Here are some pictures that will stay with me for the rest of my life when I think back on my time with my parents during Mother's hospice time.
Here is a glimpse into our Saturdays and Sundays together. I usually get to Walterboro between 9 and 10 am. Dad always has the back door unlocked for me, so I just go on in. Mother is, of course, in her hospital bed in the dining room, while Dad is in his recliner in the living room. We go through just about the same thing each time. When I ask her what she had for breakfast, she invariably says, "Ginger's cake." You see, I alternate baking her this lemon bundt cake (in *her* bundt pan she gave me a few years ago) and an apple bread. She likes a slice with her morning black coffee. A bundt cake like this will last her about two weeks. She always tells Dad not to eat too much of it.
Sometimes then, Dad will leave and go run errands to Walmart, the Dollar General, and other stores. He has his list, mostly for snack items like in the above picture. It is funny because when he is gone, Mother usually says, "I don't know what he has in there (meaning the kitchen snack corner). He doesn't tell me what he buys." When I took the snack counter picture above, I took my phone to her to show her. She shook her head. Sometimes she says, "Well, he doesn't offer me anything." I have to add that she is horribly allergic to corn and any corn products. He has to make sure corn syrup is not in anything he gives her, and we know that is difficult. She does get potato chips and there is a type of cookie she can eat.
Between 10 and 10:30, which is not long after I get there, she begins the lunch talk. There is great debate on what we will have for this very important meal. Most of the time on Saturday Dad will go get our lunches. She pours over the menu from Daily Land, or she will ask him what coupons he has for Wendy's....or she will ask how we feel about shrimp fried rice from the Chinese restaurant. There have been times when he has gone to two different fast food joints to get our orders.
Sundays I cook. Dad will often go to their church's Agape service on the second Sunday. No matter, at 10:30 Mother starts telling me she needs the radio to listen to their church's 11 o'clock service on the radio. A few minutes to 11, I put the radio on her hospital tray and turn it on for her. Then, I go into the kitchen and begin cooking. We have the same thing now each week. Two students from my earliest years teaching married and live in the same neighborhood. They and their son are rabid fishermen. We have enough fish for about a dozen meals. I prepare Caleb's fish and the baked potatoes and salad. By the time Mother finishes listening to the church service, it is time to eat.
Sometimes after lunch on either day, we will take a nap. I go to the back bedroom, turn on the fan, and close the door. I might sleep for half an hour or so. Because I am a light sleeper, I hear anything Mother says. Dad naps in his recliner while he can.
Along about 2:30 I bathe her. I have written of this before. About a month ago, Dad asked, "I bet you never thought you would be changing your mother." I replied, "You do what you have to do." All of that routine is just second nature now, and I can bathe her in twenty minutes. Afterwards, I leave for home.
I thank God for the sweet memories I am making now. Long after they are gone I will have these pictures and this blog to look back on. Those pictures encapsulate what I will remember most about my time with my parents. Dad's love of all things snacky will resonate with me forever. The above picture is his main snack stash, but he has some in my childhood bedroom, which became Matthew's tv room in later years. He also has some in the hall closet, though when Mother had me look last weekend, it was empty of snacks. I don't keep any unhealthy food in my house, but when I go to my parents' house, my mind goes back to my childhood, and I have some of his junk food...be it chips or ice cream, I am a kid again.
Before closing, I have to explain the dishwasher-turned-pantry. Several years ago I was looking for something---it may have been crackers---and Mother said to open the dishwasher. I didn't know they no longer used it. There were the crackers. She has had both shoulders replaced and can not reach up. For practicality, they moved most of their every day food items to the dishwasher. What an ingenious idea for the elderly or handicapped.