My mom. This photo was taken for a brochure advertising her assisted living facility.

Whom do I call?”

Life has been full of twists for me. There was a reason for that appointment not to happen. There was more important work for me to do. Today I went from Mother Bear to Daughter Bear. Today was the opportunity for me to advocate for my parents. Extra time this afternoon became my friend.

Tonight is a family night. We are going to a Seder at the nursing facility where my mother is. Those are important nights, and we rarely all go out together. Since my mother got out of the hospital in late January, my parents have been separated. My father is at a different facility, in a more independent placement. My father can no longer drive. His license was revoked last week. He lives only a mile from her, but the abyss is much greater than that.

This morning my mother called me. She had a whole lot of anxiety. She said, “Maybe I should start getting dressed for tonight?” We’re talking five hours early! She sounded so sad.

I said, “Mom, I wish you were happier that we’re all going to be together tonight.”

She choked back a sob. “Why should I be happy? I’m separated from my husband! We may all be together for a few hours, but after that I go back to my lonely existence!”

That’s all it took! The “daughter bear” started growling inside and tearing it’s way out through my heart. She’s right! She was on a respirator at death’s door for nine weeks. Did she survive to be separated from the man she’s been married to for sixty years?

Supposedly, she’s “next on the list.” I thought it would have happened by now. It has been two months of loneliness for her.

This “daughter bear” says it’s time for a face-to-face meeting. I need to voice these feelings to someone who perhaps can do something! Tomorrow, I will make some calls. The problem is; whom do I call? I have no idea whom to speak with, or what will make the difference.

Trauma memory:

“The first day my parents lived with me”

I remember so well the first day my parents came to live with me. It was almost three years ago. I was making lunch for them. I had made them breakfast that morning, too. I was cleaning up lunch and then I realized something. I was going to be making dinner, too before I knew it.

Every day would be a repeat performance!

I felt ashamed. They had raised me. They had made sacrifices for me. Still, this was harder than anything I had ever done before. I was used to have three children, but two additional people with very specific dietary needs was overwhelming. Both of them were sweet, but extremely demanding. I could never actually sit down to eat as I waited on both of them. When my housekeeper, Rosa came in the late afternoon, I told her. “Don’t worry, you’ll be getting more money; it will make up for all the extra work.”

I paid her every bit of what my father paid me. I didn’t keep any of it. The rest of the money was for groceries. Rosa couldn’t believe that I was doing this.

On Rosa’s days off, I was totally overwhelmed. I ended up hiring two more helpers for those days. That way, my mom had someone two days a week who could give her a shower. Thank goodness I did that.

Still, I was beyond exhaustion. It didn’t matter that my career was over; there was no way I could ever work on anything except fix meals, shop for food, and attend doctor appointments for both my parents.

I gave up my life for over a year.

My parents were on a waiting list for an assisted living facility that they were willing to accept. Unfortunately, the waiting list for that facility was very long. I was persistent and made regular calls hoping there might be an opening for my parents.

I thought it would never happen. The day my parents moved there, I knew it was a result of my letters, calls, and persistence. The trauma moment has subsided. I’m back to the “grateful place” again. 

“We don’t want her falling!”

I called my mom’s physical therapist. She was happy to hear from me. I shared with her my mother’s anxiety. I let her know how appreciative I am of how much progress my mother has made since she’s gotten out of the hospital.

This therapist said, “We had a meeting about the safety issue of her trying to walk unassisted. We don’t want her falling and breaking her hip! What she did the other night was very risky!” Of course, I knew about that. When I received the call that my mom had “slipped” out of her wheelchair, I almost had a heart attack.

It was nice to talk with this therapist. She is going to give me a more portable wheelchair to use for my appointment with my mom this Thursday. It will be the first time I am taking my mom in my car since her hospitalization. We are going to see another orthopedic shoulder specialist.

This physical therapist said, “I’m glad you’re getting this second opinion. Your mother said you weren’t going until December!” Another sad example for me, that my mother is having “time confusion” issues.

This spoke to me: From grief into joy. Slavery made me think of caregiving. However, being a caregiver is definitely voluntary!

