Getaway

Just when I think I’m getting my act together; a wave of brutal honesty sweeps over me and I admit to myself that I’m kind of a hot mess. From my weight, to my diet, to my mood-swings, to my… oh, those are all the same thing. They are. I can go from drinking smoothies and eating vegan on Monday, to having mac & cheese for breakfast and twenty chicken nuggets for lunch on Tuesday. Then I try again on Wednesday: smoothie, veggies, fruit, quinoa – yum. “Cool, I’ve lost a few pounds.” Then I go to the store and I’m dangerously close to Wendy’s or Popeye’s. “Crap, I’ve gained a few pounds.”

I was relieved when the battery in my scale died. Maybe it was a sign that I wasn’t supposed to weigh myself or worry about a number assigned to my existence, other than my age. “Eat heathy, stay healthy,” was my new mantra… my short-lived mantra. Everything I do to get my life back on track is temporary. A step forward, a step back – which is better than two steps back, I guess. But one step forward and one step back means I’m standing still, pivoting, spinning.

Getting in the car and driving, literally moving away from my shit, is the only thing that helps. Escapism. Avoidance. I took a five-day respite in Palm Springs when my mother turned the last corner. After she expired, I drove all over, all the time: shopping, driving, eating, driving, seeing movies, driving. Just before Christmas, I went away to a magical home in the Washington woods. On Christmas day I drove to the beach – from one vacant lonely place to another, then ended the day gorging at an Asian buffet. When an old friend recently offered me another chance to get away, I jumped at the chance to leave town again.

It began with a four-hour drive to a cat sanctuary. Most people hate the drive through the desert, not me. There is something about driving on a straight road through a barren landscape that soothes my soul, like meditation. In 1989, I drove this same route headed south where I stayed with friends for a few weeks while I looked for an apartment. This time, I headed north to spend a few days with one of those same friends, thirty-one years later. Each highway had changed quite a bit in three decades, yet there was something familiar and comforting while driving past Joshua Trees, perfectly spaced telephone poles, and slow-moving trucks. The brilliant blue sky took up two-thirds of the windshield with nothing obscuring it. Hundreds of wind turbines, vast areas of solar panels, plus the occasional cell phone tower, were new to me. The landscape turned from desert to farmland quite abruptly. Before I knew it, the narrow highway was wedged between rows of fruit and nut trees. Some were heavy with citrus, while others were covered with white or pink pompoms. Insects pelted the frontend and windshield. It reminded me of a time I took this route on a motorcycle – without wearing a helmet – bugs hit my face like BBs.

If you know me personally, you know how much I love cats. My first kitten was born on this day, February 29th in 1972. I guess there were no babies born on that day, because our small-town newspaper announced the birth of the “Leap Year Litter.” It has long been on my bucket list to visit The Cat House on the Kings: a 12-acre cat rescue and adoption center. Cats that aren’t adopted can live their entire lives at the free-roam sanctuary. I spent just over an hour wandering around petting hundreds of cats. I can’t even adequately describe how I felt; I wanted to cry… a lot. I was happy beyond measure, possibly the happiest I’ve been since moving to California. At the same time, I was miserable. There’s something about unshared joy that isn’t joyous at all – it’s tragic. It’s like seeing something amazing and saying, “Wow! Look at that,” then you realize you’re alone. No one will ever see what you see or feel what you feel. I sat on a bench looking over the King River while five or six cats rubbed against my legs, two competed for my lap and hands, and dozens wandered around the bench. Could I volunteer and live with hundreds of cats for the rest of my life? Could I just stay there? Would anyone notice if I slept on that bench overnight or forever?

I pulled myself together, and off the bench, then continued on my journey north. My friends live near Yosemite National Park; I had another hour to drive and a million orchards to pass. The landscape started rolling with hills, vineyards and wineries, cattle and new smells. I arrived at their house just before sunset. What is it about these magical houses in the woods? Who knew I had so many new age, spiritual, Bohemian friends? Walking into their home was like ‘coming home.’ I sat down and exhaled, instantly comfortable and comforted.

