A morning in.

Saturday was a Mom visit. The visit was a difficult one.

When I arrived she was lying in bed. I stood in the doorway making small talk (me asking Mom questions and she repeating the question a few times over) when a nurse walked by. “I just put her down for a nap. She looked so tired all morning.” With that I decided we would break from our usual milkshake run for a morning in.

I struggle with these sometimes. I fell lost for things to say or do. In the breaks between questions I stare at her. I try to think about what she may be thinking about. What is happening inside her head? What does she think about when she turns her sometimes piercing stare at me? I want to tell her that I am sorry this is happening to her. I truly am. There are so many other things I would love to talk to her about. These are mornings in. They are hard for me. So is every car ride home after.

We looked at pictures. I showed her photos of her grandchild. This is so heart wrenching for me. I almost want to keep the photos to myself. Hold them for just me, like a secret I keep from her. It is not that I don’t want to show her. This is her grandchild. She has no other. I don’t want to deprive her of that. But I almost hold them back because I want more of a response. It is one of the things I want most from her. It is the one thing she is unable to give me.

After a few pictures I read a story instead. I know she is not listening. I am like the radio channel they play over the community ads on whatever channel she has playing on her television at that moment.

While reading I start thinking of all the things I want to be different. This is a road that always rips your heart to pieces, but you can’t stop yourself from going down. It’s compulsive. It is the same game you play when you’re driving down the highway, or lying in bed at night around the holidays. I can’t stop it, so I recognize it, and I make an honest list of all the things I wish my Mom would say to me, or talk to me about.

1) I wish my Mom would ask about her grandchild, Eliza Helen.

2) I want her to know that Eliza Helen is named after her, Helen Katherine.

3) I wish my Mom would sing to my child all the songs she would sing to Matt and me when we were babies.

4) I want to listen to her calm voice as she explains to me how to sooth a crying baby, or get her to sleep through the night.

5) I wish she would tell me how beautiful her grandbaby is.

6) I want to talk with her about what a great woman my wife is, what an amazing mother she is, and will be, and how lucky I am to be married to her and that as a parent she is happy I found a great partner.

7) I wish she would help me to ask the questions I don’t know that I didn’t know, but should.

8) I wish she could talk to me in the way parents do when you become an adult, and they become your friends.

9) I wish, just one more time, she could say, and understand what she is saying, not just parrot back the words, that she is proud of me.

I think of these things while I read. She has fallen asleep. I close out the book on my iPad. My background is a picture of a smiling Eliza. I close my eyes and visualize my mother holding her grandchild. The Kathy of long ago would have been the best grandmother.

The nurse comes in. It is time for Mom to eat lunch. I take that as my cue to head back to the highway, and back to DC.

On the way home I sing all the songs she sang to me as a child. I call my wife, who answers the phone while holding the baby, and I tell her I love her. I think about the book I going to read to Eliza when I get home as she is swaddled on my lap.

I drive on, staring out the window. These are hard mornings. I am sad, but I feel proud of myself. After all the terrible things we are all in the best places we can be. I want to smile about it, but I just can’t. I want my Mom to smile again, but she can’t. I think about how there are so many smiles are lost due to dementia.

Next week we’ll do it again.

7 comments on “A morning in.

  1. Shar Myers says:

    My heart goes out to both you and Matt. Though I’ve only met Matt (through work), I feel as though I know you, too. I’ve been where you are and understand what you are going through. God bless you all.

  2. This one really made my heart ache. Lots of love to you guys. We can’t wait to meet Eliza!

  3. RHaddy says:

    I cant imagine what I would do in your shoes. You are both being incredibly strong and I think the blog is a beautiful tribute to her, to both of you, a legacy for your future generations, and what she meant and still means to you. Its your commitment to not forgetting. Love both of you so much and always have. It pains my heart to read your blogs and to hear what you are going through. I dont know what I would do in those shoes. If there is ever anything either of you need from me please do not hesitate to ask. Or if you just want to talk … Seems trite and empty that people only offer that hand when times are hard but I think you both know me well enough to know its sincere and heart felt. Love, peace, and blessings to you and your whole family!

  4. Brad Nester says:

    Joey and Matt, I share and know the pain you both feel. Hold tight to your wife and daughter for they will give you strength. And the memories the two of you have as family the love of your mother is deep within your hearts. I know the drives and the times you cry out loud hurts, but helps the pain.

  5. Donna Nester says:

    I know this is very hard on you both. I will remember all of you in my prayers.

  6. Stacey Bryan says:

    Joey:
    Reading this brought tears to my eyes. I so wish that your Mom could tell you, one more time, how very proud she is of both you, of the men you have become and the love you have shown to her through each and every day of this journey.

    Since she can’t, I will tell you how very proud I am of you and Matt. I feel blessed to be able to share in your journey through this blog — and witness the love, compassion and wisdom you both demonstrate. I have no doubt that precious little Eliza Helen will grow up knowing the legacy of her grandmother — for she will see so much of her in both you and Matt.

    Each day, you both demonstate what real love is— that it is the good days and the bad days — and learning to love the person that is there now, while mourning what used to be. She is lucky to be born into the DeMarco family — and to be able to see parents who love and support each other, who consider themselves lucky to have found each other. (And, without a doubt, you made a great choice in your spouse!!!) Eliza is incredibly lucky to have Uncle Matt who will demonstrate to her every day the importance of being the wonderful person God made her to be. She will be surrounded by love.

    Sending you my love and big Southern hugs.

  7. bobby stuart says:

    god bless – this was very hard to read – such a horrible disease

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