One of my mother's old friends came with her son to the funeral and to the post-funeral gathering. Her son brought a book that my mother sent to him on the occasion of his birth more than 50 years ago in an African country (the Congo, actually. Can you imagine giving birth to your first child in the FUCKING CONGO in 1958??) where the father was serving as a diplomat. Here you see my mother, a little confused, reading the inscription that she wrote so many years ago.
As well as can be expected for an 86-year-old woman with Alzheimer's experiencing severe cognitive decline, I guess. She is devastated, grief-stricken, confused. Her tangled brain has trouble processing what happened.
Mom's bewilderment about my father's sudden death is made worse by the fact that she doesn't remember that he had serious health problems during the last 2 years of his life. As far as Mom knows, he was perfectly healthy up until the day he went into the hospital and then dead less than 48 hours later. She thinks that a simple germ felled him, something that could have been fixed with proper care and the right medicine. "If only Mother had been here," she laments, thinking back to the childhood pneumonia that almost killed her in the days before antibiotics, and how my grandmother pulled her through it with nothing but aspirin and bed rest.
A quiet afternoon the day after the funeral, looking at her college yearbook.
My siblings and I were shocked as well, because Dad had been in a sort of holding pattern for awhile with no recent hospitalizations, no falls, no UTIs or pneumonias in the last 8 or 9 months--perhaps a testament to the vigilance of Pam, Samelia, and Eleni, the caregivers. But we haven't forgotten all the close calls and how much he suffered during some of those previous hospitalizations. We are grateful that it happened so quickly and that we didn't have to make any really tough decisions about life-sustaining procedures.
Someone is with Mom all the time, of course. A caregiver during the day, one of us on several weekday afternoons/evenings, and one of us on the weekend days. She is sad when we are not there.
She misses him so much, you guys.
The caregivers, who all loved my father, are grieving, too. Samelia said to me once, "He is my father now, too." (All the more poignant because her father died when she was a teenager, killed in the Liberian Civil War.) Pam and Samelia were in the hospital room with us when he died. Pam, Samelia, and Eleni all came to his funeral and wept.
That kills me. I love them so much for what they have done for our family, and I can't believe how lucky we have been. I heard dire warnings from so many people about locking up valuables, sloppy care, etc. Our experience has been the complete opposite.
I have so much more to tell you. Thank you for listening/reading. Sorry I haven't replied to the all the comments, but I have read them all, of course, often more than once. I have even quoted a few of them (I'm always embarrassed to say, "This person who comments on my blog said...." Instead, I say, "This friend of mine said....")
I really do consider you friends, even the people I have never met in person. Thank you for all your support.
Josh, Sophie, me, Emma. Check out Emma's cool vintage dress -- worn by my mother back in the 1950s.