 “Picture this”

I had my camera all charged and ready to bring with me. Picture taking is important for me. Just like with Jason, I know this time is precious. I don’t know how many Seders are left like this with my parents. I forgot my camera.

I sat down next to my mother. She was glowing. Even my grumpy father looked happy. I scanned the Seder table. I had so many interesting thoughts all evening long. I realized that this would be the last Seder where I would have three teenagers at once. Right now, their ages are thirteen, sixteen and nineteen. Next year, my oldest son will be twenty.

A wonderful Rabbi led the Seder. My mom loves this rabbi. She has good reason to, since he came to visit her throughout her hospital ordeal. During the Seder, there was a moment where the Rabbi made eye contact with me. It was special moment.

There were many interesting moments for me throughout the evening. Some elements used to produce huge “pangs.” The mention about “death of the first-born child” has always been painful for me. I was okay with it this year.

There was a lot of enjoyment for me watching my mother’s face. She was truly happy. That gave me so much pleasure.  I said to her, “Mom, isn’t it nice that you’re not slaving over a table of people making a Seder anymore?”

She said, “I loved those times. Those were the most wonderful times for me!” I have so many memories of that. My mother always made such an elaborate food during the Passover holiday.

I know my mom enjoyed those times, until it became more and more difficult for her. Often her anxiety about the holiday would start a month before. She would be simply overwhelmed by the idea of changing her dishes, pots and pans, and silverware. It caused her endless fights with my father, to clean up his messes and help her.

I always told her, “Mom the day will come when you can be a lady! You don’t have to work so hard.” I have never made a Seder, but I always enjoy going to them now. My kids did well last night. They didn’t make faces at me during the “religious” part. I remember suffering through many Seders, wondering, “How many pages are left before we eat?”

Can this be another coincidence in my life? I had forgotten my camera. It was time to be leaving, and a woman walked up. She asked if we would like her to take a picture of all of us together with her camera phone.

It was lovely of her to do that. I saw on her nametag that she was an administrator. I had a good feeling that maybe this was someone that could help me with my parent’s situation of being separated. I shared with her about my writing, and she gave me a card.

I was ready to push my mother’s wheelchair and take my mom back to her room. After that, I would drive my father home. My father was tired, weak, and hunched over the table. He said he was too tired to walk with me. He said he would just sit at the table and wait for me. The same administrator came over to me. She said gently, “Go drive your father home. He looks tired. I will take your mom back to her room.” I thanked her. I felt elated.

“Have I found the connection?”

I dropped off my father. My car was making a horrible noise. There is never a good time for me to have a car problem. I was suddenly jealous that my husband has a new car. When I got home, my father had left me a message. He wanted me to ask my husband to check my car. He was worried. I felt like a teenager again!

Now my mother called. I was happy to tell her what a fabulous time we all had. She agreed that it was that way for her, too. She shared the reason for her call. She said, “Honey, I don’t think you should share your blog with that administrator!”

I asked her why. She said, “It’s too personal. She’ll learn far too much about us. It will prevent me from ever being able to leave. Plus, did you see how everyone is more interested in your father than in me? Did you see how she was looking at him?” 

“Next Day”

I was getting ready to go to another Seder. It was the second night of Passover. This meal would be at my brother’s home.

My mother called. I was always happy to hear her voice. There was a time when I had wondered if I would ever hear her voice again. She said, “Hi Honey! You won’t believe it! You remember that nice lady from last night that took our picture? Well she came to speak with me!”

My mom was crying. She continued sharing, “She told me that I will move – it is for sure! They’re not going to punish me for falling out of my wheelchair; they’re going to make sure I’m with dad, and soon! I am so happy! I am definitely next on the list. She said she spoke with everyone in charge and they all in agreement about this! Isn’t that wonderful?”

At that moment, I decided that I didn’t need to climb Mt. Everest to get any higher on this planet!

A precious night indeed. Both my parents are alive and with me. My father is thinking, when will the food come?

© Judy Unger and 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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  1. Steve says:

    Nice picture of you and your parents at the Seder.

    I found myself laughing out loud a few times during this blog. Things your Mom says, that you blog about, I often find amusing. I can almost hear her saying it too (and its been some 40 years since I’ve talked with her). “Did you see the way she was looking at him? ” 🙂



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