In the back of an old notebook I use to study Spanish, I discovered the draft of a letter dated August 31, 1993. During that summer my mom had fallen several times. My letter followed a very bad fall at a community pool. All of this was baffling because my mom had always been in good physical shape. She had once dreamed of becoming a PE teacher. In her late 70′s she still loved to swim and play shuffleboard. She could ride a bike. A New Yorker, she thought fast and talked fast. She also walked fast, always with purpose. Her balance was great. And yet, she kept falling and no one could say why.
I’ve been thinking about our conversation Monday evening. You told me not to call you every day. This makes me feel out of touch with you. I understand you are feeling helpless and upset about being in the hospital with all the inconveniences which accompany that. I also understand being asked to talk daily about how uncomfortable you are makes you more upset. But if you tell me not to call you and you tell your friends not to visit, then you’re going to feel worse!
I can hear you say, “Nobody can do anything to make this better.” Maybe that’s true, on a physical level. But your friends and your family love you and we want to show our love by calling and visiting. It may not make you feel better physically, but that love will make you feel much better on an emotional level. You need that. Everybody needs that.
I have no record of how or even if my mom responded to that letter. But maybe she thought about it. During that dreadful winter, she became increasingly less steady on her feet. Then my mom did something she never even considered… she left her beloved New York and moved to California to be near me.
In the spring, someone finally explained what was going on. My mom had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). She died on Christmas Eve, 1994 at the age of 79. I think her move toward me and David and the kids was her way of acknowledging that, while no one could cure her illness, being near her family did a whole lot of good for her. It did a whole lot of good for us too.