Recently in My Mother Category

Around the clock care

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Maman needs 24 hour care now.

She is very frail. My mother slipped in the shower about a month ago and broke two vertebrae. When I lift her, I can feel the pieces of her broken vertebrae grind against one another.

She cannot speak. We know she's in pain or has to pee because she moves rubs her feet together. She signals no by a single blink. Mind you, her eyes are closed all the time now, so that comes across as a sort of closed eyed squint.

There is no signal for yes. She can only indicate "no." So that's just like when we were kids, anyway.

She can't drink water. It hurts too much. Without water, she won't live much longer.

We're taking turns to sit up next to my mother all night, one boy and one girl, because it takes one of the boys to lift my Maman and because, when she could talk, she indicated that she didn't want the boys, except my Dad, to help her with the bathroom stuff.

Last night, Rachael and I stayed up and I'm pretty shattered right now.

One thing is certain - it's infinitely better to be here than anywhere else. I'd be a wreck if I was somewhere else. Also, I don't know about everyone, but for me, this comes with some real relief. Listening to my mother in pain is a terrible feeling. When the end does come, she'll find some peace. Other people who have been with loved ones during a long battle like this one have said the same thing to me and I never understood.

Now I do.

What's it like being an Uncle?

Well, it's pretty cool. There are all sorts of things that I understand now that I didn't understand before - like why Uncle Phillippe would have spent an entire afternoon, when it was sunny outside, to teach a seven year old about division.

I'm still grateful to him.

I look forward to being able to talk to Liam. At the moment he sleeps and eats and poops. Mark assures me that he also pees; my mother assures me that he cries.

Speaking of my mother, she was on TV last night on the Discovery channel! I don't know how it went, but presumably it was fine. Leroy Sievers is Ted Koppel's executive producer and has been battling cancer for a long time. He has a blog about cancer and my mother and sister posted on his blog for a long time.

Discovery put together a show based on Leroy's blog and led by Ted Koppel; it's apparently a special edition of a regularly scheduled Ted Koppel show called Koppel on Discovery. In any event, it was on very early this morning, 0100 my time, or about 8pm EDT.

I haven't seen it yet; no one I know gets Discovery. But my mother has a DVD copy and so I'll see it eventually.

Today is a Bank Holiday in Scotland so my place of employment is closed; what would you do with a windfall of leisure?

Well, I'm headed to Glasgow to hang out with Ingrida, a friend of mine who's going to the University of Strathclyde. Glasgow's a rainy city, much rainier than Edinburgh, and I'm not cheered by the idea of the rain, but that's where Ingrida is so that's where I'm going.

Things I love about my mother

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I love my mother.

If I could sing at all, I'd sing a song of praise:

Thank you for the gift of life, Maman, with all its heartache and joy.

Thank you for showing me how to love someone for your whole life. I wouldn't know it was possible if I hadn't seen it.

You're beautiful. I have a picture on my mantlepiece of you and Mara, both of you in your twenties. You're beautiful.

Thank you for always somehow knowing what I mean. For example:

Me: "I made thisfor you. It's a necklace that looks like Mimi's."
Maman: "The only necklace Mimi had like that was the one that she wore to the Halloween party in Narberth in 1957. She dressed up as a savage and Poppop was the great white hunter."
Me: "That's the one!"
Maman: "You've only ever seen it once. In a 50 year old photo. In black and white. When you were six."
Me: "It made a big impression on me! That's definitely the one."
Maman: "That necklace was made out of tiger teeth. This necklace is made out of coral."
Me: "Yeah, but it looks like it!"
Maman: "I love you, Nae. It's a very nice necklace."
Me: "I love you too, Maman." <- See! That's what I really meant. How you knew, I have no idea. You must be psychic.

I love your mulberry sorbet and your sour cherry pie and your cherry olives and your pot roast and your chicken paprikash and negre en chemise.

I love your paintings and your photos.