LONG PAUSE: I was going to finish this last night. I was going to write about visiting Yosemite, Bass Lake, Bandit Town and Old Town Clovis. I was going to lament about the devastation of drought, wildfires, and Pine Beetles. But… but the friend I stayed with in Washington just lost her mother. Boom! Out of the blue, she’s gone. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve discussed our mothers over the years and what it meant to me to have someone who gets it and gets me.

So, I’m stopping here. My grief is renewed.

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Shortly after my mother expired, the hospice agency mailed me an invitation to a free grief counseling group. I didn’t respond; it was too soon, too raw. I didn’t want the grief of others and the advice of a counselor to affect (infect) my process. I was going through thousands of photos, trying to imagine her as a woman, a wife, a friend, a drinker, a smoker – someone other than my mother. I learned more about her as her caregiver than I had in the previous fifty-plus years as her daughter. Three months later, I’m still learning about her.

We’re all complex, multi-faceted humans. I don’t think we view our parents this way. I’m a child of divorce and have very few memories of my father. I didn’t know him at all. Until 2015, I didn’t fully know, much less understand, my mother. I could hear her voice in my head; I knew exactly how she’d react and what she’d say in just about any circumstance. But I didn’t really know her as a person, just her persona. When I ask people to share a memory, I’m not surprised that their memories are image related: her perfect hair, fashionable clothes, dripping with jewelry, etc. Four years ago, I would have had the same description with no sense of the real woman. Caring for a sick and dying person will show you many sides of their personality, probably all of them. The depth of our shared vulnerability led us to discover each other. She finally saw me as an adult, not just her child. And I saw her stripped down, literally and figuratively, to the person who had hidden behind make-up, clothes, and jewelry. Once she was gone, I had research to do, photos to find, notes to read. I didn’t want a controlled group to change or block my path.

Hospice contacted me again a month or so later. Was I ready yet? I picked up my phone and contemplated calling. Before I could hit the green call-button I noticed the last call I made to them was on October 17th.

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It took 25 seconds to tell them my mother was dead. I don’t know what word I actually used; it may not have been “dead.” Based on the time stamp, I had the order of events wrong. I called them first, then my niece, then I removed her cannula and hearing aid. That’s not how I remember it.

Last week I received an invitation to the next counseling session, which begins next week. This time I’m ready. I stared at my phone for a while, knowing that if I made the call to accept the invitation, the October call would be replaced. Why was this so hard to do? What would I be erasing? What would I be losing? I contemplated using someone else’s phone, then shook my head at my own insanity. I took a screenshot. Done.

20/20 Vision

We’re twenty-six days into the new year, and fourteen weeks since my mother expired. Fourteen weeks doesn’t sound like a very long time. Does three months and nine days sound longer? It doesn’t matter. The weirdness of grief is still fresh. I say ‘weirdness’ because some of the things I do regarding my mother still surprise me. I shake my head and say, “Weird.”

My tenant is all moved in, but I seldom see her. She works twelve-hour shifts; she’s out of the house by 6:15 AM and returns around 8:00 PM. I had no delusions of making a new friend or sitting around drinking tea with her, but I did hope my mother’s room would be more lived in. She has an adorable Chihuahua mix rescue that my mom would have loved. The bedroom door is closed 24/7, I haven’t been in the room in weeks. It has helped – I no longer have the urge to go down the hall and check on her. I don’t listen for her at night. I’ve stopped preparing her coffee in the morning. I seldom think of her dietary needs, likes and dislikes when grocery shopping or cooking. However, that’s not to say I don’t think of her all the time, because I do, constantly.

Christmas was especially weird. I bought a ‘Mother’ Christmas card, wrote in it, then read it aloud to her ashes. I never thought I would be ‘that’ person – the person who talks to ashes. About forty cards came in from our friends and family members (not local family, only from England). I read all of them to her. She would’ve been very happy with that number; she obsessively counted them. I remember sitting at the dining room table and she’d stare at all the cards taped to the front door. She loved giving and receiving cards, I think she passed that tradition on to me. In this age of social media and texting, it’s nice to know someone took the time and made the effort to think of you and write a personal note.

