I can’t sleep. Daniel is out for a couple days and Chas has gone to sleep. The dogs are out in their kennel in the garage and now the house is so quiet. I find myself becoming a bit melancholy. I wandered into Patt’s room just to see what was there, as if somehow I’d find her bed there and her asleep. Instead, an altar consisting of her card table with some flowers, her wedding album from her second marriage with a really nice picture of her with Chas; her eyeglasses laid on top just so. A glass of water, a white candle, and a dish of her favorite treat: Rocky Road ice cream. Chas built this for her so that her soul would have something to draw sustenance from, and so he could have a place to talk to her, to remind her that she has passed, and that she should move on. I’m not sure I feel her here anyway. Even though this was the room in which she lived… in which she spent most of her time in for the past 6 years, even more so in the past 6 months since we transformed her master bedroom into an apartment for her in the hopes that it would be easier for her to get around, and would be more pleasant. It was, for awhile. Not long enough.
I think I’m still in a bit of denial about it. I mean, my talker knows she’s gone; I was with her when she died; I watched it happen, but I think my fetch isn’t ready to believe it yet. I keep expecting to hear that there was some mistake and that she’s ready to come home now and we’re terribly sorry for the mix-up and that will be $500 sign on the line below. But that’s not going to happen. I know that. It’s just weird.
Chas and I will be moving into her room. It makes sense, since it’s the master bedroom and has an attached bathroom with a shower and a separate tub. It even has a walk-in closet. It’s a great room and will be much cooler during the summers since it is downstairs. But it will need to be cleansed… sage, salt, Florida water… and it will need to be painted. It needs to be transformed first. We’re not going to rush it, but Chas, my practical Taurus, has plans and I think it’s helping him deal with what’s going on. He’s really strong… but I can tell there’s stuff going on underneath. If you look close you can see it. It’s comforting to see it, actually.
When my grandmother died in 2001 I was a basket-case. I cried off and on for probably a month or more. She was a 2nd mother to me. She helped to raise me; living with us when I was young, it was her who fixed my breakfasts and packed my lunches for school. She was the first person who I was really close to who passed away. It hit me hard.
This is so very different. If you take into consideration that she was my mother-in-law then I think you get about half the picture. There was contention, of course; she had dementia and was often argumentative, especially with me. After several years of caring for her every basic need I found myself becoming frustrated. I began to wonder if I had bitten-off more than I could proverbially chew. But I would return to my ideals sooner or later and remind myself of why I was here and that would often make things better for me. What happened was that on the inside she was less family to me and more of a client; someone to whom I was employed to perform a specific service. Or so I thought. Now that she’s gone I find that that wasn’t entirely true. She was more family that I had allowed myself to know. And frustrating or not, I’d put on a smile and try to hide my frustrations from her. I often was successful. But not always.
We’d argue occasionally. I’m not proud to admit that, but it’s true. It would start innocently enough; she would want to do something that she was obviously not able to do, such as drive a car, or leave the house unattended. I would begin by trying simply to assist her in whatever she wanted, but when that was obviously not going to work for her then I would try to explain the situation in the hopes that a calm rational argument would restore her sense of reality, but each and every time this happened I would realize somewhere during the exchange that it was futile and that I had fallen back into a pattern that was obviously not working. I was the crazy one; I knew better and yet I would find myself doing it anyway. The experience was rather like waking up in the middle of a conversation. My eyes would open and the full truth would slowly dawn on me like waves. “Oh, shit… How’d I get here again?” But by then it was too late. She was upset and I was upset. She’d become cold and non-responsive and I’d leave her to her television, or her paper, or her meal, or whatever it was that she was involved in before the whole thing took place.
In the end, though, it would always work out. I suppose it was a gift to me from the universe that her short-term memory was like a sieve. We’d talk about something else and all would be well. For awhile.
