Updated: Nov 9, 2018
It was 7:40 pm I just fell into the sofa and opened my lap top. I scanned my emails, answered to one pressing issue, smiled as I read through an email from a client sending praise directed towards my hardworking team and closed out that tab in the browser. As per my typical practice, I typed ‘face’ into the empty browser quickly pulling up my Facebook account. The first post that popped up in my feed, was a photo of my beautiful daughters face cropped. I could only see her chin, neck, ear and flowing blonde hair. I would know that face anywhere, my heart swelled in my chest. Funny she’s 26 years old and I still wanted to climb into my computer and kiss that lovely cheek. I smiled, and scrolled the page up to read her post;
A few years ago, while she was still having longer lucid moments, my grandmother gifted me the bulk of her jewelry collection. All of the pieces were so unique, so utterly expressive of who she was as a person. For a long time, it hurt my heart to wear them. They were a constant reminder of the vibrant person that she was— a person that I miss deep down in my bones. I wear her jewelry now, and I’ve started to add my own meaningful pieces to her (our) collection like these from A Tea Leaf jewelry . I cherish the privilege of keeping her strong spirit alive. #heirloomjewelry #lifewithmil #altzheimers
I hesitated … sipped my glass of wine, and my mind took off like a bullet out of the chamber of a gun … the memories flooded in, and I landed in my kitchen 6 years ago …
Joe: Mom’s going to need Cardiac rehab…
Me: (leaning against the kitchen counter reaching for the steaming cup Joe was handing me) Cardiac Rehab, what does that entail?
Joe: (slurp) visits to the rehab center … couple times a week.
Ashley stumbles into the kitchen, her platinum hair tussled from a night of great slumber. She stopped at the edge of the counter, stretching her arms tall and wide while letting an obnoxious yawn escape her mouth.
Ashley: (smacking her lips dismissing the yawn) Morning … Wahoa!
Ashley stood catching her balance as Izzy our 100 lb. Rottweiler greeted her by pushing her robust, powerful frame between her legs, I smiled as I watch the morning ritual start to unfold. Ashley giggled as she scratched Izzy’s body, the dogs tail shook so hard with excitement Ashley had to steady herself with one arm extending to secure a hand on the wall.
Joe: Moring Baby! … Easy Izzy! (leaning down and rubbing the dogs big loving head)
Me: Moring …. (I was completely now pre-occupied with this latest news about rehab)
Ashley: (Pouring coffee into a mug and while adding heaping spoon full of sugar) What’s this Rehab stuff you’re all talking about?
Me: Easy with the sugar baby….
Ashley; (rolling her eyes) yes mommmmmm ….
Joe: Grandma needs cardiac rehab
Ashely: what is that?
Joe: Well, it happens at a rehab facility, she will walk on a treadmill, probably do other exercises to raise her heart rate and they’ll monitor her.
Me: how often, I’m worried about getting her there, I’ve already got two days lost this month with the Yale Study, work is insane … plus getting Joey around to boy scouts and …
Joe: I could ask my brothers to pitch in …
I looked at Joe, his brothers are great, our sister in-laws too. Although, it is always is a challenge when we need help with Mom. Part of it is distance, we are 3 miles from her house they range from 45 min to an hour away and the second was they have a little less flexibility in their schedules and careers.
Me: (sipping the coffee) hmmmm?
Ashley: I can help …
Me: Oh baby, thank you but you have school.
Ashley: Well, we’ll work her appointments around my classes, as long as you can spare me at the Studio …
Joe: Grandma’s not going to like going … she could get a little tough.
Me: I don’t know, (looking at Joe) maybe I can work something out between your day’s off and my schedule. When’s the first appointment?
Joe: Today, I’m going to take her and get her settled and understand the schedule.
Me: Ok .. send me wha-
Ashley: Daddy … Let me get my schedule for class that way you can work it around the classes. It will just work better this way, I’ll be fine with Grandma we share a birthday for crying out loud she can’t get mad at me, I was the ultimate birthday gift! (she turned on her heel and rounded the corner into the hallway) Getting in the Shower!!!!
I looked up at Joe, he was watching the now empty hallway smiling.
Me: Wait what just happened?
Joe: Ashely told us she was taking care of rehab for Mom … Damn’ she is your daughter …
Me: What do you think? Mom was a little tough in the hospital, I don’t want her to …
Joe: My mom won’t …
Me: of course she wouldn’t intentionally … but if she’s frustrated she can beco-
Joe: I think we have Ashley do this … it will be good for Mom … and good for Ash.
