Once a year we pay tribute to all mothers. Just for a day on the fifth month of every year. I think that mothers deserve cheers and celebration without end!
Six months before mom passed away at the height of my busy career when I decided to accept a job away from home, a nagging urge to make the most out of my time made me think of mom. I decided that I would take her out on lunch dates whenever possible.
As a tribute to her goodness of heart and to all mothers out there I celebrate motherhood by sharing this intimate and personal account of my last stretch with mom.
It took one fatal fall that resulted in keeping her at home most of the time. What you are about to read are rare moments I happen to be so fortunate to have been a part of. She had trouble with speech, and expressing her thoughts and feelings were more often than not a guessing game. She came alive during our dates and I am so thankful that I kept a diary to remind me that until the very end she understood what was happening around her only unable to fully express this to those who patiently stood by and tried to listen.
September 17, 2008 – Wednesday
Lunch at the Club: Crab & Mango Salad and Chicken a la Kiev with Rice.
Mom’s smile grew wider with every bite of salad! She drank the entire glass of Mango Shake too. It was wonderful to hear her rave about how she enjoyed her meal. This is a feast compared to blender food she has daily taken in from a feeding tube. Mom’s solid food intake has to be given in small doses and fed to her very slowly. Having a meal with her requires time, patience and full concentration otherwise she may choke or gag.
I mentioned to her that dad leaves for his annual trip next week. She replied, "How long will he be gone?" She tells me too that she's been sleeping well.
Thank my lucky stars for a lucid rare moment that granted me a decent five-minute conversation with her.
September 24, 2008 – Wednesday
Lunch at the Club: Feta & Cucumber Salad, Squash & Carrot Soup and Fish Steak with Garlic Fried Rice
Eda, her midwife, said that she was so excited for this date she did not want to sleep! Sure enough, she arrived fully made up with a scarf and ready to eat! Mom was beaming with a big smile! What a joy for me to be with her watching her eat carrying a conversation even if all she can muster is to smile at me in return.
Yesterday she was cranky when I stopped by for a visit so I was a bit worried how I was going to get through today. Much to my delight, she was pleasant. I notice how her senses come alive. Tasting something different wakens her senses. She commented that the salad was salty. Rightfully so, it was a tad bit salty from the Feta cheese. She also liked the bread roll as she dipped it in the soup. The change of routine is already the highlight of her day. When I blurted out that next week we could do lunch at the mall, she was all smiles!
September 30, 2008 – Tuesday
Lunch at the Mall: Spanish food, her favorite!
Four Season’s Fruit Shake, Tomato & White Cheese Salad and Lengua Estofado (Ox Tongue in Tomato Sauce)
We met at the restaurant. How humbling it makes me feel to be able to spend time with her. Our goodbyes always reduce me to tears. The meal was such a delight for her, she could not stop saying "it's so good, it's so good!" Oh my! She was marathon eating, enjoying every bite when suddenly she put up her hand to motion "stop" expressing I can't eat all that!
Eda mentioned that when she was being dressed she uttered, "You’re taking too long!" She just wanted to be wheeled out and into the mall. Sure enough when I saw her she was smiling as always ear-to-ear!
After lunch we did errands together. We bumped into a relative. He greeted her and commented that she looks well. She replied with a big smile "Thank you!" It is heartwarming to see how pleasant she is.
I bought her mini chocolate chip cookies from Mrs. Fields and she motioned "no more." I replied, keep it and eat it for afternoon snack.
What a joy to see her content and calm.
October 4, 2008 – Saturday
Took mom for merienda (afternoon snack) at the mall. I stopped by home to inform her that I would go ahead and do errands and she muttered, "No."
"Do you want me to wait for you so we can go together?" She replied, "Yes!" Amazing to be able to converse with her. It took a bit of coaxing but she finally agreed to let me go ahead.
No more than a few minutes later I see mom and Eda already at the mall! Mom was restless and wanted to leave. We proceeded to the Spanish restaurant for Churros (Spanish fritters) con Chocolate. She was seated facing the entrance of the restaurant and right there and then I realized how important it is to position her wheelchair against something interesting. She was trying to read and pronounce the name of the restaurant, Dul-ci-ne-a! The atmosphere in the mall was so nice, busy and delightful with piano music playing, she was just so happy to be out. It’s felt like we were watching a symphony in open air.
How she ate the Churros along with her Four Seasons fruit shake! I ordered extra for Eda and Nyla, the caregiver. A raw moment crept in as I sat quietly watching everyone eat. I realized that mom’s world revolves around her midwife and her caregivers. They are so gentle and loving to her.
Mom as usual kept uttering, "It's so good!"
I took her to the supermarket after our meal and she asked me what for? I replied that I had to buy some chocolates for my girls. She had planned on going to hear mass and we had a few minutes to kill. I took her all the way to the movie area of the mall to check out what movies were showing. We bumped into one of my daughter’s girlfriends and I introduced mom to her. I realized that these little gestures and activities we do together help keep her brain active and stimulated.
