Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mom Again

Thankfully my mom has run out of hips to break.  Now that they're both bolted in place and reinforced with rebar and concrete, I don't think there's much chance one will snap again.

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.


  1. I love the idea of you sitting with your mom, just "enjoying each other's company." My grandma's speech was greatly reduced at the end of her life, and so I listened carefully to everything she managed to get out. I don't think of myself as a talker, but wow, I can waste words.

    As to the memorized prayers, in times of trouble, all the Scripture I memorized in elementary school comes back to me (in KJV, of course, which is lovely), as does the Lord's Prayer. There are also lovely prayers in the back of the newest Mennonite hymnal, the blue one - probably borrowed from some of the high churches!

  2. Kathryn Martin9/16/2013 6:10 AM

    Your Minnesota comments make me homesick.I so want to take my family there to give them a glimse of the clear blue sky & beautiful lakes that I remember.Oh, & I can just hear in my mind that sentence that you quoted!!

  3. Re: Losing one's mother. This reminds me so much of how it's been with Amy's mom. The gradual but inexorable decline. The loss of the vibrant personality. The deterioration of cognitive function and responsiveness. You are right, there is no easy way to lose a loved one.

    Re: Memorized prayers. I believe there is richness and stability that accompany ancient prayers. They tend to focus a person on God and His greatness in a way that spontaneous prayers (at least mine) do not. On the other hand, pretty soon they can become rote.

  4. I understand the pain of losing a parent inch by hurts in a way difficult to describe!
    May you continue to be given the grace you need for each day as you go on!

  5. This hit home. My Mom, also in her 90's is declining fast. She hasn't broken a hip, but she has burned up a cook book on the stove top. I, too sit with her in silence, or ask her questions about the old days. She seems to enjoy recounting events from childhood, and everything she says makes sense, which is not the case when she talks about life today. Watching the fog creep in on someone you love is not easy, but God is present, and He understands and comforts.

  6. 'There's no easy way to lose a mom' so many of us are relating to that for sure!

    Agreed with the memorized prayer too; they're very useful.

  7. We can pray that some disruption of your mother's brain is due to the general anesthesia she needed for her surgery. I was told that I could have problems with my thinking for as long as twelve months after my hip surgery - three years ago, at age 74. We joked at the time that anesthesia made a great excuse for a year's worth of "senior moments." Although I didn't EXPECT to have problems, I can honestly say I had occasional days of brain fog. You can be sure that when I say my (Episcopal) prayers for your mom's healing, I'll include her mind.

  8. I'm not intending to derail this blog entry, but I have been thinking about your son Matt since I heard about the shootings this morning. Can you please let us know if he is okay? I had two people on my mind - one was my sister-in-law's brother who works in that building...he is fine...the second has been Matt. I have come to know your son through your blog and I can't help but worry. Thanks Dorcas.

  9. To Anonymous--Thank you for your concern. I'm happy to say Matt is fine. I also posted a short entry saying the same.

  10. Oh Dorcas, your post reminds me of spending time with my mom during her last days at a nursing home. I remember when she didn't have much speech but we could share so much love between us with just a long look and a hand squeeze.

    I too thought of your Matt when I heard the news of the DC shooting. Glad to hear he's safe.

  11. No matter when we are parted from our parents, it's always too soon.

    Seeing the decline can be so discouraging. How is your Dad doing?

  12. It's difficult - this saying good-by to loved ones. I said good-by in December '12 at 95, after a fall, hip replacement and no recovery - so hard. My mom had been living with us and for last 6 years with severe mental degeneration. I will pray. Also, we lived in Minnesota when I was a child at a summer camp out of Brainard called Camp JIM - Jesus is mine. I also wanted through the years to take my children there but then we lived in Zimbabwe. You brought a flood of good memories. Your posts are always a blessing. Thank you