Message from Jody   new haircut


  Above and below: photos from a few days ago give a sense of Mom's new look and recent energy.



  From left, Jody, friends Diane and Ted, and Mom enjoy a visit on the new porch.


  Anyone detect a tad of mischief in that expression?


  Photos by Blake.


  By Jody - September 25, 1999

During what Dad has termed Mom's "encore" over the last three weeks (since her intravenous meds began), Mom has maintained a fairly even and high level of energy, enthusiasm, appetite, and ability which almost mimic her pre-tumor days. Since the veil of chronic low-level pain has been lifted with morphine's help, Mom's truest essence seems to be radiating through, more brightly than ever. No matter how long this encore lasts, it has been a blessing for us all, as well as a challenge, as we caregivers try to keep up with Mom's wit, demands, and accelerated engagement with life.

Mom still spends much of her day in the hospital bed, but the duration of her naps has decreased to 1-2 shorter naps midday. She has been waking ready to plan and execute "excursions," which often involve shopping - for Christmas presents, new sneakers, sundae spoons for the kitchen. We have planned a few of these excursions, only to postpone them for a moment of better energy. A few of the shopping trips we hope to do via the Internet or catalogs. The night I arrived (at the peak of the Hurricane Floyd evacuations), Mom awoke at 3 a.m. with a pressing need to venture to the front of the house to watch the storm reports on TV. Later that day, Mom spent four hours out on our new screened porch in her wheelchair, taking in the gray skies and gusty winds which were all Gainesville ever saw of the monster hurricane. She has spent more time out there recently, entertaining guests, having lunch, and enjoying the sights and sounds of the woods - barred owls, wild turkeys, deer.

Mom's biggest excursion (since her journey to New England this summer) was a trip to the United Church of Gainesville, where she and Dad have been members since 1993, for the late morning service last Sunday. Mom had heard that the associate minister would be preaching on empowerment, and decided that it was a topic she wanted to learn more about. So, perfumed and bejeweled and breakfasted, Mom wheeled into the service and into the hugs and well wishes of many concerned friends. Being a part of worship, more actively than she had in months, enriched Mom rather than depleting her of energy. Mom's frequent response to people about her situation was that "it's far beyond us now - it's so much vaster - I feel as if we are in a vortex of love and blessings all around us..."

Other examples of Mom's renewed strength and energy include squatting exercises (which she practices during moments of transition from sitting to standing) to work on her quads, her spontaneous dance moves (when there is music), her increased stamina for walking more than the few steps from bed to commode, and her excited rising from the wheelchair for a welcome home hug when Blake returned from a 10-day trip to Boston. She talks excitedly about planning her birthday party (in late October) and about a fall foliage tour in New England. Her phone check-ins with friends have become more frequent and clear, though she still requires rest when she hangs up.

The six quarts of Brigham's mocha almond ice cream (Mom's 30-year favorite) arrived from Boston Wednesday morning, lovingly packed in dry ice by Mom's sister Sherry, and less than three days later, 2 quarts have disappeared. Apparently the almonds in the ice cream are "a good source of protein" which is important to healing. Mom no longer needs our help to get utensil to mouth, and she is full of meal ideas - a far cry from the radiation-induced anorexia of the spring and summer. Often her requests add up to multiple course meals - "How about some crabmeat salad on a baguette, and some string beans, and then some sweet corn, and one of Blake's mango smoothies and then a little mocha almond?" The night after the Hurricane scare, Mom initiated an telephone order of take-out Indian food from her favorite restaurant in Ocala, and we nominated Dad to make the 90-mile round trip to pick it up. Always the family's culinary coordinator, Mom was relieved to hear that church members had volunteered to provide meals for us three days a week - "it's important for us to have healthy food around."

Not only has Mom rejoined us in singing grace before supper (occasionally in a round), but she has also resumed her place as primary harmonizer in other family songs, mostly lullabies. Mom's Maine jokes are still told in a gruff Down East accent, and she can slip into an Irish brogue effortlessly. She and Blake exchange words in French and Spanish, and her Bronx upbringing is evident in the New York accent she puts on. Always a good storyteller, Mom hasn't lost her knack for jokes, and seems to have improved ability for double entendres and puns. Blake accused Mom of teasingly threatening to squirt him with her spring water bottle, and she attempted to tickle me into submission a few days prior. We also spent an hour one afternoon splayed out on the bed so she could try to braid my (very short) hair.

Aside from the encore and the silliness and the hearty appetite, there is a real specter on our heels. Or, is there? I find myself so easily lulled into believing that there has been a cure, that we are witnessing a miracle recovery, that something other than morphine has slipped into Mom's IV line and dissolved the tumor. But Mom's limited energy and obvious need for the comfort that the meds provide jerks me back to the reality that this may be the last season we spend together and that every day in itself is a miracle to be enjoyed.

Mom recognizes the inevitable and appreciates the perspective that this boost has brought her. A friend's letter the other day marveled at Mom's full life, and Mom agreed happily that she had been lucky to have lived so fully for 56 years. She chuckled and mm-hmm'ed as I read aloud passages from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying to her about dying as a part of life's continuum, and about softening into the learning of the moment instead of resisting change. Mom is tantalized by philosophical questions such as one posed to her by a friend who pondered "when is a life finished?" And she continues to teach us all, by her actions, her acceptance, and her peacefulness. As she quoted to me recently - "the past is history; the future a mystery; and the present is a gift - that's why we call it the present." What a gift she gives to us, so generously, every day.

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