It was October 5, 2015. My girlfriend and I were anxiously waiting to get out of the house and grab a kid free dinner. My mother was late…again. She was supposed to be at my house half an hour before and I assumed she was at work- lost her keys, lost track of time chatting with co workers, lost her way to my house.
Then the phone rang. “Is this Aileen, Donna’s daughter?”. Suddenly the world was spinning, someone I didn’t know was on the phone telling me there had “been an incident”. Her shaky voice telling me to “just get to the hospital” revealed her nerves as I yelled for her to “just get to the point”. The pastor of the church where my mom was working was short in her details but simply kept telling me to get to the hospital. And have my brother head this way from Ohio.
Jackie stayed with my babies, Chris was unreachable on a work trip, and I jumped in my van. Racing to the hospital, the litany of thoughts ranged from: she’s fine to she’s dead and a hundred places in between. In truth, she wasn’t fine and she wasn’t dead. My mom was in the hundred places in between. A hundred places we have visited in the last 365 days. From acute neurological units to subacute rehab units to cardiac ICUs to long term care floors. We have sat in them all this last year. Each one has brought it’s own hope and heartache. Those first days on the neuro floor we cried tears of joy when Mom was finally able to remember who we were and recognized her son was not the well built African American man who transported her to the daily round of scans and x-rays. But heartache came again when we realized that this “incident” was going to change everything. Change the relationship my brother and I shared with our mom, change the direction of my mother’s life in a single day.
Over the course of the last year we have learned more about Medicaid and Medicare, subacute and acute rehab, and elder law than we have ever wanted to know. I have learned more about myself as a caretaker and a mother and a daughter. I have learned where the limits of myself lie and what happens when I push them. I have had to learn to say “this is too much for me to take on”. I have had to learn to let go of what I cannot control. A lesson that is painful and freeing at the same time.
My mother has had to learn to live in hospitals and short term rehabs, in my playroom and now in a long term care facility. But she has made her way. I am certain I have cried more tears in this last year than my mom. Donna has made friends wherever she has gone. She finds the best in the worst of situations and seems to always be “feeling good”. I always joke that Crazy Donna is just that but secretly I know that it is her inner strength that carried her spirit.
October 5th will always be an anniversary of sorts in our family. One that I use to stop and give thanks for the perseverance of those I love, the health of myself and my family, and give gratitude to all of those friends and family who have supported us in this roller coaster we call life. My deepest prayer is that the coming 365 days bring less storms and calmer water. Less sickness and more health. Less heartache and more hope. Less tears and more silly faces.