By Diane Pershing
Two and a half weeks ago, my mother was dying. We were together in her hospital room, where she was coughing and feverish, a ninety-year-old with severe pneumonia and a high temperature. We all know what happens to someone with that set of problems, right? We both had tears in our eyes. Hands shaking, she removed a beautiful square cut diamond ring from her hand and gave it to me. “It was my mother’s ring,” she said, her voice croaking with inflammation and exhaustion. “I want you to have it.”
I didn’t argue-first of all, it was a dying woman’s wish. Secondly, it’s beautiful and I’ve never had a diamond ring in my life. I took it, put it on the ring finger of my right hand (so no one would think that Ken had finally popped the question), and it was done. Together, we looked at how it sparkled and shared a moment that both of us sensed was one of the last.
Cut to: A week later. While the pneumonia was still pretty bad, her fever was down, her white blood cell count was down, and it seemed she wasnâ€™t going to die after all. I looked at the ring, looked at her and said with mock distress, “Ma, do I have to give it back now?”
She tilted her head to one side, enjoying the face I made, and said, “Nah. Itâ€™s yours anyway. Keep it.”
And I have. It’s here, sparkling still on my hand.
At present, Mom is out of the hospital and in a convalescent facility. She is still ninety and is weak and frail, but she coughs less, sits up more, walks a little with the aid of her walker. She is oh-so-slowly getting better.
As for me, I am a wreck. Caring for an elderly woman one loves unconditionally is not for weaklings. There is the necessity to be with her for hours and hours, because she needs reassurance and love and comfort, not to mention attention she does not get from nurses who are overworked and overstressed. There is her mail, her phone, her home, her bills. Running around getting the bedside table, contacting doctors and getting her meds right, and buying books light enough for her to hold but with large enough and dark enough print to read, Depends, looking for her favorite chocolate because she eats practically nothing at meals, making phone calls to be sure her care is attended to. This is not me whining, this is me stating a fact: I am past middle age and caring for an elderly parent and I am not an uncommon statistic. With the help of modern medicine, they’re living longer and we’re in charge. Fact, indisputable fact.
What does this have to with the blog offered by a writer of romances? A lot. Ask me where I am on the book I was deeply involved with two and a half weeks ago. The answer is: not any further along. I cannot write, I cannot concentrate, I cannot sit still and stare off into space and find the right phrase, the right image, for the scene I am creating. I CANNOT WRITE.
I think about the perfect writer I have in my headâ€”the one who can compartmentalize, who creates to escape, who, in face, finds solace and peace by writing . . . and it’s not me. Mom is in my head, not my book. The next chore to take care of for mom is all I can really think about. Plus getting enough sleep, eating properly, avoiding getting sick myself. Exercise? Fuggedaboudit. Life is about mom. For now. For the near future.
Because there will be a future without her in it. I want to enjoy the time the two of us have left, lap it up like a cat with a saucer of milk. She gave me life and loved me until I could exist apart from her. I salute my mother, and the book will have to wait.
Diane Pershing wears many hats. She is a multi-published award-winning romance novelist, voice-over actress for commercials and animation, and the President-Elect of Romance Writers of America. Her latest Silhouette Romantic Suspense, ONE TOUGH AVENGER, third in a trilogy, was released January 2008.
I’m sending you a big hug and the hope that every moment of time you have left with your Mom has some of the sparkle of that diamond! It is an oddly suspended time – those final months (hopefully years) with an ill or aging parent – where the roles are reversed and you are now in the care and nurturing seat. I hope you continue to care for yourself, whether it is 5 minutes in the sunshine or a quiet cup of tea. You’re in my thoughts!
Like you I had a similar experience where I cared for my father in a one year span when he required dialysis several times a week. I suffered through panic attacks due to new job, family duties, and an overdue book deadline (and an editor who at first didn’t believe me when I told her my father had died because another author had lied about such a thing) and made it through one therapy session because if I listened to that silly woman one more time, I would then need anger management therapy. My father died suddenly from cancer. And there was that time of guilt at feeling relieved and sad.
Hugs to you and your mom (she did good)!
Hugs, Diane. You’re absolutely right: “Caring for an elderly woman one loves unconditionally is not weaklings.” I’ve been there as well.
The best wishes to you and your mom.
Diane, best wishes for your mom! This is a very real story that many, many women are living each day. I lived it myself while taking care of my three sons. Fortunately I have a wonderful husband who helped me every single day. Thanks so much for sharing!
Diane, though my mom isn’t as old as yours, I know how tough this is. My mom was recently hospitalized for two weeks with pneumonia. It was made harder by the fact that she lives in a different state, but thankfully she’s doing better now.
I hope your mom continues to improve.
This touched my heart, Diane. Love to you and your amazing mom,
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