I woke up early Christmas morning, posted some festive greetings on Facebook, sent a few texts, and completely lost my composure. While my mother was alive, my brother would come over early with cards and gifts, before the festivities at his own house. I hadn’t heard from him and I didn’t think he’d come this year, but a tiny voice in my head said, “He might.” I took a shower and put on my Star Wars Christmas sweater just in case. But he didn’t come or call or anything, and I had no desire to call him or anyone else, I don’t think I could’ve spoken. I didn’t want to sit in this house alone yet didn’t want to be with anyone either.

**Edit: I was invited to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festivities with my nieces. I chose not to go.

I spontaneously jumped in the car and drove to Venice Beach, about ninety miles away. The freeways were empty, a rare sight in Southern California. Surprisingly, every damn thing was closed. I never think of Venice Beach, or Los Angeles in general, as being closed for business – ever!

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My plan was to walk along the beach, take photos, and find a restaurant for breakfast or brunch. After a very long walk to nowhere, I went back to the car and looked online for an open restaurant. I lost patience because I was starving and getting hangry. Ninety miles later I was back in my hometown and found an open Asian buffet. Emotionally, I was slipping between incredulous chuckling and misty-eyed crying. I loved the food, the wait staff was excellent, and the price was lower than usual. There wasn’t one Christmas decoration, no carols playing, no telltale sign of the holiday – the Holy day. It could’ve been any other afternoon. I’m not a Christian, but the season and traditions are engrained from an early age – it’s Christmas! It should feel like Christmas, look like Christmas. But it didn’t. I sat there eating coconut shrimp, orange chicken and chow mien, and lots of it. I wanted to vomit.

I came home and posted my photos of Venice Beach, then waited for comments: “How nice that you got away!” – “So glad you had a fun day at the beach!” – “What a great idea!”  Yeah, I rolled with it; not confessing my misery, but not lying about the nice, fun, or great time I had. My niece sent me photos of the family smiling and opening presents, I know what I missed out on, but the trade-off in emptiness wasn’t worth it.

My great-nephew will be sixteen next month. I remember telling Mom last year that her great-grandson got his driving permit. I showed her a photo of him at the DMV. Her eyes went huge, she couldn’t believe he was so grown up. Then something amazing happened; she looked closely at the photo and said, “He got his braces off.” I believe this was late August, shortly after our five-day respite. She was seldom lucid in August, yet she remembered he had had braces and noticed they were gone. I was dumbfounded and giddy – those moments were so rare and getting rarer. Now he’s almost as tall as his father, getting his license next month, and went to homecoming last night – his very first date. And once again, my initial reaction to the homecoming photos was to run to her bedroom to show her. Every time I tamp down those split-second thoughts it fucking hurts.

Besides having a tenant, I’ve made another change in my life – I traded in the Toyota Yaris (formerly my mother’s) for a Nissan Cube. I always resented selling my previous Cube, but the Yaris wasn’t paid off and was close to upside-down; there wouldn’t have been any profit in selling it. If I wanted to pay my rent and bills, I had to sell my Cube. It broke my heart and my spirit – the first in a long line of spirit busters. I tried to be logical about it: the Yaris was newer and had nearly half the mileage of the Cube. I wasn’t happy but had no intention of selling it. A couple of trips out of town (including Venice Beach) convinced me I would never be able to take a road trip. It’s too small and I’m too big – it’s as simple as that. I started looking at used Cubes and bought one within a week. It was impulsive, I know.

