I recently shared a photo of my mom and thoughts about parents and grandparents. Here’s a poem I wrote about taking care of my mom after all the years she cared for me. My brother was her main caretaker after my dad passed away. His wife was right there to help as were his children as they grew into adulthood. I was the once a year visitor but did fly to help out when she had surgery and after a bad fall. Other than that I was the gift that showed up to fuss over her while my brother looked after her day by day.
This is a photo of us together so long ago. We loved reading books and discussing them with one another. She was a reader and a writer.
The Last Leg of a Long Journey
By Patricia J. Keough-Wilson
(Based on taking care of my Mom after breast cancer surgery, Nov. 2002 & after she had a nasty fall in May 2003)
My mom is shuffling her way to eternity. The road now is very short; I think she can see the faint outline of heaven’s gates. Her almost 90-year journey snakes behind her, curving round bends and up steep hills, down into valleys. It is a journey marked by laughter and washed in tears. I watch her, while I stand silently in her dark kitchen, follow her with my eyes as she shuffles, more asleep than awake, into the bathroom and back to bed.
At night when I visit, we have a ritual I tuck her into bed, remembering the long ago time when she tucked me into bed. I resist an almost irrepressible urge to read her a bedtime story. She sowed seeds of my love of reading when she read bedtime stories to me. But no story reading to mom, instead I rub scented lotion on her back, on her gnarly, slightly misshapen feet, and on her hands, so she can cradle them near her face. “They smell so nice,” she whispers as she curls up, Rosary beads slipping through her twisted, arthritic fingers. “Your dad would have said, you smell good honey.”
And she smiles slightly, bringing dad to bed with her, still missing him after over two decades.
She is shuffling toward God and toward my dad, her body parts stiff; her hearing fading, her sight failing but her mind remains sharp, able to race with the best of us.
I remember when she used to watch me, study my face, Storing up memories to keep me with her; when my visit ended. Saving memories for the long time until I once again walked into her welcoming hug.
Now, I watch her, study her carefully, saving up memories for when she is no longer there to welcome me, to declare me home with a mother’s hug.
Because she is leaving me every day, shuffling hesitantly into eternity.
And I, left behind, will have to tiptoe around one more hole in my world, Careful not to tumble into the place where she is no more,
That place where I am an orphan,
left with a mortal loneliness that will be eased only when we meet again in heaven.