Caregiving, like writing, requires constant leaps of faith.
I leave Mom in good hands that aren’t mine, a caregiver she loves. I say goodbye, get in the car, and drive to a writing retreat. When I arrive, the forest air is cool and fresh. The sun shines. I am out in the real world, in my world again. I breathe deeply, but I don’t turn off my cell phone.
I sit by the fire. I laugh. I drink too much wine. That night I sleep 10 hours. I write all the rest of the time. Too soon, it’s time to go home again.
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 Melancholy 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 had 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 from other writers to write about my real life.
That’s when I’m home – when I’m writing.