Finally, on the way leaving her for mass, we continued on with window-shopping and when we passed by a shoe store I said to her "Mom look! Do you remember that you love shoes?” She replied, "I love shopping!" I can only imagine what runs through her mind when she sees all the things she loved wearing once upon a time long ago.
I took her inside the room where mass was going to take place and bade her goodbye. I kissed her and walked away with my head bowed down facing the floor. I wept in silence. My day ended filled with humility seeing how simple her daily life has become yet so enriched with whatever she can take in for the day.
I told her that next week we go Italian for some pasta. Looking at her, I can tell she is looking forward to our next lunch date. I on the other hand am just so glad that I have time on my hands. I could not ask for more.
October 7, 2008 – Tuesday
Lunch at the Italian Restaurant in the mall: Melon Shake, Lentil Soup and Herbed Fish
She took one bite into the fish and oh boy, she did not like it! She kept on repeating, “It's not good.”
When I finally tried it, indeed it was ordinary. The funny part was when I announced what I was going to order for her she replied "it better be good!" Sharp woman she is.
Took her for some ice cream after our meal and then we stood for a while by the piano listening to music. I asked if she was enjoying the music and she replied, "It's very nice." All throughout lunch she was able to say a few phrases. We watch people milling by and push her around all 4 floors of the mall to get her senses working.
October 11, 2008 – Saturday
No luck for a lunch date with mom. Her sleep pattern has been erratic. Unable to sleep at night, she's a goner half the day. Today, I wanted to take her to lunch but I had to wait and see if our date would push through due to her blood pressure running low. I promised that I would take her for Filipino merienda if not lunch but so far this week no luck.
Oh well, hard to predict her highs and lows. Pray for her good health.
October 13, 2008 – Monday
Lunch at the Club: Mango Shake, Crab & Mango Salad and Roast Beef on Rice
All smiles as always! She ate the entire salad! I normally share the meal with her but this time around I hardly ate because it did not look like she was willing to share.
We wheeled her to the mall after lunch. I treated mom, Eda and Nyla to ice cream, another new found favorite of mom’s. She loves avocado flavor! We sat by the water fountain. Mom would not close her mouth signaling for more ice cream. She looks really well. Was not too talkative today but she does look very settled. When it was time to say goodbye, I kissed her and told her our next date would be merienda and she replied, “Ok, bye!”
Am so blessed to witness these genuine moments with her. What I love most is her wide smile the minute we see each other. Her smile says it all with excitement!
October 16, 2008 – Thursday
Lunch at the Club: Pineapple Shake (for a change) and Crab & Mango Salad
Another good day for her! Eda does not tell mom about our lunch dates too early in the day because she gets too excited and does not want to sleep. Sure enough when they woke her at 10:30 to get dressed for our lunch date, she was all smiles and excited!
"I am enjoying it!" I asked her if she wanted to go to the mall for ice cream and she emphatically replied, “Yes!”
We wheeled her to the ice cream booth and tried Melon flavor this time around. She ate the entire giant scoop in her cup. As we sat by the fountain, I told her that I would not be around next week because I have to leave for a working trip on Tuesday and back Saturday. My heart fell because she gave me this sad look asking, "How about Thursday?" I told her I wouldn't be back until Saturday.
So I suggested that if time permits I'll meet her for pancake breakfast on Sunday and she was delighted! She said, “Ok!” I also suggested that one night I'll take her to formal dinner for her favorite Foie Gras Salad and she replied, "Love it!" Amazing woman she is!
I bade her goodbye and asked if she enjoyed her day. "I am enjoying."
October 28, 2008 – Tuesday
Got back from my work trip last Saturday. I was told that mom's doctors requested not to feed her too much because her weight gain is not good for her heart. That means goodbye ice cream and no rice!
Lunch at the Club: Crab & Mango Salad and Mango Shake.
Call time was at noon. I arrived 10 minutes earlier only to see her there already! I asked Eda, “Why so early?” Apparently mom was too excited to stay put at home.
November 13, 2008 – Thursday
Lunch at the Club: Crab & Mango Salad and Mango Shake.
I told her that I was leaving for Kyoto on Sunday and will be gone for a week and I asked if she'd be ok. “I’ll be fine.” All smiles as usual, I asked what she wanted from Japan and she replied, “Japanese food!” She is well and definitely in happy spirits!
November 26, 2008 – Wednesday
Lunch at the Club: Crab & Mango Salad and Mango Shake.
Inhaled to the last bite! She's looking good and alert more than ever!
Mom did not sleep a wink in anticipation for today's lunch. I am sure she will sleep well tonight after her good meal.
Happy Thanksgiving Mom! We are going to have our traditional Turkey celebration this year earlier because Dad will be away on Thanksgiving Day. Daisy (the family cook for 40 years) as always I have no doubt will cook a fabulous feast! Like you mom, I stopped eating meat, pork and foul. But I still look forward to enjoying the trimmings, the sweet potatoes and the chestnut stuffing like you always did.
This is for you Mom.
We all miss you very much!