Though her sense of balance was often impaired she would attempt to get up and walk by herself, which necessitated her having a belt that prevented her from standing up from her wheelchair on her own. We realized this was necessary after she had lived here for 2 days and she presumably forgot that she was to ask for assistance and when I was upstairs in the bathroom she stood up and tried to walk across the room. She fell and hit her head on the stone fireplace. I heard the sound and ran to find her on the floor, gasping and slowly writhing there. There was so much blood. I called 911 and they came and took her away for a few days. She returned with no memory of the incident which I always thought was a double-edged sword. That was 6 years ago. It doesn’t seem all that long ago, really…
During the first couple of years she would ask us when she was going home. Every day and night. “You are home,” we would say. “You live here now.”
“But I don’t stay here,” she would often respond. “When does someone come to take me home?”
We didn’t know then that we should have just played along. “Oh, the roads are closed because of fog,” we should have said, “It’s probably best if you just stay the night and we can take you home tomorrow.” But we were clueless. Kaiser did nothing to prepare us for the enormous task we were taking on. We had to learn on the job. Instead we tried to explain; that she lived with us because of her condition, that the brain surgeries had caused a stroke, that her Parkinson’s complicated matters, that she could no longer live by herself and so we were here to keep her from being placed in a rest home. All it did was upset her. We learned to change the subject to ice cream after awhile and that seemed to help.
At irregular intervals we attempted to see if we could retire the safety belt, since she later seemed to be more clear-headed. But while she would go for a time with no incident, suddenly she would revert and we’d feel we were back to square one. After many doctor’s visits they finally declared that there was nothing more that they could do for her in terms of her overall condition, and that the best that could be done was to keep her safe, and cared for as best we could. And so we did. The best we could. We got her a buzzer so that she could summon us if she needed anything. She either forgot to use it or decided that she “didn’t want to bother” us. We got a baby monitor in her room so that if she needed anything at all, all she needed to do was to talk to us and we’d hear. We set-up her bed with just a box-spring and a mattress on the floor, to minimize her potential fall should she get out of bed at night. Luckily for us, she rarely got out of bed at night. In the 6 years we took care of her I can count on one hand how many times that happened. She was a very good sleeper. But I suppose that also lulled us into a false sense of security, making the events of last Sunday morning all the more shocking to us.
Last week while Chas was changing her diaper, she said to him, “Won’t it be nice when you don’t have to do this anymore?”. He relayed the story to me just yesterday, saying that she didn’t seem as of she meant that she was going to get better, but that she really meant when she was no longer around. She also didn’t seem distressed by this at all. Chas mused that perhaps her soul was getting ready for transition even then. The doctor’s told us that likely she had slow bleeding in the brain for sometime which because of the blood-thinners then just opened up and caused her sudden colapse. So perhaps her fetch knew.
The night before she died Chas and I attended a seance at the store, hosted by Medusa, a Feri and Reclaiming witch who works as a medium. Chas almost wasn’t able to attend, however, because Patt was in a manic phase and would not stay in the office where she stayed while she was at the store with us. Chas took her home with the intent of returning after putting her to bed in the hopes of being able to attend at least part of the event, which he did. After I had a rather satisfying experience with my deceased grandmother, he came in and sat down and was given an opportunity to call out to one of his dead relatives and he chose Charles, his father, who died when he was in his early teens. Almost immediately Medusa began to moan and shake, as if the presence was overwhelming her, she began taking excitedly and though I was in trance, I began to feel overly anxious, as if the emotional energy in the room had just gone into hyper-drive. She bolted up from her chair and practically wailed as she ran around the room and over to Chas and put her arms around him. “So much emotion,” I seem to recall her saying. “So much energy that he wants to give to you.”
There was a passing of this energy from his father and to Chas for some time… Medusa later told us that it began to become painful for her, but that Charles keep telling her “Not yet,” and so she continued.
When it was over Chas felt that he had a genuine spiritual encounter with his father, and that he had been “charged up” with… something. But for what? It was weird and seemed to have no discernible reason… until about 10 hours later. Then it made perfect sense.
I suppose there’s more that I could write about all of this… and likely I will. It seems to help me organize my thoughts and integrate them in a way that is much needed right now… but for now I will end this here with a poem that I wrote several years ago.
In loss, tears flow into a river,