“One foot in front of the other,” she says….

I hear these words from mom as I prepare lunch for us today. She’s on the phone talking with my sis. Thankfully, mom’s attitude and mood is markedly different from the day before and though I should be happy about this, I can only be cautiously (and cynically) optimistic. The monster roller-coaster ride after Kurt’s passing continues and although mom is much more pleasant today I’m still feeling the effects of yesterday. In a word, I am exhausted.

Fortunately I don’t have to do much with meal preparation today since we’ll be dining on leftovers from a delicious meal prepared the day before by my friend visiting from Northern Virginia. “Evil Twin” is arguably not the best moniker for my lovely friend but trust me folks, it’s meant to be endearing and it seemed perfectly suited to a moment in time during our first months together as office mates over 14 years ago. It’s a name that stuck and we both treasure it.

I’m counting down the days when I can return home….I’ve got three weeks to go and I’m not sure I will arrive at my destination with my head and heart in one piece. Point in fact: I teared-up today at the check-out counter at the grocery store. The cashier didn’t have the price on an item that I had placed in my shopping cart. Well,” she said “I’ll just charge you 50 cents for this.”

“Oh thank you,” I said with fatigue in my voice. “Every little bit helps right now,” I said. I went on to share that I’ve been in Arizona for over two months now trying to help my disabled mother in the aftermath of her husband’s (my step-father) passing. She goes on the share that she took care of her disabled mother for twenty years. At this, I start crying and of course, I’m thoroughly embarrassed. I’m suddenly conscious of an older gentleman standing behind me in the check-out line so I try to quickly pull myself together. I’m trying to swipe my credit card but can barely follow the prompts through eyes blurred with tears. “I don’t know how you did that,” I said. “Truthfully,” said the woman, “I was much younger and if I had to do that now, I couldn’t.”

I didn’t even bother to go into my story of having to take care of my mother in my teens, when she was bed-ridden for nearly six months….or her time living with me after I married for the first time….or years later through other health issues. No doubt that would cause a torrent of tears on this sympathetic stranger with a New Jersey accent.

Yes folks, I’m worn out…physically and mentally…and the ordeal is not over, not by a long shot. There are simply too many days where I feel lost in a fog of exhaustion and sadness as I deal with a mother who not only refuses to help herself but refuses to cooperate with her daughters too, in the process of moving foward. Sis and I are doing sommersaults practically Cirque du Soleil style trying to get our mother to understand that she must move forward and live the best life she can for the years that are left. I firmly believe this is possible although mom does not. Her mood swings are (and have always been) a roller-coaster ride that would put any of the Six Flags parks to shame. Still folks, I am embracing this “UP” kind of a day with mom and I’ll cling tightly to my childishly hopeful exuberance that mom is turning the corner and will….this time….move forward with positive purpose.

The silver lining in all of this (and really, there are many) is the love and support of treasured people along the way. “Evil Twin” listened to days of my Good, Bad, and the Ugly stories….as did my California “mom” when she visited for a long weekend. They provided strong shoulders and loving hugs during a tremendously difficult time and though they perhaps had strong opinions or judgements of their own about what they witnessed and heard during their visit, they kept them to themselves providing unconditional love and support. And of course, my most cherished champions of all…Rocket-man, sis and bro-in-law….I could not have lasted a day without their love.

Truly….Love (and time) heals all things.