She was adamantly against the adult diapers I had bought her. In fact she pretty much insisted that I take them back. I talked her into them. I told her, it was just a precaution… that she could wear them just like pajamas or underwear. She was still halfway picking at the Cracker Barrel breakfast I had brought her when I stepped over the oxygen hose and knelt down beside her bed.
“Listen, it’s just in case you can’t make it in time. In case no one is here to help you make it to the bathroom in time”, I said.
“Okay”, she reluctantly agreed.
“Let’s get you up and to the bathroom, then I’ll put you in the shower”, I told her.
My mother was dying. My brother and I were rotating days and meeting with the Hospice nurses almost on a daily basis. Her prescription medication had become a problem. She was becoming forgetful and sometimes double-dosing on her medication. Several times I had walked in to find a cigarette burning a hole in the bed. Once, it actually started a blaze on the bed skirt. She had refused to stop smoking. To be honest… quitting wouldn’t have helped her at this point. I helped her to the bathroom.
“Okay Mom, put your arms around my neck and shoulders”, I had instructed. I was helping her up from the toilet seat.
“Why do you keep calling me Mom? I’ve got a boy but his name is Eddy”, she said.
Trying not to cry, and totally realizing just how bad her mind was getting, I responded, “I don’t know… you just seem like a Mom to me”.
I had started the shower beforehand and I recently installed a new shower head that allowed you to use a sprayer also. Hospice had provided us with a shower seat and I placed her in the seat and gently started washing her hair.
At that moment, I realized just how much life is indeed a circle. I came into this world being cared for, fed, clothed and bathed by this beautiful woman… and now here I was doing this for her. It was truly a powerful realization for me. I wasn’t sure how to feel about it at that very moment. Looking back, I cherish it.
“Okay… put your arms around my neck again, let’s raise you up so I can wash that dupa.“
Through the rising steam of the shower… I could see the almost blank stare melt away as a childlike glow appeared on her face. It was a welcoming and almost mischievous grin. It had been a long time since I had seen it. It was the same grin I had inherited from her.
“Now how did you know I call it a dupa?”, she asked.
I smiled back and said, “You’ve always called it a dupa… ever since I was a baby boy.”
We both laughed.
The things that the human consciousness can recall, even when it appears there’s nothing much left. This was a shared memory between us, something as simple as a nickname for our family’s rear ends. At that moment it didn’t matter to me that she had forgotten I was her son because we had shared a simple but precious memory of our lives. I allowed that emotional moment to surround me… and I became immersed in it. It poured on me like the warm water from the shower head. It would be my last memory of her.
I was out of town when I got an early evening call. It was my brother Eddy.
“She’s not doing too good right now. The nurse says she’s not gonna make it through the night. If you wanna see her… you need to come now.”
On a desolate stretch of road not far from the Florida/Alabama line…I got another call.
“She’s gone”, my brother said through tears.
I pulled over on the shoulder. I got out and walked to the rear of my truck which was still running. In the glow of my taillights… I dropped to my knees. My Momma was gone.