It was my 7th day in a row. There was one couch. A poor woman was resting on it whose husband had had a stoke and was not responding. I found a deserted storage room down the hall, but, I thought, if I climb into one of the unused beds to rest, the nurses will not know where to find me.

    I had sent my poor brother home to get some sleep. It was 3 AM. The doctor came to me and said that I have 2 minutes to decide to incubate, or not. I was all alone. He said that in 2 minutes she would die. I told him to incubate.

    Just one doctor had talked to me. Then, sadly she went through several days of suffering. She finally passed, but a nurse said, "I am sure glad you aren't my daughter".

    I did my best. I felt badly for years. But, I finally found peace. I "spoke" to my mother as if she could hear...who knows. A feeling of warmth passed over me. She knew that I tried my best, alone and with only 2 minutes to decide.

    With my father, I was ready. He stated no 'extraordinary measures'. My father started to have his kidneys give out. He was very ill and 88. He had pneumonia and half of his face was paralyzed due to shingles.

    My brother said to give him surgery for a port for dialysis. His doctor asked me privately, what is your brother thinking? I had him talk to him privately. My brother said to me that he guessed he had a higher value of life than myself. I fought him. It was an 'extraordinary measure'. He would probably not live through the procedure. My father did not want this.

    This continued to happen with my brother several times. I fought privately for my father each time. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but his wishes were net. Having to fight my brother to meet my father's last wishes was horrible. But, I did for my father.

    Again, I made sure each step was as pain free as possible. He did not know that he was dying. He got a small fraction of a teaspoon of ice cream. He had the biggest smile on his face. I made sure that he had enough adivan and morphine to be comfortable. I held his hand and talked to him. He smiled and passed away.

    It is my intention to not depress you. But, make very sure that you have read her wishes and know who is in charge. I wish that I had asked my mom more questions. It was very difficult. A nurse told me that there is never a good time for someone to die. But, be there with her. Your pressence will give her strength and comfort.

    Also, my mother's hospital had no Bibles. A night before my mother passed, my brother and I wanted to comfort her. My brother ran out to the car to get his. He was locked out of the hospital because it was late and after hours. My poor mother had to silently listen to me butcher the Scriptures. I tried to say her favorites. Hopefully, I was not causing her more distress.

    Pictures and drawings are a great idea. With my father, my second son made a CD of his favorite songs. He loved 76 Trombones. He played the trumpet in school. His quartet played out front of the movie theater in Santa Barbara every Saturday morning and then got to see the movie for free in the 30's. He just smiled and smiled.

    God's Peace, my dear friend. Be in the precious moment for your mother. All of our thoughts and prayers are with you. You do not know what the future holds. Be prepared. It really is important.
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