At age almost 96 and on hospice, mom moves up and down like a roller coaster. We call her YoYoMa, one of our ways of staying sane when our hearts are so heavy. Yesterday morning, she would not open her eyes or acknowledge I was there. But in the afternoon, when I returned to see her before heading out of town, her little blue eyes were bright and she said, “I’m hungry. Let’s go eat. I’ll buy!” “Wow, Mom. OK, what would you like?” “Food. To get out of here.” “Ok. Mom. I am on it.” I asked our care manager to get the print menu from the assisted living dining room.
Mom is totally paralyzed on her left side and unless I had a van with a wheel chair lift, mom was going nowhere. The benefit of Alzheimer’s is that she can’t remember any of this. “So, Mom, while we are waiting for a menu, let me tell you about where I am going.” She snuggled down, closed her eyes and listened as I described The Center for Spiritual Renewal in Santa Barbara and the old house where I would retreat for a few days. She then blurted out, “OK. I’ll go with you. Let’s have an adventure. Let’s be daring.” I blinked hard to keep tears from spilling down my face. Indeed, this is the legacy that Mom always intended to leave us: to have an adventure; to be daring. It’s what called her to medical school when there were only 3 other women, it’s what called her to hop in a plane and fly with the Women’s Air Force Service Pilots in WWII. It’s the same daring that could turn the howling wind of a hurricane into an adventure as we gathered in the center of the house, far away from the picture windows and told stories by candlelight. It’s the same daring that helped her pick up the remnants of her life and re-enter the job market in her mid 50s. “Mom, how about a peanut butter and jelly? Or some ham/bean soup that my Bill made?” “Do you know where the restaurant is?” she asked. “I do, Mom. Let’s get some clothes on you and into your chair. We’ll head out to the Bistro.” When we went through the locked doors, it didn’t register to Mom that we had not left the building but rather gone over to an alcove with 3 tables and a little bar-type setting. “Great,” said Mom, “We’re at the bar.” She looked around and marveled that there were no people in the “restaurant”. She didn’t hesitate or question the two teaspoons she ate of Bill’s soup or the tiny bite of peanut butter and strawberry jelly on toast. “Mom, thanks for taking me to lunch. Shall we split some ice cream for dessert? Susan will be along shortly and join us.” Our wonderful care manager had made vanilla ice cream appear as if by magic and Mom ate a few spoons with relish. My sister Susan was coming to take my place so I could leave. I had called her and gave her a heads up that we were “dining out”. Susan appeared as if on cue and reached down to hug Mom. “Do you have my wallet?” asked Mom. “Indeed, I do, Mom. I will pay the hostess when I go out. Thanks again for lunch, Mom. It was great!” I left Mom happily looking at Susan and offering her ice cream with her one good hand. It was great. It was grand. For her, getting out of bed and eating was daring—even if she didn’t know it. She’s back down again now. YoYoMa. Yet she also gave me my new year’s direction: Be daring. Have an adventure.