The Last (Pancake) Supper

 

Fifteen March Twenty-Seconds ago, upon punching my timecard’s final out slot, I found myself navigating through the mercifully short, 15 minute, p.m. commute. I was feeling all tuckered out…my exhaustion caused not so much by my paid labors but, instead, due to my having taken on responsibilities as a caregiver… my teaming up with paid, home care professionals… our mutual goal being to assist in my nearly nonagenarian Mom’s recovery from a recent heart attack… to nurse her through an ever-growing, myriad of other age related complications, as well.

As was customary during that (now) bygone era, upon greeting Mom, I was once again sitting at her sickbed, our telling one another all about our days… as well as reminiscing about the good old days. It was while chatting, attempting to cheer her up that I started experiencing… well… it was sort of a feeling of deja vu. I say, ‘sort of” because a role reversal of sorts was involved.

You see, it had been my caregiver Mom who, decades earlier, used to sit bedside… chatting to cheer me up as I weathered the countless childhood storms… i.e., the emotional turmoil of being relentlessly, verbally and physically assaulted by elementary, junior high and high school bullies… i.e., the physical illnesses, which ran the full gamut from colds/flu, measles, mumps, chickenpox to my more serious, post-op convalescence following my tonsillectomy.

Of course, no recollections of those times would ever be complete without mention of my Mom’s favorite, surefire home-remedy / cure all… i.e., her made from scratch pancakes saturated with maple syrup.

Fortunately, I had never succumbed to that “macho” notion that “real men” don’t cook… so I not only knew our “secret” family recipe but, thanks to Mom’s OJT, I also had plenty of work experience in preparing them.

So, the more we talked… the more I realized Mom had always selflessly and tirelessly stood in my corner throughout my life… the less fatigue I was feeling. And the more I wanted to repay her for all of her past moral support. Oh, you should’ve seen the smile on her face when, clear out of the blue, I said, “Mom, I’m heading for the kitchen to prepare a pancake supper for the two of us.” Within an hour, we were sitting down at our dining room table and savoring the delectable, finished product.

I am so glad that Mom and I had shared our special meal together, for a mere two days later, she wound up breaking her leg. Nine days after that, after being admitted to a nursing home, a post surgical complication… pneumonia… set in with a vengeance and after that?

Well, exactly one month after our pancake supper, I was delivering Mom’s eulogy.

Mere hours ago, on this very night, I headed to the exact same kitchen to prepare a new batch of pancakes. Later, as I sat down at the exact same dining room table I raised my coffee cup and sent my words to the heavens…

“Mom, this fifteenth anniversary memorial pancake supper is to honor you and keep your memory alive. I shall love you forever, with all my heart.”

I should also mention that, set before me (us?) was the exact same, saved syrup bottle that both Mom and I had poured from on this very night, 15 years ago. A bottle once filled with sweet maple syrup, but now empty… no strike that. It is still filled with the bittersweet memories of the last pancake supper Mom and I had ever enjoyed together in this Earthly realm.

About all I could possibly add, here, is that since we can never really know if the last time we see one another will be the last time, we need to always act accordingly.

 

Was It Divine Intervention? (Part 3)

As Part 2 of this series concluded, we stood together at rainbow’s end while I spoke of that full spectral arc… believed it to be Divine Intervention… God’s validation of my Mom’s decision to “no code” her husband… free my Dad from his hospital ICU torture chamber… permit this terminally ill man the death our false hopes had denied him.

I now welcome you to Part 3. This installment has four subheadings titled:

A Time of TransitionA Time to Die… A Sliver of Sunlight… A Time to Reflect.

I’ve linked two of my companion blogs to this one… and… unless you’ve already read them… I strongly recommend you follow these links as they appear… I believe the depth they add to this posting to be immeasurable.

A Time of Transition…

On the eve prior to my Dad’s ill-fated surgery, the last words he’d ever spoken to me were… “Keep the home fires burning.” Ergo, from 1988 through 2003, I was caregiver to Mom… caretaker of her property… thereby allowing her to remain in her home sweet home for her final fifteen years.

