This is a story that does not yet have an ending.
A little over a year ago, I moved back home. Yeah, I was part of the financial crush that hurt a lot of people, but the reason I was needed was much more simple than that: my mother was dying. She was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in the fall of 2010, and it spread throughout the rest of her body in due order. When I arrived last fall, she was still ambulatory, but that was a story that has since concluded.
She has deteriorated in regular intervals this year. To say it has had a profound effect on me would be an understatement. Everything that I have done over the past twelve months has been affected by her developing condition.
The first order of business, as I reported in my commentary a year ago, was to move my parents out of the house our family had lived in for thirty years. The specter of her decreased mobility was present even then. She couldn't walk up the stairs without terrifying those who witnessed her, and as such was the motivating factor for the move. Falls seemed imminent each time. At that point, they had not become a regular feature of her life. This would change early in 2014.
When they began, they almost seemed harmless. She was never seriously injured in any of them, unless you count the number of times her head struck the floor. The day we had to have emergency services help us get her back up, we couldn't imagine, my father and I, that our evening would only grow worse when we got back home, after she was reoriented and evaluated at the hospital. She couldn't climb the stairs to the house. She had no power in her legs. We struggled to help her. I won't go into further details, but suffice to say at one point she became dead weight and lost all cognizance. In some ways this was a mercy. I looked into her face and saw someone I didn't recognize.
Last year I said I'd already experienced the worst moment of this whole ordeal, and I still stand by that statement, but it seems more hollow from this vantage point. My sister's father-in-law helped us install a ramp. She went from using a cane to a walker to what's called a transfer seat but by all appearances is basically a wheelchair, in rapid succession. We started receiving assistance in the home. It was only a matter of time before we could no longer adequately care for her in this manner. A few weeks back she was moved into a nursing facility.
I have no idea how or when the story ends. We visit twice a day, and she has good days and bad days. Our victories are counted in what she has managed to eat. She is barely communicative at this point. There are flashes of the person we knew, and then there are times when all she can say is a series of numbers, and then when all she can do is open her eyes long enough to acknowledge us. Sometimes her voice is only a whisper.
Thanksgiving was spent with her. We ate with her, and other residents, in the dining room. Christmas, hopefully, will be better. She says the only gift she wants is coffee. Actually, that has been the most pleasant thing to come from the past year, discovering how such a simple thing can so reliably give her at least one happy thought.
I hope you understand if I don't tell you the ending.