Thursday, August 07, 2008

Alley Grazer Farewell

To my friends and friends of friends who have encouraged me with your comments, and harangued me to keep on blogging, I thank you and salute you. Many of you are stellar writers in your own right and I am honored to be among you.

This summer I have not tasted a single lambs quarters stem or chickweed leaf. I did not wander the byways of my town in search of dinner or trundle through alleys to the lake. This year, my alley grazing was confined to my imagination. This year everything changed.

A visit to see my Mom in June turned quickly into a bedside vigil and then hospice at home, as the health problems that had plagued her for a couple years turned into the knock out punch.

I grazed in the land of the dying as I sat by my mother's bedside to watch that gradual withdrawal from this sphere to another. The day I told her she was dying, she seemed more surprised than anything. "Huh," she said like I was telling her that someone had moved or gotten a dog. But once she got the word, she moved into her pro-active mode and asked, "So what's can we speed this up?" Even though she seemed too lively to be heading to the tunnel of light, she hadn't eaten for weeks, except a bite of yoghurt here and there. Because of the pain.

In a situation that most people would find terrifying-bedridden, drugged, in pain, in diapers that need changing, with legs that didn't move, and strangers heaving her around like a sack of taters-she summoned an uncanny sense of the absurd and made sure that we all got to laugh with her about it. Her comedic tendencies reached full flower on this unlikely stage. Because she could barely talk and her hand and facial gestures were in slow motion, and because she was fully aware that she was entertaining us, her comments were funnier than anything I'd ever seen or heard.

At one point, discouraged at her inability to communicate with us, she reached for the Kleenex box and started talking into that. She got so much mileage out of that box as a prop that all she had to do was start reaching and we were falling down, almost crying with laughter. When communication shifts from verbal to visual, to charade like gestures and the subtlest facial expressions, you enter an entirely different world of possibilities. Mom seemed to plumb this mother lode for every nuance of expression. To say we were blessed by this unexpected bounty doesn't even begin to cover it.

She was open, vulnerable and sublime as I had never seen her in her able bodied life. Her grace under fire was breathtaking and reassuring. She showed me that going out in style could be done with diapers on. It could be accomplished with words falling from the tongue like little chunks of wood. It could happen when she was wrapped in drug induced delusions and the fragrance of death and decay. What a gift my mother handed me on her way out the door.

The extra large gift for me was getting to know my two brothers all over again, to know them in the face of what none of us wanted, and to be able to receive their abundant caring for me and to realize how important they are to me every day of my life. Our cousins got in on the act too, showing up just when we needed them. Leaving the cocoon of that family connection was really hard...for all of us.

In closing, I ask that you check in to stay posted on my next project. My novel is getting some attention from me again and I will certainly be writing about this last adventure with Mom. Again, thank you for your comments and your beautiful presence in this world. All of you!