It is hard, watching someone get old. Watching as even the simplest movements get harder and harder. Watching their frustration as they can’t do the things they have been doing for so long. Watching them waver, and stumble, and weaken.
I have been watching Opus very carefully this past week. I am trying to be there for her if she needs it. Mostly she doesn’t. Mostly she just sleeps.
Sometimes, The Bubby of old comes out, and she comes to me and demands something. But even then, it is hard for her. Her once lusty bellow has become a weak mew. She cannot lift her head up to look up at me without losing her balance. And she doesn’t come to me that often anymore.
When she does, I am trying to take advantage of it. I cuddle her. She cannot tolerate much of a cuddle anymore. It is hard on her old bones, hard to balance on my lap, and she’s nothing but skin and bones anyway so I imagine after awhile the petting becomes somewhat uncomfortable. But I try to anyway.
I talk with her. I explain to her what will happen. I tell her our routine for the day — waking, breakfast, napping, lunch. All the things she normally does. I tell her that she will get a visit from the Doctor. She will be coming to give her a needle. It’ll sting a little bit, but if she just relaxes, she’ll get drowsy and then fall asleep. I tell her that after that, the Doctor will give her one more needle. And after that, she can sleep as long as she wants to. Nobody will wake her. No noisy baby will bother her, or bothersome Duncan or Lucy. Her old bones won’t ache anymore. Her stomach won’t bother her. Her hearing and eyesight won’t be a problem. She can rest.
I tell her how much I will miss her. She looks at me with her old, old eyes. I hope that she understands.
I tell her that I do not know what will happen. She knows me well enough to know where I am coming from.
I want to believe in Heaven, and that I will see her again. I want to believe in capital-H-Heaven like I was taught as a child. I really do. I want to believe it, but I mostly don’t. But I hedge my bets, just in case. I tell her that if there is a Heaven, to go and wait for me there. I tell her to keep the divot in the middle of the bed warm for me. I want to believe I will show up somewhere one day and she will be there, demanding to be fed and petted and doG knows what else. I tell her these things.
She looks up at me with her old eyes. She knows me well enough to know that I haven’t a clue, but hope.
I want to believe in some sort of reincarnation thing. I want to believe in some sort of lifeforce that does not leave. I want to believe that when she dies, her life force will stay on and maybe stay with me. I want to believe that maybe she will be here to comfort me and love me as she has done all this time. I want her to stay with me because I need her.
I tell her that I hope she doesn’t feel like she is no longer needed. She saw me through my entire adult life so far. She saw me through bad choices, bad boyfriends, bad jobs. She saw me through a good relationship and showed her choice was final by sitting on the candidate, the Big Damn Hero. She saw me through a horrible miscarriage, and through long, tiring, demoralizing infertility treatment. She saw me through adoption, and the arrival of That Baby in our lives. She saw me through to a family who could now rally around me and take care of me.
But I still need her. I have no clue about motherhood. I didn’t have a mom. I don’t know what moms do or be. I am flying by the seat of my pants here. I haven’t got any idea how to deal with what motherhood will bring. I need her to comfort me on my bad mommy days. I need her to enjoy dance parties with That Baby and me. I need her to cuddle after a long day of parenting.
She looks up at me with her old eyes. She knows me well enough to know that I need her, that I will miss her. But she knows me well enough to know that I will think of her instead of me. She knows me well enough to know that I will let her go.
She’s ready to go. She needs to go.
It’s been a tough week. But we’re getting to a place, after all the waiting and the watching and the talking, where I think we will be okay with it. We will not be without tears. But we are getting used to the idea.