I forget which day she fell, going on toward a month ago. It was painful, but not like the ghastly pain of her broken hip a year and a half ago. The x-rays said nothing was broken, but they put her in a nursing home for therapy.
The therapy actually made things worse, as it turned out, and the pain was getting worse and worse.
They re-xrayed, and this time the broken-hip-after-all showed up. They did surgery and gave her a hip replacement and then she went back to the nursing home for more rehab.
So I left partway through Bible Memory Camp and flew back to Minnesota to help out for the whole week.
And yesterday I flew back and went straight to church camp, arriving partway through, which is all kind of a disorienting way to do life.
There's no easy way to lose your mom, that's what I've decided. Yes, she's still with us, and physically her recovery is going astonishingly well for a 93-year-old. But her mind. Last January she could still read her Bible, cook a simple meal, do laundry.
By May she could no longer read her Bible, and she'd pick up a plastic dish and set it on the stove burner. That was when we got Paul's niece to come and live with them.
This time, she could hardly put a sentence together. To my vast relief, she recognized me and said my name right away. But most of what she knows and most words are disappearing into the fog.
I thought of my friends who lost their moms early in life. A terrible loss, affecting all the years after. But I think losing your mom, suddenly or inch by inch, old or young, is just by definition a gut-twisting, painful experience.
I spent a lot of time with her, just sitting. I knitted a scarf and she tried to talk now and then, but mostly we just enjoyed each other's company.
I loved seeing glimpses of the former Mom. She always loved to watch people and would make these pithy observations about them. One evening we were in the main lounge where a peppy little activities director was trying to get a Bingo game going.
Mom watched her and then poked me and gestured to the woman. "Dee glay gonss. See's so schmaet." "That little goose. She's so smart."
I loved it. She really was like a smart little goose.
Another resident was always smiling which I think was from paralysis rather than happiness, but at least she looked happy. Mom gestured at her and confided to me, getting the sentence out with great effort, "That lady there that smiles all the time. She is someone who would help you if you needed help."
As always, the nursing home was a cultural experience. It's in a small town in a farming area that was settled by German and Scandinavian immigrants.
A lot of these were Catholics, so even though this is a county institution, they have Catholic imagery around and a lot of the residents seem deeply religious.
Except for the cussing lady. She looks like any proper elderly Minnesota lady, with glasses and a white perm, but she cuts loose like a sailor. "Where do you want to sit?" says the aide. "I don't give a &#$&" she says, without sounding especially annoyed. "Here, let me adjust your seat cushion," says the patient aide. "Yeah, it hurts my %$@"
I enjoyed listening to the Catholic service in a side room and the soothing repetitions of "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen."
I thought, so I don't pray to Mary, but I need soothing memorized prayers for those times when I'm too exhausted in mind and body to formulate words of my own.
Maybe we Anabaptists lost something by ditching all the memorized, unison prayers and chants.
My brother Fred told me, "Be careful what you say to Mom in Dutch. People there can understand." He had had conversations with some old farmers there and made the astonishing discovery that their branch of German and ours had, despite very different pathways, morphed to something similar by this point in our history.
All Pa. Dutch speakers know how we take English words and dutchify them. But who would have thought that old German Minnesota farmers, from a different area of Germany and much fresher off the boat, would do the same? "Mir wada am corn picka," Fred quoted him. Seriously, corn picka. Or, "Mir sin foddich silage choppa." Yes. Silage choppa.
Just like some Beachy Amish farmer.
And oh how I enjoyed that Minnesota accent again. One day the weather was cold and the next it was hot, and I heard an aide say to a resident,
Quote of the Day:
"Oh, we just got this yo-yo goin' on!"
So many Minnesota O's in one sentence. It was wonderful.