During the summer of the year 2000 my parents sold their home in Leander, Texas and moved to San Angelo, Texas to a new home which had been built next door to my sister Christine and her husband’s home. Dad was 80 years old at the time and in apparent good health. Mom was 76 years old, though she would never have admitted her age. Mom had a number of health problems. Mom’s knees gave her a lot of pain and her memory and ability to communicate were growing more limited as the years passed. The doctor later suggested that mom had had a number of small strokes; each of the strokes stole away her memories bit by bit and limited mom’s ability to function. The move to San Angelo would be a blessing for mom and dad, as the house was smaller; there were no stairs to use and the closeness of Christine would offer help when necessary. Dad was also complaining of the difficulty of driving in Austin, where they did most of their shopping and frequently ate out. They had lived in the Austin area for more than 20 year,s but traffic was increasing with the increased population.
My husband and I visited mom and dad in their new home some months after they had moved in. We were pleased with my parent’s new lifestyle and looked forward to many visits. I drove to San Angelo by myself for the next visit – a drive of about 200 miles. It had become obvious to me that mom was no longer cooking. Besides mom and dad’s usual morning breakfast of cereal and milk, their everyday lunches at a local restaurant had to supply their nutritional needs. I knew that I could help in this area.
My plan was to make a visit every couple of months. During my time in San Angelo I would cook meals that mom and dad enjoyed and freeze individual servings which could be taken out of the freezer when needed. In addition, I would be available for chores which mom was no longer doing – things like defrosting the freezer or cleaning the refrigerator or even vacuuming or gardening. It later became obvious that Dad was taking care of the vacuuming and perhaps even doing the laundry. Movement was difficult for mom due to the pain in her knees. Because of the onset of dementia, surgery for mom’s knees was not an option.
During one of the visits mom and I were seated at the breakfast room table having lunch. Mom looked at me and asked me how I could leave my husband for so long, how could he manage by himself and didn’t I miss being with him? I replied in as simple a way as I could, telling mom that sometimes Larry and I would do things separately, and then we would have new things to talk about when we were back together. Mom seemed confused by what I said.
My dad was standing nearby and heard the conversation. Dad could see that mom was troubled by what I said, so he offered a few words of his own. Dad said, “your mom and I are old. We know that we don’t have that much more time left to be together, so we want to spend all the time we have left with one another.” Mom seemed satisfied by what dad had said. I was surprised by dad’s words as it wasn’t usual for my dad to express such deep and emotional thoughts. Now thinking about his words brings tears to my eyes.
Dad was right about the time that he and mom had left together. Dad lived only a couple more years during which time he was quite ill and unable to help his wife. Mom lived on another three years after dad’s passing, always asking for him, unsure of what had happened to him, no matter how we tried to comfort her.
Mom and dad had been married for 58 years when the breakfast room conversation occurred. Now that my husband and I have been married a little more than 50 years, I understand a little of what my dad was saying. Living together for such a long time makes us dependent on one another. The thought of being on our own is frightening to us. Over the years of a marriage living tasks have been apportioned to one another, almost without thinking about it.
The sight of one another’s face in the morning, the voice of the other person, even the usual things that we do for one another would be difficult to live without. In my parent’s case, they had truly become one person. They had fallen in love with one another so many years before, and the love they had for each other had only grown to where being without that love was unthinkable.
I know that mom and dad are together once more now and for all eternity in God’s Kingdom of Love. My sister Christine and I had experienced something strange and wonderful after mom’s passed away, which we believed was a sign of their being together again. A few years later I saw both mom and dad together at Jill’s bedside in the hospital when Jill was gravely ill. My family has gone before me. I am trusting that someday I will be with them again.