I knew the next part of my journey wasn’t going to be all rainbows and roses, and I was right.
After my return to the United States, I gave myself 9 days to prepare for the trip north. There were lists of items that would be needed just to get through daily living. Topping these lists were buying a car, computer, phone and clothes that would keep me warm in blizzard like conditions. The state of my own health was less than good, but I was on a mission. A sick twisted urge to swoop in and rescue “Her”. The way same I did when I was a child. I had a dysfunctional need to get to my mom and assess her health, state of mind and living conditions. In my way of thinking it is the responsible thing to do, and besides her son’s were going to be of no help once again.
It was now the end of February 2015 and the north-eastern part of the United States found it self in blizzard after blizzard with no time to recover in-between storms. I packed the car and my unwilling cat Jack and I headed north from Pompano Beach Florida. Normally a 1500 mile trip like this would take me two days. This trip would be far from normal. This time it took 7 days. Jack has been my reason for breathing and now I have put him in a situation that most cats loathe. He let me know it too. Every mile of this trip he screamed, shook and panted and I felt it all. I felt every ounce of his fear and heartbreak.
Together we forged on and the farther north we got we found ourselves at the mercy of mother nature. I could not endure more than four hours of driving a day. With Jack screaming and now the snow and ice blowing across the road I had to choose my drive time wisely. We got as far north as Gettysburg Pennsylvania when a blizzard stopped us in our tracks. What I had noticed along the way is that the so-called pet friendly hotels were not so friendly to cats as they were to dogs. Infuriating as it was I begged, pleaded and paid extra for my boy Jack to be in a safe place.
After the weather settled we pressed on and made our way to the bare achromatic countryside that is Morris New York in the winter. The devastating lack of color equaled the emotional hue of the disease known as Alzheimer’s. It’s a wake-less state of being that is taking over the elders of our country. Bittersweet is the first word that came to mind as I pulled into the drive way and met the new image that is my mother. Her body is shriveled and her spirit is crouched into a hidden part of her being, that I later found, only comes out to fight.
I’m sure my image is just as ghastly. Having gained weight and gray hair as I approach the half century mark this year. I’m certain I don’t look like who I was when she last saw me. As it turns out it doesn’t matter because she doesn’t know who I am. Other than the fact that I am a guest in her house. I don’t get to learn this until later in my stay with my mother. We embraced soul to soul and I could not feel her energy. It was a mere wisp of a vibration at that moment.
In my state of mind I check my surroundings as best I can. I am guided by my step-dad to what would be my space upstairs. Before my arrival I was invited to use of the entire upstairs floor. That is 3 bedrooms and a bathroom. However they failed to mention that they removed the upstairs kitchen that would be mine to use. Its ok, I am thinking, because I will be downstairs most of the time caring for my mom. No problem. He put me in the smallest room in the upstairs with bare walls and nothing but sheer curtains facing the highway. So much for undressing in privacy. The only television in the house is in their bedroom. There are no radios or stereos for music, except the one in his office. I didn’t know what to expect of course, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking, I would never treat a guest this way. Especially one that has come to help in a time of need.
After unloading the car and getting Jack settled I was expected to help get dinner ready at 4:30 pm. Dinner? At 4:30? What the hell? As it turns out, its his schedule we are on, not hers. It will not be the only narcissist red flag I will see along the way. It’s okay, I am thinking, we will work it out. Mom has a reputation for keeping decent basics in the fridge, so I know I can do this. I open the refrigerator and mom is pacing around me because she is uncomfortable that someone she doesn’t know is in her kitchen. This is her domain and I can see now she is already getting frazzled at my presence and I just got there.
As I look in the refrigerator I see moldy, parts and pieces of things and multiple jars of the same items. There must be at least 7 or 8 salad dressings, 5 jars of the same kind of pickles. There are 3 jars of miracle whip, which I know my mother hates. I can see now that it will not only be her to watch but him as well. I open a deep kitchen drawer where they tell me the silver ware will be and it looks as if a yard sale bomb went off inside the drawer. There are knives and kitchen gadgets that are mostly broken and or will never be used. It’s beyond a hoarders clutter. All of the upper cabinets are open with no doors and cluttered with piles of dusty old wine glasses and mismatched tea sets. It’s a hot mess. This is my mothers domain and its a non-functional hell hole, that she doesn’t want touched. Ugh.
As soon as the 4:30 dinner was over he got up and retreated to their bedroom. That would be it for him in the evening. This meant that this was a normal action and that in the past she has been left to clean up and figure out the rest of the evening on her own. This is a woman who can’t put her own thoughts together. She is lost in her own home and has a husband so deeply drowning in his own denial, I found myself at a loss for words.
How do I approach all of the issues that need approaching? I didn’t know how to handle things but I had to try my best. It would be the beginning of the end of my being accepted as LaVernes daughter. I would be a live witness to what this disease has done to my mother. As I grasp onto the idea of saving her I feel her slowly slipping away from me and there is nothing I can do. It’s a bad dream being played out in real time. At this point of the journey I begin to seek out the tools I will need. As it turns out, it will be a much shorter journey than what I want, but ultimately it is not a choice that can be made by me. My heart slowly breaks as I realize the truth of these words.