Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Running before the storm

Mom, Sunday
Sunday I was torn, yet again, between my mother and my children.

Any plans I'd had for the next few days were scotched by the coming of Sandy, a "Frankenstorm" of supposedly biblical proportion.

And this meant especially that I would not be spending Monday with my Mom at her Long Island nursing home, but instead in my home, holed up with the kids, as school was being cancelled. Furthermore, if the storm proceeded as forecast (and it did, as we all know, rather exceed expectations) it would be days and days before I could get out to see her again.

The choice was clear: Sunday or not until Friday at the soonest, if that.

My practical mind told me not to go. Driving was out of the question, as the mere possibility of car trouble, accidents, etc. stranding me out on Long Island for the week was giving me palpitations. But the subway and train option was not ideal either, as New York City's entire transit system was being shut down preemptively at 7pm that evening.

And yet... and yet... my heart told me to go.

And my gut.

Because as much as Mom does not consciously remember my visits, at some deep, other level, she knows. And it affects her in all ways, physical and mental.

Things happen. The initial fall. The middle of the night sink vs. face incident. The butter knife fiasco. These all occurred after a missed visit. They all happened on the rare occasion of there being more than a week's passing since I had last seen my mother. Or, more germanely, since she had last seen me.

So I feel that while she may not remember my time with her, something in her psyche does, and she unravels a bit, if that's missing.

Now this may be all malarkey. It might be coincidence. I may be borrowing guilt for no good reason. But what if I'm not wrong?

And then there's that other thing: what if I don't go and something happens during the storm?

So I fought with myself a bit; crowd-sourced my decision by posting my dilemma to FaceBook, but ended up, of course, taking only the advice that fit in with my gut feeling, unshakable, that this trip needed to be done.

And so it was.

I would have to time it very well. No chance to linger. I would have to catch my train home well before the last subway was leaving Penn Station.

(Such an odd concept to a native New Yorker: the "last subway" being normally non-existent in this, the city that never sleeps. I remember being shocked when I lived in Boston for a college summer to discover the T stopped at midnight, and equally appalled by Paris's dernier métro.)

Going out, I was lucky with the subway, a number two train pulling in moments after I'd arrived in the station, so I made my train with time for Starbucks (there just may be a god).

I arrived to find Mom playing bingo, a new-found pleasure she finds as embarrassing as it is enjoyable (she likes to win, my mother does).

And then, too, a brief visit from Uncle Walter - Mom's 85 year-old "baby brother" - who came bearing flowers, fruit and chocolates, as always.

Mom and Walter at the BINGO table

Owing her a manicure for many weeks running now, I managed to get Mom's nails done as she played, no mean feat.

"I love it when you do my nails" Mom always tells me. But getting her to remember they're wet and hold her hands still long enough for them to dry unmarred is quite another story. (I've figured out to do them one at a time. It takes twice as long, but is the only way it works without tears.)

Still, it's a tangible reminder that I've come, and this is a very good thing. "Your nails are lovely" everyone tells her, and she answers "My daughter did them!"

And then she remembers, she knows (at least for the next few minutes) that I was there.

Just Write


  1. What a sweet story! Having had a grandfather in a nursing home, I have a glimpse of what you face. A technique that has stood me in good stead is this: I imagine myself a week, a month, a year or more in the future, and ask myself what will I wish I had done? Invariably, it gives me a much clearer perspective than from where I am standing today.
    Your mom's nails are lovely, btw!

  2. I would've had to make the trip as well. Guilt is such a nasty thing. :) Glad to know you were well received and it settled everyone's heart.

  3. You are the best daughter, Varda. The very best.


    PS. My offering today is a Halloween story poem if you'd like to take a look before the 31st passes us by:

    Halloween Horror: A Ghostly Tale

  4. Oh Varda. What a beautiful post! What ^Sue^ said...you are a wonderful daughter!


  5. Glad you went. And glad you got home in time.

  6. So true, Varda.

    The joy she gets every time she looks at her nails: the pride of a clean, kept appearance.

    So small but HUGE with regard to value and self pride.

  7. I love the way you write about your mother. The love radiates from your words and, yet, we can feel the frustration of being torn, as well. You have a gift, Varda.

  8. You always have to go with your gut. I am hoping that your family came through the storm okay.

  9. So beautiful. And so touching. Am thinking of you and your sweet mom, as I know the storm was rough on you. Coming by from Pour Your Heart Out.

  10. So glad you got in your visit!

  11. This is touching and heartening. These moments, rooted in anxiety and sadness now, will bring you comfort and joy down the road. I'm glad you had this time with her and she had this time with you.


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!