I used to be pretty good at this blogging thing. Took great joy (and honestly, pride) in posting pieces that reflected my thoughts, feelings, doubts, experiences, and anecdotes about living in Chile. But, as many of you have noticed, the ink well has been a bit dry of late. And there are some pretty damned good reasons for it too.
This has been another bruiser of a year—2010 was no joyride either—and thankfully, I can say that things are finally falling into place, there IS light at the end of that long tunnel, and the bright side is back on my side.
Oh what a year this has been. Lots to juggle, lots to process, lots to work through. In less than a year I lost three women who were very important in my life in very different ways. First was Anisol, one of my dearest friends, to cancer; a month later it was Ema, my mother-in-law, to emphysema; and finally, Sue, my mother, to Alzheimer’s. I—we—watched each slip away from us, helpless before the powers of three horrendous illnesses.
My mother passed away in July. I had gone to be with her on her 80th birthday in May. There was a cake, but it was no party. There was little to celebrate as the shell of a confused woman who was once our mother looked at us blankly—and then fixed her eyes on me, her oldest daughter, as if to say, “How could you let this happen?” I turned my shamed eyes from hers for the last time. Would that I had such power over the cancers and emphysemas and Alzheimers’ of this world.
I had planned to return in late July, but got the call… “Come now—it’s time.” I struggled against time and fate and airline schedules during Chile’s winter exodus to Disney World, and finally got a flight out. She had been in a coma for three days by the time I got there. But she waited for me to cross the globe to be there; for me, her first child, the last to arrive. I am so thankful she did; I didn’t get to goodbye to my Dad. She died a few hours later, my sister and I at her side, holding her hands. My brothers arrived just moments later, and the four of us stood silently together, suddenly stripped of our adult personae and transformed into orphans; Ernie and Sue’s kids, suddenly feeling very alone in the world.
But along with the sadness came an odd sense of relief. The woman we said goodbye to that day was not the Mom who raised us. She was the woman we had looked over and worried about—each in our way—for the last several years, but she had long ago stopped being the smart, witty, funny woman with a quick temper and an accepting attitude we all remember. Alzheimer’s and a series of strokes had stolen our Mom from us and replaced her with someone we no longer recognized—someone who struggled to recognize us.
It was painful. She was angry and suffering—both physically and emotionally. She wanted out. She was done. She had her mental bag packed and repeatedly said she was waiting for my father to come get her. And then she was gone. The initial grief turned to relief. Relief coupled with guilt at first, but relief all the same. This long, involuntary journey was over. We had accompanied her as best we could down a long, unchosen road, and then it was time for the rest of us to find our way back home, to a place that is—for now—without Alzheimer’s—or cancer—or emphysema, and to a time to put things in order once again.
And there is order in this world. Just one week after we said goodbye to the oldest member of the family, the newest member was born. Maxwell Alan Moore, my second grandson, arrived at just the right moment to help his brother Robert remind us all to look forward. As we reorder our memories of Ernie and Sue (and Anisol and Ema) and take strength from all they taught us, we turn to the present, where I must now grow into the role of the family matriarch, where my daughter and her cousins are forming families of their own, and where Robert and Max and the rest of their generation will lead us into the future.
I have mentally written and rewritten this piece a hundred times, but was not ready to post until now. After reading Pam Mandel’s moving piece Forgotten but not Gone yesterday, I realized that the time had finally come to let go and get it out there.
I’ve had plenty of time to think and put things into place over the past 5 months… and have also had a lot going on, including an overabundance of work, a new-found space for play, travel, and new projects, and I can honestly say that Life is Good. Different… but Good.