You know, there comes a point in your life when you realize your parents are not immortal. Something happens, a heart attack, an accident, something that makes you realize your parents aren't bulletproof and that they are not always going to just be there. That there is going to come a point in your life that one or both of them will be gone and you'll never hear that voice again, or see those eyes watching you with amusement and love...
I faced that moment a long, long time ago.
When my dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer twelve years ago, it was scary, but I somehow knew he would survive it and live past the six month diagnosis he was given. And he did. He lived eight years longer than the doctors expected.
But I also knew when the end was coming, when he was having to go back again and again to have his esophagus dilated so he could swallow. And when they said the cancer was back, I knew he wasn't going to beat it this time.
I accepted it.
Then Hurricane Ike hit Texas and knocked out power to most of Houston, where they lived, and greatly accelerated the process. He was gone by November.
So, my mom, being a survivor, managed another year in the house she and my father had lived in for sixty some odd years, before frailty and fear made it impossible for her to live by herself. My oldest sister bought a house, and now she and Mom live together. And over the last few years, Mom has gotten thinner, has gotten smaller, and has gotten a little more vague.
My mother... is not immortal. She is very human. I accept that. And it seems over the last weeks, I've been getting more and more reminders of that fact.
She has Alzheimer's.
She has mild emphysema.
And this week, she had a mini-stroke.
She's back to her normal self now. Well, as normal as she gets these days, that is. And it's not easy, watching and hearing about it from a distance. I want to be there, but... I need to be here more. I need to be with my kids. They need me to be here with them, because to them, I'm still the Invincible Mom.
Over the last year, I've had this growing sense of Mom drifting farther and farther away from me, like I'm standing on shore, and she's standing on a boat. There will come a point where we won't be able to touch fingertips any more, and I dread that day. I dread the day when my own Invincible Mom drifts beyond my reach, when her stories and family history are gone.
I know it's coming. It may not be soon, but it's coming. I don't have to like it... but I do have to accept it.
And that's the hardest part of all.