My sister called today, to tell me that my mom called her daughter Desiree, to wish her a Happy Birthday. It was a pleasant conversation she said, with her grandmother asking about the weather and expressing joy that she had such a beautiful day to celebrate. She asked her plans and Desiree accommodated her curiosity. I'm sure she told her that she just couldn't believe her granddaughter was all grown up and married, just as she does each time she and I discuss any of her grandchildren. Where did the time go, she says. Not sure if she called Desiree by name or just wished her a happy day and proceeded to ask her leading questions that might tell her if she had called the right granddaughter. She hadn't. Desiree just went along and she said grandma seemed satisfied. Today is my daughter Tara's birthday. Later, when she is home from work, I will call and tell her that her grandma was thinking of her. This is the new normal in our lives and in the life of my mother. My dear, dear mother. We've known for a while, without really knowing. When the diagnosis finally came, it wrenched my heart. Maybe I just didn't want to know for sure. Sadly, she knows. Each telephone conversation we have starts with; "Have I already called you today?"
For the last few weeks, I've been grieving. Once I found myself crying out; "God, I need my mother!" "I relied on her!" She was my prayer partner, my confidant!" I realized, I was speaking and thinking in the past tense. She is still here. Yes, she forgets that we spoke an hour ago. She can't remember whose birthday it is, but she does remember it is somebody's. Funny, that's what we used to call Tara anyway. Somebody's listening. Somebody's upset. Somebody's jealous. The point is, most of the time, when we speak, she is in the moment. She may not remember in an hour, and she may not know the answer when I question her about her day, but she is in that moment. I still ask her to pray, and she says; "let me write that down." I know she will pray as soon as we hang up. Sometimes she will even do it before we hang up. Today I've decided, "no more grieving." I don't want to miss the now moments by grieving the lost moments. I won't do it. There are new moments too. My mother never said the words to me before, "I'm lonely." She would have been too proud and too concerned about burdening me. It has come up in the last couple of conversations. The first time, not knowing what to say, I made suggestions about things she could do to curb her loneliness. Today, I said; "I'm lonely too mom." "We will just be lonely together." Those words opened up something new to both of us. Real honesty. Not just small talk. So this will be our new normal. We will say what's in our hearts. The lesson for me? Don't grieve what's lost. Hold on to what's left. Hold on tight.