I made oatmeal cookies this morning.
That doesn't sound so very hard, does it? I've been meaning to make some for quite a while, and just didn't get around to it. However, this week, with Mothers' Day looming on every side, the marketing thereof shouting in one's ears, leaping feverishly before one, hampering one's steps, breathing hot and greedy and manipulative breaths on one's neck, I determined that I had to make the cookies, or continue to suffer nightmares and panic attacks in the darkness before sunrise.
I succeeded. I made the cookies, counted out a baker's dozen of the best, put them into a sturdy zipper freezer bag, nestled them between drifts of tissue paper, and sent them to my mother with a Mother's Day card.
Not a big deal, you'd think. Not a major effort like stacking wood or cleaning the house for Christmas or anything. Get up, find recipe, make cookies, put them in box, take to Post Office. Easy.
Sure it was. That was why, when I left the Post Office, my face was leaking tears while the rest of me shook. That's why I've had nightmares every night so far this week, about loss and fear and being attacked.
Yesterday morning I stood in the shower, pondering the mystery of how an old woman with Alzheimers, locked up in a nursing home, not knowing the day or the hour, and incapable of caring for herself ... could still terrify me into nightmares and rob my spring days of the peace that I should be feeling.
How does that happen? The mystery is unresolved. In all honesty, I don't want to visit her, I don't want to have any contact with her; before she required 24-hour care, she became so horrible, so mercilessly, cruelly, insensitively horrible that I didn't want to have anything to do with her. I knew her mind was failing, but the little girl she taught to cook and sew and garden didn't understand, and still doesn't, not really.
The adult that I try to be understands the progression of the disease, that it is terminal, and can never be fixed for her. The free woman that I am recognizes how frustrating it must be to her, to be penned up in someone else's house, with no way out; she can't even count the days because it is always today, always bedtime, always mealtime, always nurses touching her, always endless, like a bug caught and held poised in amber, beyond hopefulness of an ending or satisfaction of a rich life completed.
She has no visitors; but even if she had, she wouldn't remember them. She didn't remember me when I came to her door a few years ago and she never could learn any of her caregivers' names even though they were with her 24 hours a day. She still has memories, but they don't connect with anything she perceives.
Her nurses call me to let me know when things change with her; times when she refuses to get out of bed in the morning, argues about taking a shower, needs supplemental foods because she's losing weight or is dehydrated because she doesn't want to eat or drink at that time, even though she complains of hunger or thirst minutes later. She doesn't ask for me, or about me.
This week I want to get some large mailing labels and make them into addresses to her so that I can just print out a photo with a quick note and send it off every few days. Maybe something of that will please her, and will bypass the mechanism that makes my hands shake so badly that I can't print the words on the envelope.
Have some cookies, Mom. You taught me how to make them. I'll pretend that you liked them, even just a little.