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Speaking of road trips… I have been trying to go to an annual conference for four years. I considered going when they held it in Chicago, especially since I had friends to visit as well, but my mom was hospitalized. It was in Las Vegas the following year, so close! I was determined to go. I booked a hotel room and was days from going, only to find out that there was no one available to take care of Mom. When I say I was her ‘sole’ caregiver, this was proof. No one else ever took care of her. No one. Last year the conference was in Pittsburgh, so that was out of the question. Then they announced the 2020 conference would be in Albuquerque – within driving distance! If Mom was still in hospice care I’d take a five-day respite for the conference. Needless to say, I have all the time in the world now: five, ten, twenty days. And… if I’m going to Albuquerque, I may as well head to Denver, then to a see a friend in Nebraska, and a few friends in Chicago, and so on, and so on. By the time I plotted out a perfect course, it spanned from California to Maryland. I’m sure it sounds insane, I’m not so sure it isn’t.

And, in other news, I’ve booked my flight to England to take Mum’s cremains home. I decided to wait until May in hopes of decent weather. (Yeah, don’t laugh.) I contacted my family to see what timeframe would work best for the majority of them. The latter part of May and early June looked most promising, so I booked it. I found out that I can’t just scatter my mother’s ashes on her parents’ grave, that was a bit presumptuous on my part. (And very American of me to assume I can do whatever I want in a foreign country.) The graveyard is on the church grounds, so the vicar will take part in a short service. It’s yet to be determined if her ashes will be scattered or buried in a small hole. My cousins are working on renting a hall and hiring a caterer for a family gathering after the service. While there, I’ll bounce around the countryside at the gracious hospitality of relatives who barely know me. I’ll only need a hotel a few nights while I’m playing tourist.

It’s pretty obvious that I don’t have a job yet. I’ve got a few online gigs that give me a small income. Having a tenant covers the rent and utilities, for the most part. The gas and electric bills have shot up because my mom qualified for discounts that I was unable to renew. I do have money though, not much, but enough. I’m going to sell this house eventually; I don’t know when. I have to have a game plan before I do that. If I can make a steady online income, I may keep traveling. Even though I grew up here and have family here, I don’t feel rooted or settled or welcome. I don’t feel anything now that my only reason for being here is gone.

 

 

 

R&R – Reset & Recharge

Exactly two months after Mom’s expiration date, I found a tenant to rent her bedroom. I didn’t realize it was the 17th until she asked me the date while signing the lease agreement. She’s not moving in until mid-January, so I still have some time alone.

I recently returned from ten days in Washington state, thanks to the generosity and compassion of a great friend, whom I’ve known since 1974. She and her husband offered me a cozy room in their amazing home to get some much-needed recuperation and resetting. I received both, along with getting to know her family and two dogs.

Their love-filled home was decorated for Christmas, but not in a way that I’ve ever seen before. There were no blinking lights, no elves on shelves, or cheap red and green décor made in China. It was filled with statues of Father Christmas – the old-time bearded figure wearing flowing hooded robes, carrying a staff, even riding a donkey. They were in every corner, on cabinets, and unexpected places throughout the downstairs. They were lit with tiny lights, softly diffused by other non-traditional decorations. The tree in the reading room was magical. I sat and stared at it one morning; I went in there to read but was too distracted and enchanted by it.

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D3B3346A-9E2D-4AF2-95F4-27B9B6CC2820This home sits on five acres of a mystical forest, complete with duck ponds, bird and squirrel feeding stations, vegetable and herb gardens, vines and flowers. There are walking trails throughout the property, where the dogs run wild. It’s amazing that five acres of forest can feel like five thousand; I turned around and the house was gone. The trees were so tall that they blocked the sun, it was noticeably colder than in the backyard. My sense of direction faltered – this is how people get lost in the woods, no doubt. The trails are not empty though. My friends, and their guests, have left dozens of discoverable items over the years: statues of angels, Buddhas, owls, small toys, and carvings are among the ferns, moss, mushrooms, and fallen trees. I doubt I found half of them. Before I left, I placed my own little trinket for future scavengers.

