During the past decade, my mom gradually slipped away from my family, and on May 28, passed away after losing her battle with dementia. Early on, Mom became more isolated than usual, and stopped participating in things that used to interest her. No more cards. No more crosswords. She forgot how to play Scrabble. Her hearing got worse and she refused to wear a hearing aid, letting us know that she didn’t want to hear what we had to say, anyway. She spent a lot of energy regretting decisions that she made earlier in her life — decisions that were supportive of my dad’s career, but detrimental to her own career trajectory as a nurse. She had hallucinations, and stopped showering. Formerly a very tidy person, she became disheveled and wore the same sweater day after day, not noticing food stains or more alarmingly, cigarette burns. Dad tried to take care of her the best that he could, but finally realized that she needed more help. We moved Mom into assisted living, where she became even more isolated. She engaged less and less. She lost weight. She forgot how much she liked smoking. She became bedridden.
My sister and I would visit as often as we could, usually every 6 to 10 weeks. It was hard to know how to interact with Mom, because she was very unresponsive. We realized that Mom enjoyed some very simple pleasures: the scent of a flower, something soft to hold, or listening to Johnny Cash, her favorite. We couldn’t understand what she was saying — she had stopped wearing her dentures, and didn’t have enough breath to support a whole sentence. It was hard to tell if Mom got much out of our visits. And it was sad to think that the people she knew best at the end were her paid caretakers.
Mom declined over a very long period of time. She is the first loved one I have lost, so I have been floating out there somewhere, watching myself to see how I respond to her death. It wasn’t unexpected. I feel relief that she is no longer in such a sad situation that she never would have chosen for herself.
Thinking about my mom and all of the choices she made, and the things she came to regret, and how powerless she was at the end has got me thinking about my own life and the path that I am on. I’ve been in Seattle for 20 years, now. My decision to move here was impulsive, I didn’t think it through at all. I just wanted and needed to get out of Greeley (sorry, any Greeley friends who might be reading this). Within a couple of weeks of her passing, I found myself obsessed with figuring out the next step in my life. I want to do something with purpose and intention, and finally start acting like a grownup. Mom always encouraged me to follow my dreams, but I don’t think I realized what they were until she was gone.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the idea of home, houses, shelter and security and have ended up doing a couple of prints that reflect my current obsession. Here is one: