I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve been pretty quiet because of personal matters.  My mother is terminally ill.  From feeling sick in early April,  to a cancer diagnosis in May, to a move to an assisted living facility in June, it’s been a hectic several weeks.

My mother now lives about an hour and a half from me.  I go see her either Saturday or Sunday of each week.  She’s in an assisted living community that provides help with daily life activities. This disease appears to be robbing her of her mind, and quickly.

Our conversation Sunday was largely disjointed and non-sensical.  It’s no fault of hers, but she no longer has the ability to consistently form coherent thoughts.  She still knows me and most people in the close family, but her short term memory is hit or miss. Today, at 9AM, she didn’t remember if she had eaten breakfast. It’s hard to see this woman who always spoke her mind struggle for the right word, for the cohesive thought.  She knows, I think, what she is trying to convey and sometimes realizes she no longer has the words for it.  So I try to make normal conversation and be as agreeable as possible with what she is saying. I try to be reassuring.  I try to be patient.  Logic doesn’t work in this situation, although instinct is to be as logical as possible. So, agreeableness wins. Or quick changes of subject or small distractions.

Before all of this happened, my mother texted me nearly every morning, around 10.  It was usually just a “hi” which is funny in a way. And I remember thinking that this was not really the best use of texting but the day would come when I would be glad for it.  And that day is here. If I get a text now, it’s blank, and accidental.  We are reaching a point now where I can call her mobile but she doesn’t answer, because she’s managed to turn off her phone without realizing it, or she left it somewhere, or she just can’t figure out how to answer it.  We are in a place where I may now be calling the facility to check in on her, rather than being able to speak with her every day.

It’s an adjustment.  It’s hard to sit there with her and know that most all the meaningful conversations are over. That for whatever time she has left, this is now as good as it will get.  It’s hard to become a parent to your parent- managing decisions and finances and medical visits and all the things.  It’s the appreciation of moments like today, when I asked her “How are you feeling?” and she answered, “With my hands.” Smart-ass.

It’s a long and arduous road, watching this decline.  We are not the first people to be in this position, and there are certainly those who have had much more difficult paths to forge. But I’m lucky that I have an incredible support system of people who say, and mean, “Whatever you need.” And mom has people who want to check in on her, keep track of how she is doing. Who send her flowers and letters and cards, who call and check in.  It’s a  long goodbye, this strange and winding journey.