Summer holidays are bittersweet for me. My family has been celebrating summer holidays at my parents beautiful lake home for the past 20 years. This marks the third year in a row that my mom has not been present at the lake, as she now lives in a nursing home ten minutes away. My parents split up 5 years ago due to fractions mostly caused by her disease of chemical addiction.
I still haven’t gotten used to the empty feeling that achingly persists in the house. All of her personal things are still around, and there is a gaping hole left in the middle of the living room, where her chair and one of the 2 couches used to be, as they are now in her tiny room at the nursing home with her.
Sometimes it feels like she is just on a trip or just “out”, but that heavy feeling still lurks in my heart, even as I try to mask it or cover it up with pleasant small talk, or feigned excitement. The pain aches more acutely at certain times…and I have no choice but to just ride it out. Grief comes in waves..so it helps to realize in those moments that a calmer wave is sure to follow. If not today, than perhaps tomorrow or the next day. It’s hard to forget that she will probably never be able to come back to her amazing house on the lake with the breathtaking sunset views and her Iris, Peonies, and Geraniums.
We don’t talk much about her at those gatherings. Dad will ask how she is doing, if she is getting worse or not, and if the nurses and aides are taking good care of her. I will give an “update” on her care, and retell how her present status is. Yesterday I told dad that she does not remember the lake house, and does not remember living there. He said, “Well, that’s good, right? Then she doesn’t beg to go home does she?” And actually, in a sense, he is right. It does make it easier in that regard. She can’t get anxious or upset about going somewhere she has no recollection of. She can’t beg me incessantly to “get out of here and just go home”.
Tonight I remember for her. I am her memory keeper. I remember the love and joy that she brought to that home. I remember her bright and sunny spirit & her inquisitive nature. I remember her beautiful smile and her impeccable style and grace. I remember her laughter, her love of her flowers and interior decorating. I remember how she loved to sit out on the patio and watch our kids play in the water and in the grass. I remember how she and I would sit out on her porch on her cozy couches with the brightly colored patterns of flowers and birds on them, and read our books, and share what our stories were about. I remember how we loved to look out and admire all the beautiful sail boats that sailed by…especially when there was a regatta going on.
I choose to remember….because I can not forget.