Coffee with Mom … a portrait.


A sad day after a sad night. Mom was discharged from the hospital over a week ago and has been staying with us to recuperate. My husband and I didn’t want her to be alone during the holidays. This past year she lost her two sons to grave illness and I lost my older brothers. They lived with her in the family homestead after suffering failed relationships with their significant ‘others’ a long time ago and each had a daughter out of wedlock and they failed at those relationships too.

My mother always worried about them and their sadness. It gave her something to do. I worried about all of them. Although they helped me keep an eye on her and her health, they didn’t help with much else. She lost her husband and our father to illness 40 years before. Now the only thing for her to care for is herself, her house, her plants and the birds who visit the feeder in the yard. For this strong but tiny woman, that’s a tall order. She is handling her loss well I guess, but we noticed that she seemed to be wasting away in front of our eyes. Her recent admission into the hospital explained everything. She is on ‘recovery road’ now and I’m doing my best to fatten her up. We have bright hopes for her health in 2016. She has always had a positive attitude and good health and the doctors are certain that this alone will help her bounce back after the recent, slight detour.

Back to the sad night and sad morning … it wasn’t really all that bad … but then again, I’m looking back having survived it. It didn’t feel very good at the time.

I had to have the ‘talk’ with my husband last night. He initiated it because he is worried about my mother and how she and we will manage in the future. There were raised voices between my husband and me, followed by intense whispering so that my she couldn’t hear from the guest bedroom. You see, I also have a sister. She lives in Kentucky and we are in New Jersey. She doesn’t want to come back to help. I guess I can’t blame her, she’s got her life and family but, there is more to the story. Isn’t there always?

I was frustrated because my husband had to decide to have ‘the talk’ on the Saturday night after Christmas, the week after her discharge from the hospital when I had to deal with getting her back on her feet and my own Christmas preparations and an inability to talk with anyone on the phone who could help me better prepare for a future managing Mom because they were all away on their own Christmas holiday. He knew that I planned on starting out the following week (Monday before the New Year holiday … people will likely still be on vacation and I know that some definitely are, I was told to call back in the new year) to get services lined up for Mom. I even said to him at dinner how I felt like I was running the gauntlet before our own vacation planned at the end of January (paid for and non-refundable). Wasn’t he listening? You see where this is going, right? Well, he said some unkind words that rocked my world.

His answer is always Assisted Living which would be nice if she wanted it too. It would also be nice if she could afford it because then we could get her a room right away. Because she can’t, we have to deal with a waiting list and all that entails.

Help inside her home would be great but she can’t afford that either considering her needs. Of course, my husband is also concerned with her becoming a financial burden on us in our retirement years when we have travel plans booked well into 2016, booked long before my las​t brother passed away when I had someone at home with Mom.

We, ourselves are in our ‘now or never’ time of life and feel tethere​d by my mother who is stubbornly refusing to give up her independence while she lives in a home with too many stairs and not enough eyes on her shuffling little body that tries to do more than it can handle in one day.

Oh, there is so much more to the story but the whole point of my writing is to share relief and gratitude that a simple off-handed comment last night by my husband started the ball rolling in a better direction than any of us considered before. I called my sister last night, but she wasn’t answering her phone. I thought maybe it was a good thing and planted the seed my husband had just shared. Somehow I had never thought the idea possible before but faced with desperation, it had to be tried. My mother needed to go to Kentucky to be with my sister. Between last night and this morning with a fitful night’s sleep that was better than none at all, something came over me that made me realize one step at a time in the gentlest of directions would get me where I needed to go. I needed to stop feeling like I had the answers and just follow the bread crumbs and I did. My husband’s idea and me letting go of preconceived notions as to whether something was going to work or not had to be released.

So now, Mom is taking a road trip to Kentucky for at least three months while my husband and I are away. You might wonder why we wouldn’t take her with us. Well, it’s too hot for her where we are going, she doesn’t walk around and needs medical and transportation assistance which you can’t get there either. It is also a small space and my husband has been dealing with enough of the mother-in-law situation as it is. My sister has never had the responsibility of caring for my mother over all of the years and now is the time.

There is peace in my house this morning. Before I was even able to tell my husband about my conversation with my sister, he apologized for being out of line … and he definitely was.

I apologize,​ but I have to run before I can completely edit this post … my mother is trying to get into the dark chocolate she got for Christmas before she’s even had anything for breakfast and I must feed her, and myself.


  1. I love this portrait of your mom. Amazing. You are a strong daughter and I love how you are being playful and creative during this new time of your life.
    The thoughts you express, can be felt by many, as we watch our mothers change, and we change…

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