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My first thought was to buy a small statue or ceramic Christmas ornament of Hello Kitty, because she’s my go-to for fun, cute objects. I had no luck finding one in the few days I had to search, so I began looking for a small flamingo, something people have begun associating with me. Flamingo sightings in December are rare, especially getting the right size for placing it inconspicuously among the bramble. I decided that this enchanted patch of forest could use a hedgehog – one of my mother’s favorite creatures. She had a small collection of hedgehog knick-knacks that I set aside at the Estate Sale and decided to keep. I often showed her hedgehog videos online. So, instead of leaving a piece of myself behind, I left a bit o’ mum. It was perfect.

If there’s a cold bug to be caught on a plane, it will find and infect me. No matter the amount of preventative medicine and vitamins, I always get sick when traveling by air. Maybe that’s what I needed – to sit very still, drink hot cocoa, and enjoy the menagerie of critters just beyond the window. I was given a coloring book and I caught up on some reading. My friend and I watched Netflix, ate popcorn, and drank homemade margaritas. We even consumed pot brownies. The experience of thrifting at Goodwill while high will not soon be forgotten nor matched.

Did she know I needed this? I didn’t know, that’s for sure. I mean, I could’ve colored, read, watched TV, and ate THC edibles at home – alone. No, not really. It wouldn’t have been the same as being cared for and loved unconditionally. I wouldn’t say that my house is haunted, but all of the recent memories of my mother living and dying here are just below the surface – way too fresh. Getting a thousand miles away was exactly what I needed. Everything else I experienced was a delightful bonus.

 

 

 

 

I thought –

It snowed on Thanksgiving. It’s not that unusual to get snow in the Mojave Desert especially in the “high” desert, which only means we’re at a higher elevation than the low desert. We’re also considered a valley due to the nearby mountain ranges. The day after a snowfall, we all turn our eyes to the mountains; it’s a glorious backdrop to the sagebrush, tumbleweeds, and Joshua Trees.

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The day began with rain and sleet pelting the carport and window awnings, it was maddening. I yelled, “It’s raining!” Then realized I was only telling my cat, who just ignored me. Local friends were posting photos of snow and I was getting jealous. I kept getting up to check, even though the racket was telltale enough. Then the silence came, and the TV had to be turned down. I glanced at the one window I can see from my chair in the TV room. “It’s snowing!” Again, the cat ignored me.

I opened the front door and stepped outside. I should call Mom to see if it’s snowing at her house, I thought, while standing on the porch of her former home. What a mind-fuck. There were thoughts like this all day. I went to my niece’s for Thanksgiving; she and her husband are vegan. I remember explaining veganism to my mother. She never really understood the concept. I made about a gallon of gravy with about a pound of mushrooms and remembered that she didn’t like raw mushrooms on salad or pizza, yet she loved sautéed garlic mushrooms with spaghetti. I’d like to think that she would’ve enjoyed my gravy.

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Mom’s China hutch is now in my niece’s dining room. That’s weird. I was tempted to pull open a drawer, hoping to find it full of 2019 prescription receipts for the “tax man” (even though it’s a woman). I wish she could’ve eaten at my niece’s beautiful new dining table.

This was the first family-centric holiday since her passing. I was silently joking with myself about the things I was grateful for this year – I’m grateful I won’t have to deal with her wheelchair in the snow or on the icy driveway. I’m grateful I don’t have to prepare her plate and cut up her food. I’m grateful I won’t have to take her to the bathroom. I’m grateful she isn’t nagging me about… everything. I’m grateful I can stay after dessert and play a board game with the family.

I said my good-byes, then cried all the way home. Bullshit, I wasn’t grateful for any of those things.

Today is December 1st – on this day three years ago, my mother had out-of-town guests who stopped by to have lunch with us. I know this because Facebook Memories showed me the photo I posted. There’s my mother, standing rather straight, unaided by a cane or walker. (I’m sure one or the other was nearby.) I find myself examining photos closely and dissecting everything – I wasn’t living with her then. There’s already a poinsettia? Are those Thanksgiving cards or Christmas cards in the background? She looks quite healthy and strong. Look at that huge smile, she’s so happy to see her friend. Her hair looks recently set. She’s wearing lots of bling, along with her fall-alert necklace. – At the time I took the photo, I remember being bothered that her friend was backlit by the window, and that’s about all I noticed.

