In the early hours of Sunday, July 19, 2015, my 86-year-old mother, Beatriz Diaz-Granados, died of complications from dementia, heart failure, and the effects of a five-year-long confinement to a hospital-type bed in what used to be our guest bedroom in our small Miami-area townhouse.
Since then, my life has undergone a series of unforeseen (and in some cases, unwanted) changes. These include, in no particular order, a battle royale in probate court over my mother’s estate, a sad – but not exactly surprising – estrangement from my older half-sister Vicky, the sale of the townhouse I shared with Mom from 1978 to 2015, and a move to another city that might as well be a galaxy away from my old life and familiar surroundings.
Although I don’t, as a rule, write a lot about my mother or my other family members on this blog, and I usually don’t reminisce about her with the people I now live with, she’s never really absent from my thoughts.
It’s sad and eerie, but sometimes my mind wanders and I think that my mom is still around and waiting for me to go talk to her about what she had done lately, inform her about my daily activities. You know, just to chat about stuff. Or simply to watch movies we both liked.
Then I look around and realize that (a) she’s been gone for nearly five years and (b) that my circumstances have changed radically from what she had planned/hoped for me.
As I, like billions of my fellow humans, try to adjust to life in the time of COVID-19, I try hard to draw strength from my experiences as my mom’s primary caregiver. And oddly enough, comparing my present life to the stressful five-year-long via crucis of my mother’s final illness is comforting.
For instance, even though I’m affected adversely by social distancing like most of us who are complying dutifully with stay-at-home orders and avoiding unnecessary (and potentially fatal) exposure to the model coronavirus, at least I don’t have to worry about:
- The effects of negative news on my mother’s emotional health
- The corrosive effects of squabbling with a toxic family member while trying to run a household and be a sick parent’s caregiver
- The ability to be a caregiver at all under the social-distancing conditions imposed on us by the COVID-19 pandemic
- Coping with the challenges of caring for a parent with dementia
I miss my mother terribly. I really do.
But considering the emotional and physical toll that taking care of her from the spring of 2010 to the summer of 2015 exacted on me, I am fortunate that my mom was spared from the double whammy of a Trump presidency (she was a dedicated progressive who voted for Democratic candidates from the day she became a U.S. citizen in 1996 until 2012) and the coronavirus pandemic. She would have been in panic mode constantly, either about the fate of the U.S. and the world at large under a most inept and undiplomatic President, or, as a parent, the well-being of her two adult children.