Caregiving, like writing, requires constant leaps of faith.
Can I leave Mom alone all weekend and enjoy a writing retreat with real people in a wonderful, wooded place? My preparation takes weeks. I must be forgetting something. I’m busy until the hour I need to leave. With Mom in good hands that aren’t mine, I load the car and drive away.
The air is cool and fresh. The sun shines. I am delighted to be out in the real world. I turn off my cell phone. I want to breathe this air.
I feel uneasy, though, to be free of obligations. The first day, it’s a tightrope that makes me dizzy. My dear fellow writers are accepting and solicitous. I sleep 10 hours and regain my balance. I write. The fire crackles. Heavenly. If only home were like this.
It’s slippery getting home again in the snow, but I walk in smiling. I bring Mom an armful of daffodils that haven’t bloomed. She likes to watch them blossom. She did fine while I was gone. I’m not sure she remembers I was gone.
These familiar walls have a few rougher edges, though. I hear the clocks ticking. I want to be still and breathe. And write. But it’s time to cook supper. Make sure she takes her pills. Clean the kitchen.
I turn on swing music. Ella Fitzgerald sings “Meloncholy Baby.” Mom’s lips move and I lean closer to hear her sing-along. She remembers all the words.
Every cloud must have a silver lining.
Wait until the sun shines through.
Smile, my honey dear, while I kiss away each tear
Or else I will be melancholy too.
When it’s bedtime, Mom says, “Well, I guess it’s time for me to go home.”
I used to ask, “Where is home? What home are you thinking of?” but she has no answer. When I ask if she means heaven, she only laughs.
“This is your home,” I say. “You live here with me. You have your own room here and all your clothes.”
“I do? Oh, that’s good.” She’ll forget the worry until it returns tomorrow, or in a few minutes.
“Look.” I point to the vase on the table. “The daffodils are starting to bloom.”
I feel a rush of gratitude for this home I’ve made for us together, for the ease I can bring to Mom’s final years. I’m grateful for the challenges and the drama, the sweet times and the sad. I’m grateful for the encouragement I’ve had to write about them.
That’s when I’m home – when I’m writing.