“I can’t live, if living is without you.”.
The lyrics from the Air Supply Song of the late 1980s sprung to mind last night, as Mom came to me after their return from a Memorial Day Picnic celebration with friends and shared with me her most recent news.
Several months ago now, a friend from her Scandinavian social group had died of an aggressive cancer. She left behind her dear husband. Last night, Mom shares with me that this husband had expressed grief recently, stating he didn’t know how he would be able to live without her. It’s an expression, I am sure, often heard in these circles- as friends pass. This group is primarily senior in age, with people mostly in their 70s and 80s.
“You did hear about Bjarte didn’t you?” She asks, seemingly certain I should already know the news.
“No, Mom- what about Bjarte?”.
“He shot himself.”
“Mom – oh my, when did it happen? He shot himself?”
Mom nods “yes, they found him. The trauma of it put his daughter in law in the hospital. It happens you know, often with men. They can’t handle life when their wives did everything for them.”
I think of Mom and how she does every single thing for Dad. He would be lost without her. I would be there of course, if that happened. But it is true in that generation, the women cook, clean, lay out the clothes. It’s fairly common that these men just sit back on retirement and the wife does everything. She takes care of their bills. She now does the driving. She takes care of his pills.
She looks at me. “We must make time to go through everything. We just don’t know from day to day how much time we have. I need you to have a full understanding of all of his pills – it’s so important that you know the proper dosage of his blood pressure pills”. She looks away, and then at me again “and mine too, you need to know my list of pills.” I nod. “Yes, Mom- it’s very important, we must make the time”.
She continues “you need to know where everything is. Our papers. Everything”. I nod again and look her in the eye and hold her hand “of course, everything” I say.
It’s such a tender part of life, those years when friends- one after the other, pass away. Some suddenly, others after years of suffering.
“How many were at the party?” I interrupt the bleakness of the moment.
“About fifteen or so” she offers.
“How did they like your store bought lemon cake?” I ask with a smile.
“I don’t know, no one said, but I loved it. It was so delicious. Just like a homemade Blottkake from Norway” she smiled at me. “No one noticed, there were a lot of store bought items”.
I was glad she had opted to buy the cake. She had been stressed about it the day before and had procrastinated and had a headache that morning. It was good that she had given herself permission to buy instead of bake. In this case, anyway.
“The table was full of things and there were several deli containers – people do that you know?” She reflects “they just go to the deli and buy a pasta salad and their done”. “It’s ok to do that from time to time, Mom. No one will fault you for a barbecue or picnic” I offer.
“Hey you” she coos to my sweet Sofie lying next to me on a pillow. “Are you still lounging around?” She reaches for Sofie and Sofie just gazes back at he, her typical luxuriant self. I tap Sofie’s bottom gently to urge her to move closer to Mom. “Come now Sofie, say hi” I tease gently and she responds by moving right up to Mom and allowing herself within range of her caresses. “She is so beautiful” Mom says. She moves her hand up and down her silky fur. She smiles and gets up from the bed. “Well, I better head up” she says. “Goodnight, Mom”. “Goodnight, Katherine- love you.” “I love you too, Mom”.
She retreats and I linger on thoughts of her tonight. Hearing the news about Bjarte. The shock of it all. All of the people she has had to say goodbye to in the past year. Her likely reflection on mortality and the reality of it all. She is nearly eighty years old now. They are both so young in spirit, most of the time. But I see the slower pace. And, her difficulty in climbing the stairs, her right knee troubling her. Her hearing and her memory at times. Signs of age. And, Dad, nearing ninety.
While I will sit with her to go over everything, we will not focus on that inevitable moment in time when I will have to say goodbye to them. Instead, live each moment of each day as a celebration of the day we have today. We must cherish each day. And, I will plan fun outings to make the mundane more exciting. They have stopped traveling, so we must plan outings to celebrate our home city and state. Make life special. Each day.
And I must not focus on those words from Air Supply. I must find joy in moments alone so that I can must the courage to live without them, when the time comes.