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I’ve always liked the Facebook Memories feature, especially since I joined in 2007. Their databank holds twelve years of my life’s highs and lows, opinions, photos, and memories. If you close your account, everything remains. I know this because I closed my other (birth name) account and when I brought it back online it was as if I hadn’t left – every comment and photo was still there. The vast depth of Facebook’s data is sometimes terrifying, and I probably shouldn’t love it as much as I do.

Then there’s this blog, which I may not have written if it weren’t for Facebook. I had another personal blog when I began a weight-loss journey; it was as short-lived as my weight loss. Sharing our daily struggles and conversations on my timeline led me to create a personal blog; my friends seemed somewhat interested and generally amused. I also have a WordPress version for my non-Facebook friends and family members. I send them the link when I update it. I think I have two followers on WordPress and they seldom comment. I’ve noticed over the years that my FB followers don’t comment as much as they used to. (That’s not a passive-aggressive plea, honest.) I understand, really, how many times can someone post, “Sorry, hang in there. You’re doing great. *hugs*” And I’ve pretty much stopped replying to comments because how many times can I reply, “Thanks for your support.” It’s a bit monotonous. I’m happy to know a handful of people are reading it and a few of them have been helped by following our journey.

Is this still “A Daughter’s Diary into Dementia” or should I add “… and Death” to the subtitle? I don’t know, I really don’t. Every day I fight thoughts and actions formed from muscle memory. You don’t realize how regimented your life is until it stops. Done. My life went from structured to chaotic in one day, in one passing moment. From the time I wake up, it’s painfully obvious that I have no job, no direction, no schedule, no purpose, no mother.

I’m trying to focus on 2020. The master bedroom is ready to rent out. I’ve updated my resumé to include “Caregiver: May 2015 – October 2019.” I’m ready to go back to work, and definitely ready to make some money to resurrect my comatose credit score. Ha – I just realized I used ‘focus’ and ‘2020’ in the same sentence. I hope to have 20/20 vision when looking to the future.

Precious Moments

A month has passed since Mom ‘expired.’ For the rest of my life, the number 17 (and the 17th) will remind me of my mother’s expiration date. It’s a prime number. I’ve always had a thing for prime numbers; probably because my birthdate is a double prime: 7-11. Mom told me her delivery date had been the 13th, another prime. I don’t think she understood my explanation of prime numbers, which led me to wonder about her education. She never helped me with homework, and she never asked me about it. But she paid the bills and balanced the checkbook without a calculator and was a cashier back when the register didn’t tell you how much change to give back to the customer. She was always good at math. Prime, composite, natural, cardinal, and ordinal numbers meant nothing to her, nor should they.

We had very little in common culturally. Mom didn’t read books, listen to music, watch documentaries or crime shows. She liked a lot of TV shows that I refused to watch with her, like soap operas, game shows, reality TV, and entertainment (gossip) shows. The only ones we religiously watched together (besides Downton Abbey) were The Voice and American Idol. She was impressed that I usually knew the songs and liked it when I sang along.

I became a little (extremely) obsessed with Maddie Poppe on American Idol. I showed Mom how to vote for Maddie on my phone, she was thrilled to do it. We celebrated her victory and didn’t miss any of her post-win appearances. Mom always recognized when it was Maddie playing in the car. Prior to that, she could only identify Adele and Kelly Clarkson. And it was super cute when she did, “That’s Adele, isn’t it? I knew it. I love Adele!” Like mother, like daughter.

When I was putting together the slideshow, I really wanted to set it to meaningful music. My digital music library has about 15,000 songs – I came up with three, maybe four, that seemed appropriate. I tried to use a Maddie Poppe song, but none of them worked, only one came close. I finally gave up trying to figure it out, it was frustrating and exhausting. I chose a generic jingle-type song that looped for forty minutes. The slideshow has been highly praised, so I’ve stopped fretting about its low production quality.

