the summer of our disconnect

"letting go" ~ sld

I’m sitting here in my mom’s kitchen, writing and drying off a bit. Dinner’s started. Just got back from walking in the rain along the John Laurie park/pathway. Soaking up some liquid sunshine.

We’d planned to come to Calgary in late May/early June for a regular family trip to my mom’s, enjoying our usual stops along the way, spending a week here, Jaremy having a chance to watch some of the FIFA matches with his grandma like during the summer of 2010, and then we’d head back.

It hasn’t turned out that way. Getting to watch lots of the FIFA World Cup, but the rest of the story has changed.

Since leaving Mom’s last fall, I’ve had a growing sense of concern — was it really the medication that she had a strong negative reaction to that was causing her bouts of confusion and other puzzling behaviour during our visit or was it more intrinsic? She seemed to be improving in some ways over the past few months (based on my perhaps overly optimistic assessment of phone conversations we’d had). Maybe she was okay. But then, about three months ago, my brother called, shared his concerns, and we talked about how we might handle what seemed inevitable — that Mom would soon be unable to live on her own safely enough. Garry was going to look into options in his area (Winnipeg) so she’d be close to family. He’d keep me updated. I was glad he called. It was good to talk with him.

Nearing the end of April, I was feeling that being with Mom for just a week wasn’t a long enough, not enough time to be able to help her with things at the house, not enough time to really see how she was doing. Plus, with a strong sense that this would probably be the last time we’d be going to see her in Calgary, the last time I’d be staying in my childhood home, I wanted to extend the trip.

Maybe Jaremy and I could fly up, be able to be there longer, have a summer holiday with Mom. But how would we work out transportation while we were there? Mom’s car probably wasn’t insured/registered and at last note, not running well. The solution — we all drive up together, Kevin flies home, and Jaremy and I have the car. Then when it’s time to leave, Kevin flies up and we drive home, making the return trip our family vacation time.

So that was the new plan.

Early, early on Monday, April 21, we saw Kevin off at the airport. He was flying to Alpharetta, Georgia for the week for special training at the HP Education Facility, to learn more about the processes and capabilities of his plant’s newly acquired digital press, and to build his knowledge/resource base for heading up their new digital department.

Later that morning, I got a call from my brother. Mom was in the hospital and had been since the 11th. There had been some confusion over his and my phone numbers, so neither of us were contacted by the hospital staff. A friend of Mom’s had called Garry’s home phone and left a message, but somehow in the shuffle, the message had been missed. Mom’s friend didn’t give up, though. He was finally able to get in touch with Garry, fill him in on the situation.

What I understood was that her friend had taken her to the hospital because of a possible stroke. She’d been admitted and tests were run. In particular, she’d been given a couple of cognitive tests which didn’t go well and plans were in the works to move her to a transitional facility. They weren’t planning to release her to go home.

A sudden time frame change. Garry would start immediately to scout out possible places for Mom in Winnipeg.

I felt shattered. And I needed to get to Calgary.

Thankfully, I was able to get in touch with Kevin later in the afternoon to tell him my plan while it was still early enough for him to call the office and work things out with his boss. We’d pick him up from the airport on Friday and then leave that afternoon, make it to Red Bluff for the first night. Portland the next day, onto Coeur d’Alene, and then into Calgary on Monday to meet Garry at the hospital for a 2 pm family meeting with the staff to discuss Mom’s situation, options, and to hopefully be able to discharge her into my care.

And so, here I am, making sure that Mom gets her meds, watching out for her, helping to prepare things for her move, and getting the house ready for rental or sale. Jaremy and I have gotten temporary library cards, passes for the zoo and Heritage Park, and we both have a pack of transit tickets for riding the C-train and bus for times when I’d rather not drive or just for fun.

It’s taken me a while to get my bearings, get a handle on and create a plan for what needs to be done, set up some kind of supportive routine. Most of the time Mom knows who I am and who’s staying here at the house with her. But sometimes the dementia takes charge. That’s the poignant part, this involuntary disconnect.

On my side is the need to let go of hoping I’ll ever have the kind of relationship with my mom that I’ve wanted, accepting that it’s not possible anymore. The need to change my picture, be at peace with what is, has been. Wondering each morning what challenges I’ll face, and praying for the wisdom and patience to deal gracefully.

Especially poignant is watching her move about the house, disconnected from herself — the fiercely independent, industrious, artistic, social woman she once was. Devoted to her friends, ready to help them at the drop of a hat. Now she struggles to count money, make a phone call, struggles to correctly put the harness on her funny little shih-tzu bichon pal, Mitzi, when it’s time to go for a walk.

It looks like Jaremy and I will be here until at least the end of July, perhaps into August if needed. Just depends on how things go. The plan is for Mom to move into the suite she picked out in Winnipeg sometime during the early part of July.

In the meanwhile, I’m taking each day as it comes, being thankful for the time we do have together, cherishing moments of connection and laughter, breathing through the other times, letting myself mourn, letting myself disconnect, let go.