During that time, Mom and I had oft regretted how Dad’s “full code” hospital status” had condemned him to “living” a zombie-like existence. No matter how many times we had rehashed this… each and every time we’d wind up looking each other squarely in the eye to solemnly vow we’d never do that to each other.

I was so glad we had had those frank discussions; too… for it was in early 2003… after Mom had fractured her femur and was convalescing in a nursing home… when pneumonia’s deadly chokehold would not permit her to rally.

With all reasonable, medical treatment options exhausted… with Mom’s quality of life steadily worsening with each passing second and her chances for recovery near zero… there I was… staring down at that nursing home “full code” / “no code” form.

Mere days earlier, a Judge had appointed me to be my Mom’s legal guardian and so her fate now rested in my hands. It would’ve been far too easy to feel the same false hopes for my Mom (the same type of false hopes Mom and I had felt for my Dad). But, I simply could not ignore Mom’s voice echoing in my memory… could not turn a deaf ear to her past impassioned pleas… “Please don’t EVER let that happen to me!”

While I hated “no coding” my own Mother… I hated the thought of her suffering even more. Choking back my tears… I signed on the dotted line and handed her fate off to God. After all… even if I had made the wrong decision… He could always intervene to let her recover and continue to live.

 A Time to Die…

My showing my Mom mercy had spared her untold misery and she had died a pain free, dignified death. The final chapter of her life can be read in my posting: Going Home… Going Home…

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, author of On Death and Dying, once described it thusly:

“Watching a peaceable death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of the million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever.”

Six days after Mom had gone to her Heavenly home, I presided over her Memorial Service. Having pasted on my bravest, public face, I had somehow managed to tearlessly deliver her heartfelt eulogy to a larger than expected gathering of mourners and well-wishers… a fifteen minute summation of her near ninety year long life and times.

With nothing else left for ME to do for my Mom… it was now time for ME to go home… to consider what I’d be doing for ME… in whatever time remained for ME on Earth. And after thirty years of helping my folks… how odd it felt to be prioritizing ME at the top of my to-do list.

A Sliver of Sunlight…

On the one-year anniversary of my Mom’s death, I began what was to become my annual ritual to honor her and keep her memory alive. My honoring her request that she be buried in her family plot in Minnesota, had meant I’d be paying my respects from afar… in two special, serene locales within my Michigan, hometown’s city limits.

It was seven years into my newfound family tradition, when something magical happened… my third “Oh Wow” moment… a jaw dropping, astounding, meteorological event which I could not interpret to be anything other than Divine Intervention. I tell more about my experience in my posting: A Sliver of Sunlight

A Time to Reflect…

So here I am in the here and now of 2016. I certainly intend to keep my eyes wide-open to see if any other episodes of Divine Intervention will come my way. Since, so far, they’ve all been weather related… I know my gaze should focus skyward… and since I’ll be already looking up… I’ll be certain to thank our Creator for having never let me down.

Of course there is that “Good things come in threes” adage so… might I have already maxed out my Divine Intervention limit? If that’s the case… then this makes those I’ve already experienced all the more precious. For sure, I’ll treasure these special days and events for the rest of my mortal life… and throughout eternity…

November 9, 1973 ~ The sunbeams breaking through the wintry cloud deck after I had narrowly avoided a fatal head on crash with a semi on that iced over, US-23 overpass. I believe God had spared me so I could carry on till tomorrow… live on through three more decades worth of tomorrows… just to be there to help my folks when they had needed me the most.

November 1, 1988 ~ The rainbow, which told Mom and me that my terminally ill Dad’s storm was finally coming to an end… had assured us both that only death could bring his agony to an end.

April 16, 2011 ~ The sunbeams, which had acted as a Heaven to Earth conduit… streaming my Mother’s love, eternal, upon me. After an eight-year long silence… it had sure felt so good to “hear” my Mom, once again, “say”, “I Love You!”.

 

 

My U-Turn To Mom & Dad’s Downturn

By 1929… The economic collapse a.k.a. “The Great Depression” had reared its ugly head. That downturn did far more than reduce the U.S. economy to financial rubble. The societal stagnation was staggering. It put the lives of Americans on hold… inclusive of the two people who were to become my Mom and Dad.