—> Detour, 17 hours later…

I went on (and on, for a thousand words) describing the entire Mumorial from beginning to end, flaws and all. The more I reread it and edited it, the more it bothered and bored me. I decided to save it for another day, or never. Instead, I had brunch with a friend today and while we were talking, I realized I wanted to share something else.

So, going back to (my obsession) Maddie Poppe – she released a couple of Christmas songs last year that Mom really enjoyed. I played them at least once a day throughout the season. When Maddie’s album dropped in May, Mom was bedridden but still quite lucid. I played it for her, and she said, “She’s a big star now. I’m so glad I voted for her.” The fact that she remembered voting was a surprisingly precious memory that I had forgotten. I might have cried.

Then today, during brunch, I recalled that moment again. I’ve been reminded of many others since her passing –

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• We woke up in the middle of the night to watch Prince Harry’s wedding. We had scones and tea, which she drank from her “Kiss Me I’m English” mug. I fashioned a fascinator from a huge gift bow.

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• She called her brother Ernie on his birthday and swung her leg over the arm of the chair. It was so out-of-character that I snuck a photo.

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• The first time Elly got on Mom’s lap, she was equal parts excited and terrified.

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• When she ‘fancied a pint’ at Red Robin.

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• I made English Sunday dinner for her, complete with Yorkshire Pudding. She was bedridden at the time and I beat myself up for not making it earlier when she could sit at the table and feed herself.

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• I was messing around with Snapchat on Halloween and put a black cat on her head.

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• We ate Tres Leches cake on my birthday and the insanely blue frosting turned our tongues and lips blue, even her teeth were blue. She thought it was hilarious and let me take a photo.

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• Elly used to hang out on Mom’s walker waiting for a ride.

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According to Facebook Memories, I posted this on November 17, 2017, “For those of you who don’t follow my personal blog, Sundown in the Desert, I have thrown in the towel on a few personal battles and I’m moving in with my mother. I think, in the long run, it will benefit both of us. Thank you for your support.”

Mutually beneficial precious moments ~

This time

Reality check: I’ve been manic since my mom died. Absolutely manic. Within hours of her death, I spun around her bedroom with a roll of trash bags scooping up everything in my path, like the cartoon Tasmanian Devil. Then I spent every moment, day and night, planning her memorial celebration which I coined, “Mumorial.” That’s another story.

An alarm has been going off in my head. “I have to rent out this room!” It was completely dismantled, spackled, and painted within the first week, only the dresser, nightstand, and a chair remained. I got a lead on Traveling Nurses; they stay for 13 weeks then move on. Perfect! Now I needed to furnish the room. I began obsessing, shopping and decorating. I bought a bed frame, mattress, bedding, pillows, towels, a desk, clock, microwave, coffee maker… manic buying. Shopping therapy. And elephant décor, yes, elephants.

This had been the plan last year when she went into a care facility: I would rent out her room and get a job. Solid plan. I sold her bedroom furniture and cleaned out the bathroom in preparation. She grumbled about wanting to come home. Even though I cleared out her closet, sold her excess clothing and shoes; I knew she’d come home. When I posted her collectibles to sell online and had a joint yard sale – I knew she was unhappy at the facility. I applied for jobs and went on interviews. My prospects were disheartening; I failed to land a position. Not even Target wanted a middle-aged, obese, over-qualified shelf stocker. Mom knew I was depressed; we were both depressed.

It was one year ago, November. We ate our Thanksgiving meal at the care facility, then she packed her bags and came home. This wasn’t the first time, but it was the last. This time, I have to rent out the room. This time, I have to get a job. This time – she’s not coming home.

I fell off a stepstool the other day while hanging a picture. I twisted my back, landed on my hip, cut my finger, and bit my lip. I sat on the floor trying not to drip blood on the carpet and wept. Grief finally took hold, three weeks after her death. It’s no longer Mom’s bedroom. She’s not going to get mad at the blood on the carpet. It’s not her house. She’s not out there somewhere waiting to come home… to save me.

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