My mother and father were my steadfast supporters of my adoption of my daughter, Kara. They loved her and my dad walked her down the aisle when she married. I am grateful that they didn’t know what happened to her life after they died.
My father passed away in 1991 and had major memory loss issues. He had been having memory issues for some time. Mom and I decided not to tell him what was happening to Kara because we didn’t want to stress him out.
My mother knew that Kara had had 4 children. She knew Johnny, Kara’s husband was abusing her. My sister and I decided not to tell her about Kara and Johnny’s arrest for the murder of the church volunteer in 1998. Mom’s memory was starting to go and we didn’t think it would be helpful to tell her.
This post is about my mother’s time in the nursing home. When I placed my mother in the nursing home in 1993, I was sad, but relieved that she was being taken care of.
My mother, the Merry Widow, was a fun loving woman and she set that nursing home staff on their ears. For the first 4 1/2 years she was a resident, she had a vibrant life there.
The first time the staff social worker tried to interview her, she showed her spark. The SW asked some very simple questions, such as her name, her age, her religion, the names of her children and grandchildren, you know to test her memory. Then she asked her who the president of the United States was and mom’s answer was classic. She replied, “Who cares? I’m stuck here and could care less.”
I was the contact person for the nursing home. I was also my mom’s contact person. My sister, Myra was having her own health issues and didn’t want to deal with mom. At that time I was using a pager, so I programed mom’s phone to call my pager using every number on the speed dial but one, it called Myra’s.
Mom was one of the most active residents in that nursing home. She went to practically every activity held. She wouldn’t go to the LDS church services because we weren’t LDS. Many times I would go get her and take her to our church services. After church we’d go to a restaurant and have lunch. Then it was back to the home.
We were allowed to take her out of the home for brief visits and with her doctor’s permission (my previous boss, Dr. Hess) for a week. I took her with me to visit my nephew Steve, his wife Kathy and their baby daughter Ashley down in Las Vegas.
While on the trip we stopped at a Mesquite, Nevada casino. Mom loved to gamble, so we played some slot machines. When it became time to leave I had 2 quarters left and put it in a machine. Mom handed me another quarter, so if I got lucky, I’d have put enough in to win. The most unexpected thing happened, we WON.
That machine paid out $1000. WOW. It was an incredible moment. Of course, my mother wanted her share. This became a running joke for the rest of that trip. We used her $300 and bought her a rocking chair she could have in her room.
The first year mom was in the home things were pretty quiet, except when she wanted attention. It didn’t matter the time of day or what I was doing, my pager would go off. I would call her back to see what she needed. She’d say she was lonely and when would she see me again. I would reassure her when I’d be visiting next and would call her later in the evening.
The next year everything changed. She met Marty. Thus began the most amusing, ridiculous time of my life. The staff at the home went totally nuts. Mom and Marty began discussing how they could escape the home, get married and set up housekeeping on their own. The staff would call me again and again to convince these lovebirds their plans were not happening.
I almost choked with laughter when my mother explained how they were planning to have sex in the home. The thought of 2 senior citizens having sex behind the curtains was ridiculously funny. I still laugh when I think about it.
We would bring mom and Marty home on Sundays. He was such a delightful person. He loved my mother and she was crazy about him. The 3 years the 2 of them were together were her best years in the nursing home.
The staff at the home moved Marty to the room next door to mom’s room. Mom was mostly in a wheelchair and Marty wheeled her to every activity. They would hold hands and plot how to turn the staff into blithering idiots. Then I’d get a call. “Help, they’re at it again!”
The staff called one day in March 1998. Would I drop everything and come to the nursing home right away. Marty had gone to his room, laid down and passed away in his sleep. It was a crisis and they didn’t want to tell my mother without me being there.
I rushed to the home and the social worker and I broke the news. Mom was devastated and I stayed as late as I could trying to help her grieve. I don’t think she ever really recovered from the loss.
My sister and I hadn’t wanted to move her because of her relationship with Marty, but her home was across town from where we lived. We discussed it with mom and she agreed to a move much closer to us. At that time we located a home about a mile from where our condos were.
Mom didn’t want to do anything in the new home. She was sad and really missed Marty. We would bring her home for visits and she said she was okay. But I felt she was going downhill mentally and physically.
At Christmas time that last year she sat at the table not saying much. She was happy to see Steve’s new born son, Jeff and his daughters Ashley 6 and Stephanie 3. While we did dishes, we started singing Christmas carols. Mom remembered all the words and sang with us. This is a tough memory for me, even after all these years.
Mom broke her hip the first week in January 1999. She did well with the surgery. We moved her to another home when she was released from the hospital. She took a turn for the worst with Congestive Heart Failure in early February.
I visited her one Sunday. My friend Sam went with me. Sam, a director of nursing in a nursing home recognized the same signs I did. My mother was dying. I went in and held her hand. I told her it was all right to go. Then she did something, I will never forget, she sat straight up in the bed, reached her hand out to something I couldn’t see, smiled a beautiful smile and then peacefully laid back down and closed her eyes.
My sister’s phone was out of order, so Sam drove me to her house. I explained mom was going and we took off back to the nursing home. Mom passed away while I was gone. The staff told me she just quietly went to sleep.
We held a simple family and friends’ ceremony at our condos’ club house. It was just what she had wanted. We were all a little misty eyed.
We had her body cremated and I just couldn’t let go until Christmas rolled around 10 months later. I heard her favorite Christmas carol and a feeling of peace rolled over me. I called my nephew Steve and he and I scattered her ashes in our front yard rose bushes.
I still miss her very much, but I’ll never forget that it was a beautiful, peaceful passing.
Adoption agencies in Utah that I support:
Wasatch International Adoptions
Children’s Service Society
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