I love my purple and green wool socks.

I love every memory of us laughing together, sometimes for no reason.

I love you, Maman.

Jacques Brel

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I was scanning around iTunes the other day, looking for some new way to feel and searching through the back catalog of Nina Simone. She sang I've Got Soul, which has recently been re-released in the UK and has become a surprise hit.

Well, she also sang a version of Jacques Brel's Ne me quitte pas, which led me to go find the original by Jacques Brel.

Wow. It starts off sad, then gets sadder, then becomes maudlin...then, and thank God for this, becomes utterly ridiculuous. Music has always had the ability to make me laugh, cry, smile, become thoughtful, forgiving, angry - I'm pretty deeply affected by music. This song was so sad at the start, and all I could think about was Maman (Ne me quitte pas, Maman!) and it just got so much sadder. By the time he got to the bit about bringing pearls of rain from a country where rain never falls I was in tears.

Moi, je t'offrirai
Des perles de pluie
Venues de pays
Où il ne pleut pas

Thankfully, he then goes totally over the top and being sad seems inappropriate.

I've posted the entire lyrics below.

the rest is silence

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I love my mother.

I call her Maman, but in my head I still call her Mommy.

I can remember when she knew everything and could do anything.

I always squirmed when she held me.

I'll never do it again. I promise.

I love you, Maman.

Mimi and Suzanne

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I'm guessing they are, anyway. My grandmother looks about thirteen and petulant.

Again, Mara, will you aid in the translation? What does this writing on the back say?

Maman's Pictures_16.jpg Maman's Pictures_17.jpg

What does this say?

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My grandfather gave my grandmother 100 Francs, with a note written on it in French.

When Mimi (my grandmother) was on her deathbed, she called my mother in and handed her this 100 Franc note and told her to keep it.

I'd really like to know what it says.

100 Francs.jpg

Mimi and my mother

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While I've been home, I've been rummaging through the attic, where my mother has saved every single item that has entered our house over the past quarter century, using patented technology that transformed our attic into a TARDIS. It's bigger on the inside than it could possibly ever be looking from the outside.

One of the joys of this is being handed the old leather and iron luggage - vintage 1930s - that had in it thousands of photos. Some of them are quite old, dating back as far as 1914, when my great-grandfather was a French naval officer during WW I.

Anyway, here are some for you to look through. First, there's a picture of my mother and grandmother, then there's a photo of my great-grandfather, leaning up against a cannon or cart of some kind.

Today started off as a good day

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This morning, my mother woke up and ate.

"Thank God." I was thinking. Especially for her friend, Heidi, Swiss-Italien and all heart. She stopped by yesterday and told us to make sure she ate things with calories in them, not just drank water.

It started off well. She even asked for a slice of toast, which she ate with lemon curd from Scotland, a gift from my friend Ange.

Then she had lunch - and dinner, a nice big dinner, pasta from my Aunt Bev, who's more like a second mother than an aunt. She showed up with big bags of pasta and sauce and meatballs. I've never been so grateful for food from Aunt Bev - who's a professional baker. Her cupcakes are amazing.

I was so grateful, just for the small things, like my mother eating. It's amazing how something so simple and natural can seem, at times, as difficult a task as scaling Everest.

Then it all came up. Then there was a panicky half hour while we waited for the surgeon to call back. I hid in the basement. The surgeon, Dr. Henderson from the Cleveland Clinic, couldn't be paged and wasn't at home.

The on call surgeon was a Dr. Chan and he was very reassuring.

So we've moved her back to liquids.


If you're reading this, then I'll tell you that emails are great. Send emails. I might not be able to respond right away, but I will get back to you.

Phone calls...well, the phone has been ringing off the hook. Mostly well wishers. We want to hear from you, but we often can't talk long.

Visiting must be arranged by phone first.

More tomorrow.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the My Mother category.

It'll get worse is the previous category.

Not that you cared. is the next category.

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