My colorful, fun-loving, party-going, always dressed-to-the-hilt, Scotch-and-soda-drinking, 97 year-old Mom, known as Babe, died last Friday, May 9.
I arrived in Houston just in time to spend the last evening with Mom, my brother, Jim, and his wife, Lynn. Mom died the next morning in her own bed, in her own bedroom with Lovie–isn’t that the most perfect name for a caregiver–and me nearby. After she died, I peeked under the covers, and sure enough Babe’s nails had been freshly manicured in her favorite Pin-Up Pink polish.
The week before she’d attended a Seafood Gumbo Feast down in Beach City. When I’d asked her if she was really up to the 100-mile round-trip journey, because by then she was wheelchair-bound, she said she didn’t want to miss out. Good for her!
For the first time in ten years I’ll be able to travel without the thought looming in the wings: How do I get home fast if I need to? That will be a huge relief. But I’ll miss taking photos on our travels, and sending them home to Mom. And then calling Mom from wherever we are in the world, and with the photos in front of her, Mom saying, “I feel like I’m on the trip with you.” Right.
In the first week without Mom, what I’m mostly feeling is absence–the absence of presence. Mom’s presence. I look at the clock, and think it’s time to check in with Mom and her caregivers. And then I catch myself, and my chest tightens like a vise.