Me: … what do you mean ‘she’s my daughter’ …. My goodness she is doing exactly what YOU would do, putting her grandmother ahead of anything else and … honestly she’s not thinking through how it will affect her school, job and others.
Joe: Really? (tension rising in his voice) I don’t think of how my actions will affect others?
My head starts to pulsate, I know that comment was uncalled for. I was reacting to trying to protect my baby from the difficulties that could arise with Mom. It wasn’t fair Joe always thinks through his actions, he weighs the good, the bad and the ugly. He makes suggestions and decisions based on how it will help everyone else before himself.
Me: oh, that came out wrong …. Sorry?
Joe: (shaking his head) She is YOU you know …
Me: What does that mean?
Joe: She just told us how we were going to handle the scheduling, no discussion, no consider this or consider that … just 'I will take her and you will work around my class schedule.’ (He sipped his coffee while he intently watched me over the top of his coffee cup)
Me: well … I … don’t … (squirming a little against the kitchen counter) you make it sound like …
Joe: Like you’re a little bit of a control freak?
Joe: (placing his coffee on the counter and wrapping two very warm, large hands on my cheeks) You are … and while you drive us all a little crazy we all love you.
Me: (reluctantly accepting the kiss on my forehead) but ...
Joe: She’s you honey … (chuckling) I wouldn’t dare tell her that … but she is.
I pulled away a bit not sure about the feelings I was having. I was proud of my baby … but worried that this new time with her grandmother would change how see saw Mom. She enjoyed a very special relationship, one that started the day Ashley entered the world.
Me: honey? Promise me we’ll ask her every day if it’s getting to be too much? I don’t want her resenting Mom, she’s still young … will she understand if Mo-
Joe: Shhh … stop, she’s so much stronger and capable than you give her credit for.
Me: (sigh) ok …
I pushed off the counter and heading towards the coffee pot, I had selfishly agreed mostly because I didn’t feel I could dedicate more time to now to the cardiac rehab appointments. I refilled my coffee mug, craned my neck to see the time on the stove and then looked back at Joe.
Me: I gotta get going …
Joe: Ok (looking down at his feet, while absent mindedly turning the cup in his hand) I’m right on this …
Me: we’ll see …
I climbed the stairs rolling in my head all the possibilities of what could go wrong with this scenario. Admittedly I don’t like to be proved wrong and proved wrong was exactly what I was. Ashley and Mom had some of the best days of their relationship during that cardiac rehab. True to my amazing daughters’ character, she was Moms biggest cheerleader. Ashley made exercise fun, Mom laugh and actually become excited about attending rehab. Ashely was known for skipping up the stairs of Franks house to pick Mom up sing songing all the way totally setting the tone for the day. They would on occasion grab a healthy lunch together and spend time just chit chatting. I’ll never forget the big deal she made when Mom ‘graduated’ she hung the certificate of completion on the fridge, even celebrated with visit to Perk on Main for heart healthy lunch, followed up with selfies to share with the family.
Joe shared with me months later that he had asked Ashely about taking Mom to rehab the day before the kitchen discussion, that they had come to a decision that Ashely would be the primary partner in this little chapter. He is a wise man, he knew I would try to take on the responsibility he also knew time was taking Mom from our children. This would prove to be a beautiful way for Ashley to spend some very precious time with her grandmother.
As the memory slid away, I refocused on the picture that reflected back at me. What beautiful old soul my baby was, I wiped a tear from my cheek. I know the days of cardiac rehab were challenging to say the least, but Ashely rose to the occasion, never losing her positive attitude, her cheerleader approach. Somehow she never forgot the woman her grandmother was, who she was helping care for, even though she was slipping through our fingers right before her eyes. She at her tender age knew we had to cherish every moment we could grasp.
My fingers hoovered over the keyboard … how do I tell this wonderful child what a blessing she is? … I began to type, then backspaced … typed again and backspaced again deleting the words, because it wasn’t possible to express everything I needed and wanted to say in such a short blip of a statement.
“I love this post … x0x …” is what I left in her feed. Of course I made sure I used ‘…’ twice because it drives her crazy when I do!
“I cherish the privilege of keeping her strong spirit alive.”
What poignant wise words. I often wonder how my children will keep the memories, the energy of their grandmother alive, the woman they knew before this illness robbed her from us. I know now I will cherish their reflections, afterall, they help keep my own crystal clear.