Be Authentic

I noticed her right away when she moved into the nursing home. I typically notice when new people are admitted, but I noticed her for different reasons. She was vivacious, she looked years younger than everyone else and she was very mobile. I know not to judge a book by it’s cover but that didn’t stop my brain from wondering, “Why is she here?”  She had skin very similar to my mom’s skin. In the years since my mom died, I have a hard time remembering things about her. What did her voice sound like? What about this or that? But one thing that is imprinted on my heart is how her skin looked and felt. It was super soft smooth skin, slightly oily and cool to the touch, almost as if she always had just put lotion on. They both had beautiful skin, making them appear much younger than they were.

She was in the running for president against my dad when she had the dream. In the time before the dream, my dad and I were friendly with her but we hadn’t talked much with her. One night before the election she had a dream, the kind of dream that seems so real, you just can’t shake it. The next day she came to my dad’s room to tell him she was withdrawing her name from the presidential race. When my dad asked her why, she told him about the dream. The details were fuzzy but they had gotten married.

My dad, being the weasel he is, would tease her about their wedding. He would yell out to her in passing, “Did you pick out the flowers?” or “When should we do the cake tasting?” He thought he was being hilarious, she thought he was flirting. Shortly after all of this started I was leaving the nursing home and I saw her and another woman as I was leaving. She was telling the other woman, “There goes my daughter-in-law” I knew my dad was in for trouble, but he brought it on himself.

I was cleaning up after work one day and my dad called all in a tizzy. “You are not going to believe what just happened to me! So we had an accordion player come in today. Well, as soon as she heard that music, she went into heat! She wanted to sit on my lap but I told her to get out of here. Then she sat reeeeally close next to me and she put her hand on my knee! And wouldn’t you know it she started sliding her hand up into my crotch!” For some people this would be a shocking call to receive from your 81 year old father in a nursing home. For me this is a tame conversation, this is nothing. I would try to count how many times he says pecker in a day, but I know I couldn’t keep up.

A week or so later we found out she had cancer and within 3 weeks she died. I am still shocked that she was so vibrant and aggressive one day and then so sick the next. She was having trouble sleeping and  having a lot of pain at the end. She hugged me, pulled me close, and whispered in my ear, “I just want to die. I am ready.” I asked her if her children had come and if they were being supportive. She had a deep sadness and said simply, “No.” I knew they had not visited the whole time she lived at the nursing home and I’m not sure how long it had been before moving here. I try not to judge other people about this issue but sometimes its really hard for me.  I don’t know people before they enter this stage of their lives. Maybe she was a terrible mother, maybe things happened that I could never understand or forgive if I had been her child, I don’t know. What I do know is that she was a wonderful friend to me and she was very funny and loving. She had a smile that could light up a room and a laugh that was infectious. She was very helpful with other residents. She would advocate for anyone that needed it. She was tough as nails and sometimes a little rough around the edges. She helped the staff whenever she could and she really liked my dad. She never lost her sensuality and she was confident in going after who or what she wanted. She was a go-getter and she was a little shit. She was sneaky and never turned down an opportunity to harass you, if she liked you.

Unfortunately for her children, they never got to know her fully. She was unconscious when her children finally did come to see her. They sat in her room for the days leading up to her last. They walked around the halls and heard stories of a woman that didn’t sound like the woman that was their mother. She was working on a painting before she got too sick to finish it. The Sunday before she died, her children came in to see it while I was calling bingo. We stopped the game to talk to them about her. The painting was a landscape and she was working on the mountains but they were left unfinished. As her family gathered around the painting somberly, my father yelled out,”It’s mountains, but I think it looks like tits!” Everybody laughed and her daughter asked who he was. When my dad told her his name she said she had heard from other people at the nursing home that her mother wanted to marry him. She grabbed his hand and looked into his eyes and said, “I wish you could have been my dad.”  It was sweet and slightly bizarre.

Reading her obituary was infuriating for me. As you can see I’m having a hard time with the no judgment thing. These are the parts that got me upset. First, it talked a lot about her late husband that she hated. When I asked her if she had been married when we met, she explained what a jerk he had been to her and how she’d rather forget he ever existed. So I couldn’t believe how much they talked about him in her obituary. She would have gagged to know that.  “She thoroughly enjoyed spending time with family. She always put them first in her life, especially her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She will always be remembered by her quiet and thoughtful personality.” So many things are irritating about those sentences but to put the word QUIET as how she will be remembered? I lost it when I read that.

It is so unfortunate and upsetting that she didn’t fully express herself to her children when she was alive. I am saddened for her children that they didn’t get to know her as a woman and not just their mother. It hits me close because I know my dad hasn’t been able to fully express himself to his children from his first marriage. They don’t call or visit and they don’t know him at all. Shortly after my mom died they tried to step in and be family/mother me and I remember going out to eat just the four of us girls and I was telling them a story about my dad. One of them wasn’t paying attention at the beginning of my story so mid way through she goes,”Who are you talking about?” It stopped me cold that she had no clue about him. They don’t know him and they are missing out on the most precious person. It breaks my heart for them and for my dad.

I am so blessed and thankful to have been born when I was, to the parents I had, with the soul that I have and to have this experience now. All of these things combined assure me that I am living my life authentically and when I leave this body all of the words written about me will be true to my spirit.

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