Posted by: Kathy | November 14, 2020

Fading Memories?

It’s been almost 2 years to the day since I last wrote in my blog. I still think of my mom every day. I still talk to her and I believe that my mom hears me.

The days leading up to the anniversary of my mom’s death are still difficult, even though it’s been 12 years. I can still remember clearly those final days and what was happening. It’s as if certain memories are engraved in my heart and mind.

Today, 12 years ago, was a Friday and the last time I heard my mom tell me that she loved me. It was around 7 pm and the sun had set hours before on a frosty November day. I stopped at a small, family run gas station to fill up for a trip the next day. Sitting in my blue Subaru Forrester with my 9-year-son in the backseat, I called my mom to say goodnight to her.

My mom told me what she had for dinner (Stauffer’s macaroni and cheese) and how she hadn’t eaten very much because she wasn’t hungry. She asked me to wish my son good luck for her (he was testing for his black belt in TaeKwonDo the next day) and to tell him that she loved him. My mom then told me she loved me and I said it back to her. I wish I had known then that that was last the real conversation I would ever have with my mom. I wouldn’t have pressed the “off” button on my phone.

This year has been especially hard because my dad hasn’t been well. In February he was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis. It’s not fatal, but there were times I thought my dad would just give up to be my mom, who was the love of his life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to convince my dad life is worth living, as he’s said to me “I just want to die” or that my life would be easier without him in it.

This disease, along with being in the hospital several times and poorly run rehabilitation facilities, has zapped my father of his strength and left him depressed. My dad has worked very hard to relearn everything in life that people just do naturally — walk, sit down without falling, get up off the floor, etc. I continuously worry about him. Unfortunately, I have been left out of all his healthcare decisions from the very beginning (despite asking and being the only daughter and the only child who lives close). My dad’s doctors don’t even know who I am, so I cannot help him in the ways that I want to.

I cannot be my dad’s advocate the way I was for my mom. This breaks my hearts and adds to my stress and frustration because I only want the best for my dad. I have questions that I cannot get answered and concerns that I cannot get addressed. I have tried to do my own research, but these questions and concerns are at square 1 and I guess always will be. My dad is the only parent I have left and I only want to help in any way that I can.

On the weekends, I visit my dad and we often do a puzzle together. I always talk to my dad while we place the pieces together. My dad used to ask me to confirm dates — the year he married my mom, the date she died, the date I married my husband, and the dates my kids were born. Earlier in his disease, there were times when we’d talk about a memory. I would say “remember when…” and my dad would follow with the memory. We talked about my kids, my mom, and even things a favorite dog of his did. I was trying to help my dad with the cognitive part of his rehabilitation.

But lately I’ve noticed that my dad doesn’t really want to talk about my mom. Then, last Sunday, I tried talking about my mom (my dad’s wife wasn’t around) and my dad just started talking about something else, almost as if he never heard me. I went with the conversation he started and then said said something again about my mom. This time my dad was silent. as he worked on the puzzle.

I have “lost” the one person with the most memories about my mom. My dad and I always shared a good “mom story” or sometimes even a sad “mom story.” My heart aches right now because I can’t call my dad on the days leading up to the anniversary of my mom’s death and talk about my mom. I cannot share her loss with my father — the one person who used to truly understand.

I understand that my dad is still healing physically and mentally, but I am worried that his memories of my mom will disappear. His current wife has tried to cut me and my son off from dad more than once in the 8 years that she and my dad have been married. Even when my dad was first sick, she set up shifts in the hospital so my dad was never alone. But I was not part of these shifts. I only found out about when my brother (who lives across the country) called me in a panic because he had been told by the wife’s daughter that my dad was dying and he had to come home immediately. Fortunately, I had the number to the nurse’s station and learned that my dad’s condition had not changed. I then assured my brother that our father stable. I believe that this daughter was tired of driving the distance to the hospital and wanted my brother to start taking his share of the shifts. I would have happily been part of them, but I wasn’t included.

His current wife would be thrilled if my dad lost his memories of my mom. She was his college sweetheart, who he was married to for 43 years. My parents would still be married (for 55 years now), except pancreatic cancer stepped in and ended my mom’s life. My parents’ first date was in very early February 1962 and my mom died on November 16, 2008. I don’t want almost 47 years of memories of love, laughter, and a life together to fade away for my dad. I love being able to share memories of my mom with him. I hope it continues.

I realize this blog may be all over the place with my thoughts. I apologize for the “whiplash.” For the past 9 months, I’ve been worried about my dad and my fears increase because I am not part of his healthcare decisions. I am sad because I cannot talk with my dad about my mom right now. It is heartbreaking that, unlike previous years at this time, we are not sharing memories of the woman who made big impact on our lives in different ways. Honestly, it’s not just the possibility of fading memories, but the fear of losing my dad too.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” Thomas Campbell

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