Every now and then one of my readers will ask about my mother.
The reason I don’t write about her more often is because my beautiful wife can always tell when I’ve been crying. When I cried at my mother’s funeral, she asked if it was because of my haircut.
I write about my father by default. When my mother died, my wife and I -- mainly my wife -- made the decision to invite my elderly, pre-Alzheimer’s father to move in with us. His good years were mainly behind him. He went from being someone who could fix anything to someone who could break anything at any time at the worst possible moment. I’m not particularly handy, so it’s been a chore.
My youngest sister took care of my mother the last years of her life, and I’m grateful to her. Bathing my mother and changing her diaper, well, let’s just say I’m not half the man my sister is. My father, for the most part, can take care of himself, but my mother spent her last years bedridden with a UTI that refused to go away. No amount of antibiotics could get rid of it. I bought her some probiotics called Garden Of Life/Urinary Tract made especially for that. Fifty BILLION live cultures. I feel sorry for the guy who did the counting.
Not only that, but my poor mother’s hearing was bad, her vision was worse and walking was no longer a good idea. She had to be helped in and out of bed. Like I do now with my father, I took her lunch on Saturdays, but it had to be something soft because she had also lost all of her teeth.
One of the last times I visited my mother she was in bed. Her lips moved, but no words came out. I remember her hands the most. They were soft and cool in mine. Delicate bones covered with skin so thin you could see through it. Then, her battery running out, she drifted off to sleep. When I stepped into the living room, my sister was there.
“Are you OK?” she asked.
I don’t think I was.
The next week, my mother was more lively. When I walked into her room, she was talking with one of her sisters. My aunt, of course, wasn’t there. She had died years ago. It was just that damn UTI causing my mother to hallucinate. My sister would tell me that sometimes our mother would be up all night talking to friends and relatives who weren’t there, most of them dead.
“Look who’s here,” my mother said.
I wasn’t sure if I should say hello to someone who wasn’t there. Instead, I decided to talk directly to my mother.
“How’s your sister been?” I asked her. “I haven’t seen her since...well…”
Well, since she died.
“Oh, fine, fine,” my mother said. “I was telling her you finally got married.”
By that time, I had been married for 21 years. To my mother, it just happened. How I could have been recently married and already have had three kids and one grandchild is a math only the UTI understood. Somewhere down the road of our conversation, it was obvious she thought I was someone else. I wasn’t sure who, but when she told me that she loved me I knew it must have been someone close.
“You know,” she confided in me, “my husband’s been getting up early. He takes a shower and leaves the house looking nice. I think he has a girlfriend.”
“Maybe he’s just going to work,” I said, not wanting to contradict her.
“Maybe, maybe,” my mother agreed, but wasn’t convinced. Taking a sudden right turn, she said, “You know, Henry moved to California.”
My older brother had moved over 50 years ago.
“He always wanted to live there,” I told her.
“Yes, he did,” she said, and then quickly turned left. “I fell and hit my head,” she told me.
“Are you OK?” I asked, a bit concerned. My sister hadn’t said anything, and she looked fine to me.
“I’m OK,” she assured me. “I cut my head. There was a lot of blood.”
“When did you fall?” I asked her.
“Forty years ago,” she told me. “My head still hurts.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, mom.”
Taking a detour, she said, “Did I tell you? Henry died.”
I wasn’t sure if she was talking about my father or my brother, they both have the same name.
“Yes. He died last week.”
Trying to put some logic to what she was telling me, I figured it was my brother she was talking about, since my father was busy sneaking off with an imaginary girlfriend.
I couldn’t wait to give my brother the news. Boy, was he going to be surprised.
“How did he die?” I was curious to know.
“He got sick,” she said.
After a little more conversation, she told me, “So nice of you to visit.”
That was her way of letting me know she was tired. Saying goodbye, I left, gently kissing her forehead on my way out. It was also soft and cool.
My mother always loved talking with people, so I was happy she was having friends and relatives visit, even if they weren’t really there. In the solitude she was living in, at least she wasn’t lonely.
I called my brother later that day and gave him the bad news.
“What did I die of?” he wanted to know.
“You got sick,” I told him.
“I hope it was quick,” he said.
“I was hoping it was something painful and lingering,” I joked, then got serious. “You should call her,” I told him. “She’ll be happy to know you’re alive.”
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