The year we had to put my mother in a nursing home was really traumatic for both her and me. Ever since, Mother’s Day in May has a certain bitter sweetness to me.
“You mean you’re going to let them do this to me?”
My heart skipped a beat. My Mother turned her clouded-blue eyes to my sister. This was my mother and I couldn’t believe that when she said “them” she meant me. I was the one who had just told her about moving to a nursing home.
The lonely song of a robin filled the summer morning. My eyes filled with tears as I remembered summer mornings in the yesteryear when Mom sang as she did her housework. I knew she loved her home and I could tell how much she wanted to stay in her own house.
A piece of me wanted to just fold my arms around my Mom and say “Just forget it, if you don’t want to go, you don’t have to! We’ll find a way to take care of you somehow!” The other part of me knew there was no other way. We had tried every solution we knew and none of them had worked.
Early spring of that year was when it all began. My sister had come home for the week end to find our eighty-two-year old mother lying in bed, moaning from a bruise on her leg. My sister immediately called me, and I rushed over. I called my daughter and we all decided to call an ambulance because Mom could not get up. The Medical Center ascertained she had no broken bones but was badly bruised.
The story Mom told us was unnerving. “I was on my way to the grocery store and didn’t see this lady backing out of her driveway and I g…guess I got knocked down. The lady drove me home and wanted to take me to the doctor, but I told her I was all right.” I could tell she hated telling me about this episode, because in doing so, she was admitting she shouldn’t be living alone.
I did bring Mom’s groceries every week, but old habits are hard to break and she still thought she had to walk to the grocery store…every day.
Although our tenacious mother recovered, it was only a month later she broke out in shingles all over her face and around her eyes. We made another visit to the doctor as well as an eye surgeon and began the battle to keep blindness from settling in one eye. It was so clear at this point she couldn’t live alone. I decided to try having her live with my husband and me.
We had our business in our home and each time I would go downstairs to wait on a customer, Mom would come to the top of the stairs, very much agitated, and call my name.
It soon became apparent that this situation was not working. “I want to go live in my own house!” Mom would plead, and again I gave in. I had to drive across town three times a day to administer her eye drops. Every time I entered the house Mom and Dad had shared for thirty-seven years, Mom would be sitting in the same chair, staring straight ahead with a real fear in her eyes.
How I longed to hear her sing as she used to when I was young. The beautiful melody of life she had given us had turned into discordant notes that played in dissonance. I prayed often “Please, God, show me what to do!” I knew He would if I just followed His leading each step of the way, but in the meantime, I was hurting.
Whenever we took her to church, she would sing along with all the old hymns, even though she could not see well. Her mind seemed to come and go but she did know the words to the old songs. Sometimes I was her mother, sometimes her sister, and sometimes she knew who I was, but always the words to the songs were expressed in her alto voice.
We had received a call that very week. A room was available at the home and that called for immediate action. My sister and I arranged to meet at Mom’s house, take her out for breakfast, then tell her just before we took her to the home.
The first few days at the home were a nightmare as Mom fought it tooth and nail. Many times, they called me and I had to run down and smooth out the situation. She would sneak out side to “walk home.”
One night I got a call from the hospital where the home had taken her. She had slipped out in her nightgown to go home and some men found her by the side of the road. The hospital wanted me to bring a warm nightgown and they gave her cups of hot tea. She went back to the home without even a cold. After that the home put monitors on the doors, so they could tell when someone walked out.
Gradually she accepted the home and even enjoyed the loving attention the workers showered on her.
After six years in the home, Mom’s body began to wear out. Two times she was hospitalized and was finally back at the home. The day came when she could no longer get out of bed and she could not talk. When my sister and I visited her, she would look at us lovingly and pat us on the head.
The last afternoon of her life, I held her hand and asked her if she would like to sing. Immediately she opened her mouth and a croaking sound came out. I sang all the old hymns I could remember and as I watched her face, the most beautiful look of contentment came upon her and she reached up and patted my head.
That night she went to heaven and we felt peace about it. I just know she is happily singing up in her heavenly home. If you listen closely, you, like I, may even hear my mother’s song, only this time in her beautiful alto voice.
It brings about a feeling of peace because now I know she is with God.
By Doris Schroeder
Doris welcomes your memories at [email protected]