By 1936… my folks-to-be had earned their degrees in education and were seeking public school teacher positions. But, with the economy gone bust, job opportunities were scarce. For those who could find work, the pay was lousy. Consequently, they had to put their careers on hold while waiting for the day when the economy would improve. In the meantime they found odd jobs to tide them over.

By 1947… the job situation did brighten a bit… they met each other… married… and started their family… but all that took place far later in life than normal. By the time I wound up entering this world, they were both 41 years old. In better economic times, they could’ve been grandparents by then.

By 1958… my earliest boyhood memories involved eating the cheapest cuts of bad tasting, gristly meat at our dinner table, my clothing’s patches having patches, and my family renting from a landlord slumlord whose house had a broken down, coal burning furnace… a patched together contraption, which could’ve easily carbon monoxide gassed us all to death.

And… re our unhealthy living conditions… I can see how hypertension is linked to poverty… it’s all that reaching for the saltshaker to mask the taste of unpalatable food. I also suspect the nausea and dizziness, which my family and I had experienced, was not influenza… a defective furnace flue would be the likely culprit.

By 1961… thanks to an FHA, 4% interest, 30-year mortgage, Mom, Dad, Sis and I got to move into our newly built three-bedroom ranch home… things were beginning to look up.

By 1967… teachers had won the right to bargain collectively. But they still had to go on strike to persuade the Board of Education members to pry open their hearts and the school district’s “wallet”. Had my Dad’s labor union failed, the American Dream would’ve remained something that ended each morning when our alarm clocks went off.

By 1975… when I walked through my college graduation day procession, my folks were in their early 60s and words such as “aging” and “ailing” did aptly describe them both.

With the intergenerational role reversal slowly but surely becoming the new reality, Mom and Dad were soon depending on me more and more. My choices were to either help them stay in their home sweet home… or run away from home. Since my soul has never been up for grabs (at any price) I stuck with them… to the very end.

By 1978… I had sacrificed my freedom to pursue employment consistent to my God given talents and college degree. To ensure I could stay close to home, I worked dead end, low wage retail jobs.

Eventually, my superiors did offer me a low-level management position. Of course, prior to accepting that promotion, I had to clearly spell out that I’d prioritize my family first… every time. They understood, which is not what one would normally expect from corporate big shots.

By 1988… Dad had overeaten and smoked himself into a diabetic, riddled with cancer condition and late, that year… into an early grave. Since he had been a chauvinist who insisted on doing all the driving… and my Mother had let her license expire / had gone along for that “ride”, she had to rely on me to do all the grocery shopping… to be her chauffeur. But… as we traveled down the road of life, some twists and turns had become inevitable.

By 2002… Mom had a heart attack. Roughly a year later she broke her femur. It was while convalescing in a nursing home, when pneumonia had asserted itself, and, in spite of her doctor’s best efforts, would not let her enter the road to recovery.

By 2003… Mom had passed through Earth’s Exit Signs. My final duty welcomed assignment was to write and deliver her eulogy. And once the curtains came down on her memorial service… there I sat all alone in the house that was now mine… doing something I had never, ever really done before… putting my needs at the top of my to do list.

In the days and weeks that followed, I came to the realization that while helping my parents… something else had been happening… something insidious. My friends, acquaintances, peers, business contacts and (last but not least) even some marriageable women had all slipped out of my life… perhaps forever.

By 2008… after three decade’s worth of retail’s heavy lifting / standing on my feet all day long … I had wrecked my body… all of that forcing my early retirement.

True, laparoscopic, outpatient surgery could fix the damage, but, in my lifetime, I’ve already been down that exact same road twice before… in other words… these surgical procedures had been, at best, only temporary… which means I could easily reinjure myself.

This does bring to mind the apt saying…

“Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice shame on me.”

Folks there’s not even a contingency for being fooled three times… so I’ll just have to improvise and coin an addendum to that adage.

“Fool me thrice and that makes me the biggest fool who never hit the big time.”

By 2016… By 1929… everything has come full circle… I am now, actually living in my Mom and Dad’s Great Depression… facing down my bare bones existence and an uncertain future… just as they had done four score and seven years ago.