I swiped left and right between the photos.
No, this was not on Tinder. This was in real life. Mine and hers.
Mood swings were at the top of my most despised moments with Mom. I didn’t hate my mother in that moment. I hated myself because I’ve yet to learn how to adjust to her fluctuations.
But in between those moments, was everything that was life and death.
When Mom was cranky or ornery, my first reaction was always UTI. Bladder infections were common occurrences in individuals experiencing dementia. The infections created moderate to severe changes in disposition. Thus, when Mom’s mood swerved and curved like an Indy race car driver, my first thought was UTI.
True confession. My very first thought is Mom is dehydrated. Then, UTI. And because a UTI left undiagnosed for too long could lead to complications, panic sets in. I track down the nurse, or a caregiver informs me the staff has already told the nurse. Then, we wait on a person whose incontinent. It’s really not an exciting time. One of the caregivers will take Mom to the toilet and turn on the running water, to encourage output, so to speak.
My mother would be horrified if she knew I wrote about and shared those challenges. But, I reasoned, she and Dad could have named any of their children POA. They chose the writer.
Back over Easter, I was leading Mom to the Easter egg hunt when we encountered the Easter Bunny. The bunny stopped long enough to hug Mom, but didn’t speak. Did the Easter bunny ever speak? Mom should have at least recalled that, I presumed. But alas, some memories did not cross the span of time and neurons.
The Easter Bunny’s muteness was NOT acceptable to Mom. Several times she yelled out, “C’mon. C’mon.”
Anyone could read those words on her lips, and in between the lines of her furrowed brow.
Eventually, the Easter Bunny disengaged its fingers from Mom’s, while I slid my fingers into the crusher’s hands. We traipsed down the hallway towards Easter Brunch.
The brunch passed without incident, mainly because I maintained strict oversight in allowing Mom access to the orange juice and extra chocolates. Confined to a corner near the window because of our tardiness and Mom’s desire for light, Mom spent much of her time watching the youngsters anxiously waiting for the hunt to start. One little guy told us all about being in second grade while boasting of towering over my five-foot frame. Mom muddled through with the occasional angry outburst because she couldn’t follow all the conversations.
When a seat opened up in the main room, I guided Mom to an open table where she had a better view of the children processing in and out, and out and in. Then, I grabbed the bunny ears and ladybug antennae and fiddled with each, placing one on Mom’s head (this is where I apologize to Mom), and one on my own head (this is where I apologize to my children).
And Mom lips parted, first in a slight grin, then like the Red Sea, ready to swallow up all the jellybeans and life before her. In the span of a half hour, she was content again.
I lived a thousand lives in between a good moment and a bad. Her voice, when at optimal yelling capacity, reminded me of days she didn’t separate far from her rubber spatula when discipline was needed.
Her voice, when saying hello to new faces sprinkled with sunshine, rang through to my heart, resounding of ten days spent in Italy, when I took my parents twelve years ago. I had never seen my mother more radiant than in those moments in the square in Siena, mangiare al fresco, called out by a carabaniere, or holding court tableside with a carafe of vino della casa in Fiesole, above Firenze, with her Italian-American daughters at her beck and call.
In celebrating Eastertime with Mom, I experienced the rising and dying and rising again of Mom to beat another infection or crush a daughter’s disposition.
Lately, at Mom’s care home, several residents had died due to falls or the natural cycle. Despite having spent countless hours in this setting, I never knew how often one could contemplate the shaky nature of our existence.
We are all one fall away from the precipice, or one flight away from opening the skies. We are one moment away from sheer joy or complete madness.
I swiped left and right, and prayed we wouldn’t have to do this again until Santa Claus arrived AND that Mom would here to scold him too.