I wrote this blog a few weeks ago… for some reason it felt too final to post then. But today seemed fitting.
One of our motivations for moving to Asheville was to help care for Michael’s parents. His dad now an 88 year old WWII veteran and his mom 71 with MS. When his mom’s house in north Asheville had become available to live in, we saw it as an opportunity to live close by and aid in their care. Aside from the shock of the state of the house and the urgent need to fix up the house as quickly as possible so that we could live and work, we were also in shock facing the urgent needs his parents were facing. Michael’s brother David for the past few months was their only caregiver. Balancing full time work and shuttling two parents with limited mobility had nearly drown him by the time we arrived. Michael’s dad was facing a foot amputation due to diabetes complications, and his mom was a few weeks away from a hip surgery she needed 6 months ago. We divided our efforts the best we could. Since Michael was familiar with the VA he would take over dad’s care and since David had been working with Mommy L to get her hip surgery for the last 6 months, he would help her. That was around May 8th.
The next four weeks were a blur of appointments for the house and Michael’s parents. It felt like the situation changed daily. When Mommy L went in for surgery June 1st, she was denied because of concerns over her test results. They sent her home. We were all so dissappointed, it was clear she was in so much pain. The three of us worked hard to make her comfortable. A few weeks later, she was in so much pain she had to be transported to the hospital. Her nurse got involved and advocated on her behalf finally getting her approved for the surgery.
That ended up being the last time I saw her. 6 days later she died from surgery complications. It took us all by surprise. It seemed like everything was getting better. Michael, David, and I were all in a comfortable routine of checking in and getting his parents what they needed. It was devistating.
I feel like I have been in Asheville for lifetimes. Every day has been different. Every challenge has felt insurmountable. And since the passing of Mommy L, it hasn’t changed. In fact, these past 16 days have been the longest and most challenging yet. As if fixing up an 80 year old house wasn’t hard enough, without Joan it feels impossible. This house was her’s and was passed down to her from her parents. She grew up here. And with every change and every modification we got to hear her input. How old this was or that was. What was behind that wall or when that was added on. It was invaluable not only to morale to keep us motivated to finish but seeing her light up about having hope for this house. That it could be modern, clean, and well maintained was so positive for all of us.
I have been reflecting on the last time I really got to sit and chat with Joan. It was just a few days before my 30th birthday. She told me about her life at 30. It was one year after her horrific car accient. The accident occured early one morning as he drove to the school where she worked as a teacher. A highly intoxicated man ran a red light plowing into Joan. She recalled “I came to on the hospital bed and I looked down to see if my legs were still there, and I couldn’t see my feet.” There was so much damage to her feet they were pointed backward. After almost 30 surgeries and with extreme determination, at 30 years old Joan recalled trying to learn to walk again though most of the bones in her feet and ankles were now fused together. And Mommy L did walk again too despite doctors predictions. She walked down the aisle soon after when she married Charlie. I only knew her in the last 6 years and they were probably her most painful years as she had been diagnosed with MS and yet, I couldn’t help but feel inspired by her.
The struggles she had over come and the quckiest driest wit I have ever encountered. Honestly, she could laugh about almost anything. Her specialty though, was tradegy. She survived so much that when times got stressful or difficult she had an incredible ability to create humor. And I say create humor and not just laugh because that is really what she did. She was so creative and poetic. Over the past few weeks Michael and I have been surprised by how much we have grieved the future. Of course he has had a past to grieve as well. But it seemed things were getting so much better. This surgery was going to enable her to come out to the house and see all the progress we had made. We had made plans to have Thanksgiving out here this year. And she had been involved in every decision about the house, the paint colors, the flooring, and future decorating ideas. She was a very talented interior decorator.
Not only is the fate of the house we live in uncertain as we deal with the dessoloution of her estate, the purpose feels uncertain as well. I am so grateful we made it to Asheville the day we did. I am also so grateful that the last weeks of her life were filled with paint and flooring swatches and positive plans for a future with her son whom she hadn’t seen in a couple years and who hadn’t lived near by in 12 years. We miss you so much Mommy L