On Thursday morning I put my daughter and I on an airplane and flew to Tampa, FL. We got a rental car and drove the 45 minutes to my mother's apartment building. She is living in an eight-story high-rise now. I can't even guess how many apartments are there.
Anyway we arrived in time for an early lunch, or brunch for us. Mom led us to a rundown strip mall to a "family" place that made me raise my eyebrows. Inside the owner was friendly, and breakfast was always on the menu. I was grateful for the coffee after the 3am wakeup for the trip. My daughter had brought her "sharing book" and caught grandma up on her life in the past year. It had been two years since we'd seen her so it was a good ice breaker.
After lunch we proceeded to a beach that was recommended. It was nice, on the Gulf of Mexico. I got my daughter changed into the bathing suit that I had packed in the carry-on luggage, and we had made sure my mother had clean beach towels waiting for us on arrival (I sent them as her birthday gift in March). I was too exhausted to swim, but my daughter got wet and mom did too. Collecting shells and enjoying the water, even as it sprinkled. My daughter had fun. That was the important thing.
Back in the car mom wanted us to meet her boyfriend. My daughter didn't want to. She's seven years old. This became an interesting situation. Where do you choose your battles? Whose boundaries are more important? I felt very conflicted. I wanted to be polite, and honor my mother's desire to share her life with us. However, I also know that the boyfriend is addicted to marijuana and painkillers. So I am not in any hurry to have him be an important part of my life. My daughter bailed us out. She fell asleep in the car on the way to the restaurant. I met the boyfriend in the parking lot, and passed my mother over him. I explained the early wake-up and the long plane ride, and said "maybe tomorrow". I left my mother with him to go to dinner, and I made the hour drive to my hotel. My daughter woke up just before I got us there.
We had some wonderful bonding unloading the luggage and getting our room ready. Then we walked in the rain to a nearby restaurant and sat on the covered patio listening to music, watching the rain, and looking out on the bay. It was a nice dinner. We found a small store to get some milk and snacks, and watched a couple of ducks waddling around randomly. Back in our room we saw a rainbow over the water and palm trees. It was a simple and beautiful night.
The next day we drove again to see my mother. We did the sightseeing we had planned to do. My mother used a bad word and I told her so. Another grandmother told her to watch it too. I was glad it didn't just come from me. Then mom tried to take us to a beach that was covered in crabs. It was close to her house but man... my daughter said "no way". I tried to be brave and power through it but eventually I had to agree. It was just not acceptable. So we got in the car, over mom's protests, and went back to the beach we had gone to the day before. This time I had my bathing suit and I swam in the salty water. The weather was nicer too so that helped.
Once again we were faced with the issue of The Boyfriend wanting to have dinner with us. This was really hard for me. I wanted to support both my mother and my daughter. Finally my mother decided that he probably wasn't feeling well enough (or maybe it was too late) or whatever.. but we didn't include him. We went to an IHOP just the three of us. It was near her apartment so it was a short ride home after it was over.
She didn't mention my weight. I didn't mention hers. We tried very hard not to fight. My daughter got to see her grandmother and share with her. They splashed water at each other, collected shells, and enjoyed a boat ride on a river. Hopefully a memory was made for both of them.
It was hard work, it was expensive, and it was a reminder that my mother is growing older and will die with the diseases I have known her to have. She is not getting better. She never will. She is who she is.
I'm having nightmares now. Nightmares of being disabled, poor, lost, and alone. Maybe nightmares of what it might feel like to be in her shoes. My subconscious knows something I don't. Something I can't articulate well. I am aware of this. I am grieving, coping, and hoping I am doing the right things.
There but for the grace of God go I.