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MONDAYS WITH MOM

Anybody who knows me knows that I am not a phone person. I will text or email all day long, but talking on the phone is just not my thing. I guess that I did enough of that when I was young.

I used to joke that I didn’t even call my mother. As she got older, this became a problem – especially since she lived in Connecticut and I lived in Virginia. So my mother took matters into her hands and decided that she would call me every Monday.

And so began our Monday morning ritual. If she didn’t call me, I would call her and sometimes we didn’t connect until Tuesday or Wednesday, but at least we spoke once a week.

As she got older, I expected that her voice somehow would be different. Yet, it was always the same voice on the other end of the line. Her body changed – a few years ago, she broke her hip and stopped coming to Virginia. She had a cancer scare and had surgery. UTIs became an issue, and there were other medical issues. During these times, I would call on a more regular basis – and also visited her every few months.

And so she celebrated her 90th birthday. And then she turned 93, then 95. At 95, she broke her other hip and after spending three months in rehab, she came out unable to walk (or unwilling) to walk and used a wheelchair. Why they call it rehab isn’t clear to me. Because they are so concerned about liability, they only give older people one hour of therapy a day because they are afraid they will fall down (but that’s a whole other story).

Yet, throughout all that, her voice remained strong. A few times, she might be a tad forgetful, but for the most part, she was still the same mother that I knew and loved – and for the most part, pretty cheerful. She really enjoyed her time at the assisted living facility that was living in.

When her facility was locked down due to Covid-19, she was not happy. She did not like being confined to her room. She missed seeing her friends at meals, and playing bingo, poker, pokeno and joining in other activities. When I talked to her during this time, her first words were, “Things are not good here.” Yet, for the first month, they had no cases of Covid-19 and we were feeling pretty good.

On Monday, April 20, we spoke and she said that she had been tested for Covid-19. She had no symptoms, but they were testing the entire Assisted Living Center. I didn’t really think much of it and was glad that she had been tested.

On Wednesday, my sister called to say that my mother had tested positive for Covid-19. We still didn’t think much of it as she didn’t have any symptoms – and joked that she would die of boredom before she would die of the virus.

Because the facility was in lock down, we couldn’t visit but my sister, being the primary caretaker, spoke to the nurses on a daily basis. Even though she didn’t have the typical symptoms – cough, fever, etc., they said that our mother was going downhill. We weren’t really clear what that meant. I spoke to her on a daily basis and she sounded fine and she said that she felt fine. She didn’t want to go to the hospital – she wanted to stay where she was. My mother didn’t think that there was anything wrong with her but the staff was saying that she was starting to fail.

The assisted living facility said that one person could visit her one time. My sister’s husband is immune compromised so I was the logical choice, but I was six hours away.

Knowing that a transfer to the hospital was imminent, and that no visit would be allowed then, I started driving up to Connecticut on Sunday.

I got as far as Delaware when my sister called to say that they were transferring my mother to the hospital. The window of opportunity for a visit was closed. Ironically, the reason for the transfer was a separate issue – not Covid symptoms.

I spoke to my mother that Monday (a week after she tested positive) and for the first time, she no longer sounded like the mother I knew. Her words were garbled and she was not clear where she was. One of the few coherent thoughts that came out of the conversation was, “How did I get here?” Not sure if she was speaking literally or figuratively.

On Wednesday, my sister and I Facetimed with her. She was pretty out of it and kept closing her eyes, as if to say, “I’m ready to go.”

That was the last time we spoke to her. After Wednesday she was on morphine and hospice said that she was resting peacefully.

She passed away on Sunday morning, May 3rd. We buried her in Connecticut on Wednesday, May 6. She was two weeks shy of her 97th birthday. While it was hard not to be with her as she passed, we were thankful that she never really got terribly sick and didn’t suffer.

It didn’t hit me until the next Monday that I would no longer get calls from my mother on Mondays and I would no longer hear her voice. I am thankful for the many years that we had with her.

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