It's OK, Just Don't Stay There Too Long

"Another day," I thought, as I slowly crawled out of bed to make my way over to the coffee pot. Madelene left earlier than usual for work, and all I had was the sound of my chihuahua snoring as I dragged my feet across the kitchen floor. My mom always yelled at grandma for dragging her feet around, and then later down the road it was me saying, "Ma, pick up your feet when you walk," until I eventually became my mother. I stared outside the kitchen window waiting for my coffee to brew. I could see that the pool was finally covered and the surrounding landscape was nicely trimmed for next summer...if there is a next summer here. At this point, we're just biding our time, until something 'speaks' to us--maybe a smaller house, a townhome, or even an apartment. I just want to downsize and live comfortably. This old house is too big for us. I will definitely miss the big backyard with the gorgeous views, all the barbecues and dinners outside, bonfires late at night with our friends, and early mornings having my coffee out on the terrace overlooking the lake and mountains. It is magical here, but it'll be magical for another family who can fill the house with love and laughter. But unfortunately, if and when we do leave, the new owners will most likely tear this old house down, to only build one of those cookie-cutter mansions in place of ours, being that there's a million dollar view to wake up too. That would kind of kill my heart, but I have to remember that this home, this time, this world is all very temporary. Holding onto materialistic things is just meaningless. We truly never own anything. I sometimes wonder if leaving this house would be another grieving process for me.

Change is good. I've always embraced change. I lived in a couple of different places, and always made it happen. But when my parents both became sick, we returned to my ancestral home to be with them. The only change that I had a hard time with was how to live without my mother. Although I loved my dad very much, it was somehow easier with my father, only because my mind was distracted by helping my mother and her grief of becoming a widow. We grieved together, so it made it "easier." We had one another, we helped each other, which made things a little less painful. Although I took care of mom---cooked for her, made her breakfast and dinner because she hated lunch and took her to the park for some sunshine, as well as doctor visits, to tell you the truth, I don't know who took care of who. While watching my mom increasingly becoming sicker, my anxiety spiked up to where I would have a full blown panic attack out of nowhere. Unfortunately, some of these episodes were in front of mom, and even though I tried to hide it by masking it, or leaving the room---mothers know. You can't hide that kind of stuff. One afternoon while mom was having a really challenging day, I started clearing my throat a lot (a sign that I'm hiding a panic attack.) Mom automatically knew, and slowly walked over and tried to rub my shoulders with her weak and frail hands. I took her hands into mine and chuckled a little, "Ma, who's taking care of who?" And she said, "I'm always gonna take care of my baby." She was the most selfless person I've ever known. There were times when I was having anticipatory grief, crying up in my bedroom. I didn't know that she could hear me, and I also didn't know I was making any sounds, as I tried to stifle the sobbing. I wouldn't sleep for days, sometimes five nights in a row. I'd hear my mom at the bottom of the stairwell calling my name at 4am, "Deb?" It was the only time I got to sleep for an hour or two. But I spent it with her most of the time, and sometimes, one of my sisters had to come over, because she was experiencing panic attacks after the doctor told her she had three months to live. How do you even wrap your mind around news like that?  I can't even imagine. I always wonder, did she pray to God for that life sentence to go away? Did she plead with God at night? What did she do when she was all alone with only her thoughts and a box of tissues?

I tried cleaning out her room, to only finding myself weeping into one of her sweaters she didn't have time to wash. I had my sisters walk into her bedroom to grab something of hers and to go through her belongings or to just to sit and reflect, but it was usually a quick walkthrough with tears streaming down their cheeks. When I leave this house, it's a question of: do I drop everything and leave with only my belongings? Do I let the new people clean everything out for me---touch mom's clothes and belongings, or do I gain the courage to go through her closet and give her stuff to charity? I know 'the right thing to do,' but sometimes, it's harder than it sounds. Both options are hard. I'm left with old photos of the past, her comfy oversized sweaters and capris she used to wear. In the back of the closet holds beautiful suits and dresses from the days she worked at Calvin Klein and Tahari. She was a little fashionista. Her makeup she wore everyday still lays on her bathroom vanity, along with a box of tangled up costume jewelry and a can of Aqua Net she used for the last time. Her shampoos are half full, sitting on the shelves of her shower wall. On her bed lies a pile of clothing I tried to sort out and a box of tissues she used for the last time. Mom's pocketbook sat in the middle of the bed along with her wallet, credit cards and driver's license. She hadn't driven in almost a decade. The trash can next to her nightstand still has the tissues she used to cry in, blow her nose or to clean up the spills of her water since her hands shook uncontrollably. Maybe it's a mixture of both of our tissues. A few days after she died, I went into her room and laid down her side of the bed, hugging her pillow as I cried my eyes out. I fell asleep for the first time in five whole days. When I woke up, I noticed she had the first book I wrote laying on her nightstand with a rosary on it. She didn't have a bible, but the book had so many of my favorite scriptures in it. She wasn't an avid reader, but maybe she scrolled through it to read the biblical passages---I can only wonder. The rosary on top of the book was how I knew she was praying.

The coffee pot beeped at me, as if it were saying, "Snap out of it!" I poured my coffee and made myself a couple of eggs over avocado slices. Then I came over to the counter to write what was on my mind this morning. Time to grab my dog and take a brisk walk around the pond. It's OK to think about these kinds of things---to think bout your deceased loved one and even details of your shared past, but just don't stay there too long.

Have a good Saturday!

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