Thanksgiving Day Weekend 2006 she had put chili in the crock pot that morning...at dinnertime when we went to serve it, the crock pot had never been plugged in. Warning bells and red flags went up. I became the one that had to call her, many times getting her answering machine when I knew that she was home. Over the humming of the long distance phone lines, her words began sounding tired and slurred, as she started telling the same stories over and over again. She would cut our phone conversations short. Never before had we ever hung up without being on the phone with each other at least 30 minutes. When questioned about her health, she would always cut me off, telling me that she felt fine. I felt her pulling away from me.
In September 2007, my mom suffered a mild stroke. She was also diagnosed with Emphysema and COPD. She could no longer live alone. After she was released from the hospital, she went to live with my brother. Three short months later, she came to my house. It was then that the trouble started.
My mom was my best friend.....and in 5 short months, she became my enemy. I only wanted the best for her. I wanted her to quit smoking, take her medicine and wear her oxygen. Instead, she grew angry with me. She got livid if I didn't go out and buy her cigarettes, and got even angrier when I asked that she please smoke outside. She told me she hated my cooking, and that I wasn't taking good care of her...that my husband took better care of her than I did. She was grouchy with my pets, whom she had always loved and spoiled. I looked at my husband in helpless surrender.....my mother hated me.
After a back injury, and a broken hip, my mother went to live in a nursing home. I was devastated....I had always vowed never to let that happen. We could not provide the care that she needed, so the difficult decision was made.
After she went into the home, I would fall asleep each night, thinking "I want my mommy.......". My mom....who had cared for me unselfishly all through my childhood and beyond..... she used to wash my waist-length hair, and comb it out gently after my bath, using No More Tears - That product and its fragrance has the exact opposite effect on me to this day, bringing tears to my eyes when I catch its scent, memories flashing in my mind of warm summer evenings, freshly bathed and ready to be tucked in. She would to read to me every night. I would fall asleep to the sound of her husky voice reading: Where The Wild Things Are, Daddy Long Legs, The Secret Garden and Charlotte's Web. Her cool fingers would brush back the hair from my hot forehead when I was sick. Playing The Fish Game with me in our upstairs bathroom....turning off the light and putting her hand over one of the brightly colored fish on our wallpaper, then turning on the light and asking me to guess what color she was hiding. My mom....who sewed alot of my clothes....gave me the most amazing birthday parties, taught me how to twirl a baton, took me for picnics in the park, made lunch for me every day (peanut butter and jelly, always with the crusts cut off) and drove me to and from school every day, singing along with the radio "Crocodile Rock" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". She was my biggest fan when I made the cheerleading squad, and came to every game...she listened to my stories about my days at school, and held me and kissed my tears away when some silly boy broke my heart. We shopped together for my prom and graduation dresses... she took me out for drinks on my 18th birthday, bought me my first pair of designer jeans...... and stayed up all night with me the night before my first wedding, taking care of me, sick with an upset stomach, asking me if I was sure I wanted to get married...I wanted that mom back, and was afraid that she was gone forever.
She stopped speaking to me. I would go to visit her at the nursing home....bring her flowers, books, candy, milk shakes. She would turn her head away from me and stare at the wall. I quit going to see her. I stayed away.
This went on for 3 months. Until finally, I decided that I couldn't live this way. I missed my mother. Even though I knew that the stroke had changed her, and that she would never be the same again, I had to try to repair the damage that had been done. I had to learn to forgive. I went to therapy. I did my homework. And I began visiting my mother, and talking to her.....even though she turned her face to the wall when I spoke....I kept talking. "I joined Weight Watchers, Mom...I've lost 5 lbs. My job is going great....I'm reading a really good book right now.....Steve got a promotion......" Finally, one day she turned her wheelchair around to face me. She looked at me...and nodded. I was reminiscing out loud to her and got teary-eyed. I heard a husky dry voice ask "Why...are...you.....crying?" She had spoken to me.
Today, she is back to her old self. During our visits, we laugh, she cusses like a sailor, like she always has, and we have a good time. She is a favorite with the nurses. I can truly say that we have weathered the storm together, and came out unscathed. I could not have done it without the support of my therapist, my loving husband, and a strong-will to bring my mother back. Now at the end of our visits, she kisses and hugs me, and tells me "I love you, Sweetheart...thanks for coming to see me." There will never be another Katie Mingrone....she is my one-in-a-million ~ I love you, Mom.