Monday, April 2, 2012

In My Travels: Kentucky Home

Mama's Shoes
I spent ten days in Louisville last month. The trip had already been planned but my 90-year-old mother went into the hospital a few days before I got there. She was suffering from disorientation and a fall where she had twisted and sprained her ankle. Those of you who know me know of my rather -- shall we say? -- tortured relationship with my mother. I never grew past it, and neither did she. When I finally saw her this time she had been in the nursing home for 3 days. She seemed happy to see me -- yet as always she started with these comments: "Your hair is too long." "You are too old for long hair" "You need some help".  Oh, some things just never change!

However, this time for some reason I kind of let her comments just run over my back and I kept moving: I negotiated the maze-like medical and nursing home bureaucracy to get answers and care for her; I gave my brother, her primary caregiver, some relief via cooked dinners, lunches out, walks together with their dogs. And mostly I just looked for something different in the way I felt about my relationship with my mother. One of the first days at the nursing home, I lined up my mother's shoes in front of the room's sofa and then started laughing. The variety in her selection of flat-heeled shoes from metal-studded blue slippers to plain brown brogans to silver metallic loafers just made me smile. At her PT session I watched her do her own version of arm pulleys -- all the while slyly smiling at how she was subverting the occupational therapist's directions. I watched her manipulate the nursing staff to avoid going to the lunchroom or eating their mediocre food. And at night when I went back at the house, I would lie in her bed, finally understanding why she really didn't want to leave her bedroom. Big soft pillows, comfortable foam mattress pad, an artsy red and white handmade quilt bedspread. And the sounds of mockingbirds and the whistle of freight trains traveling down the nearby tracks -- both coming through the open window. I could understand why she didn't want to leave, vacate, depart from this sanctuary. I saw all the artistic touches of her home. I saw where my creative talent came from and my sense of humor. I could appreciate my mother, I could forgive her and myself. I could love her. Finally. Finally.


  1. V., your mother sounds like mine...Since my brother is gone it all falls on me... the responsibility that is,, dealing w/trying to get her and my Dad into an assisted living...I see why they don't want to leave their home because if they do its one more step before the final... tho the alternative is far worse.. being in a home where no one is there to watch them... its one of those damned if u do, and damned if you don't... I am glad u have your brother there to help shoulder this.. I have a cousin that is involved but its not the same as having a sibling there.

  2. Jennifer JohnstonbakerApril 3, 2012 at 2:41 AM

    Dear Friend, Your Forgiveness has always poured out and rippled around you forming a shinning place. Sweet that your eyes see even hard places with such illumination. Goodness and mercy follow in your wake all the days of your life.

  3. Some very powerful observations, and beautifully written.
    Thanks for sharing this.