To the Right

My mom died a year ago.  My brothers and sisters and I were fortunate in that she was a Betty Crocker mom.  Everyday there would be a home baked treat warm out of the oven, my mom in her apron to greet us.  As I went on to have my own family, my mom, or ‘nana’ as she became better known, babysat, baked, laughed and cried with me, always offering another set of hands when raising Joey.  From the time we first brought Joey home, my mom would say she knew he had special gifts.

Up until she was 83 she drove, worked part-time in a gift store, and was an active participant in social gatherings, her church and her neighborhood.  When she turned 84 her health began to decline and we found ourselves—after employing round the clock care—forced to sell her home and move her into a nursing home.  Fortunately, the facility was near my home and conveniently located a ½ mile off of the main highway.  There’s a fork in the road, to the right the nursing home, to the left a coffee shop, both routes taking you to my house.

I’d try and go visit her during the week, but always on Wednesdays when my children would be at their dad’s for their weekly visit.  I’d sit with her at dinner and help her navigate her way through the meal.  Many times, I’d bring her crackers to have with her wine in the lobby as she greeted people coming and going.  Too many times however, distracted in my own thoughts, she would say to me, “Anne, don’t stay, you have so much to do,” taking me off the hook from a long visit.  Too many times I’d follow her queue, feeling validated Wednesday nights were ‘my’ night too—a night off from being a fulltime mother.

But more than that, I hated she was reduced to living in a home.  I wanted my mom back.  I wanted her to have a full life up to the last minute.  I wanted her to be able to go to Joey’s graduation and see Mattie get married.  I wanted to cry on her shoulder about my divorce, and celebrate Joey going to college—but she didn’t.

Full of denial and resentment, I started flying by the fork in the road always keeping to the left, instead of taking the right towards the nursing home as if one road would make things right and relieve my own guilt.  Then she took a turn for the worse, and none of what I wanted or wished mattered anymore.  She needed me by her side for as long and as often as I could.  Each day as she worsened, I didn’t want to leave.  I had been there most of the day when she died, leaving only for an hour when I received the call.  I raced to the home, and stayed by her side with my sisters and brothers, until the end.

Since she has passed I go to the right every day, driving slowly past the nursing home.  I imagine I’m sitting by her side with crackers and wine—never taking her queue.   I wasted precious time I could’ve been sharing with her and helping make her world, her days, be full and more positive.  I let my anger and denial get in the way of that time, moments I’ll never get back.

Don’t waste anymore time being in denial about your child.  Let the anger go and begin helping your child realize his best outcome.  Start by choosing one thing you wish to help your child achieve—don’t set a goal that is in the air. Your goal must be measurable. You need to constantly check how near you are to your goal and celebrate those benchmarks with your child and others.

There’s a fork in your child’s life.  All your fears, anger, and denial are to the left…all your child can be with you by their side…to the right—the choice is up to you.

3 Responses to “To the Right”

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  1. Betty says:

    You are not only a gifted writer but a very giving daughter and Mother. Many of us now are facing that same fork in the road as you so wisely write……living in the moment, celebrating the “small stuff” our children reach as special needs children is sometimes is overlooked by the bigger picture we want or hope to see. Thank you for sharing your very personal journey, I am sure your Mother is looking down on you and celebrating every step of the way with you and your children.

  2. Maggie says:

    You never cease to amaze me. You are so gifted and in so many ways! Reading your words, remembering my beautiful friend and your Mother, I know without a doubt how proud she was of you and all of your brothers and sisters. Each of you for different reasons – you all were a gift to her and no one was more important than her family. You have influenced my life and I admire you for so many reasons! Your Mom was gracious enough to stand by me during a difficult time and always made me feel loved. As a Mother, there is no greater joy that the love you share with your children. We all face those forks in the roads and make some very difficult decisions. Thank you for sharing this and one thing I know is that Margaret M. is right beside you and your boys are right there as well – they know what a gift they have in you.

  3. Lisa says:

    Wow, this post comes at a time when I have been evaluating very similar issues. With my mom, I have been taking the easy route. I’m not sure how to take the other–my dad is not on board with us visiting her and she said it’s too stressful for her, but your e-mail reminds me I need to find a way to her…And the advice about our children is equally valuable. I am committing to summer fun and planning how to shift my schedule starting in early June when my youngest gets out of school

    Thank you!

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