In spring of 2005, she wasn't feeling well and went to her doctors. Tests came up negative, but she knew something wasn't right. When things really seemed to be going wrong. she had a PET scan on August 24th. She was gone on October 30th. My step sister showed Giggles and I how to read the thing after Mom had passed. Nearly Mom's whole torso was black on this scan. According to L, black indicates cancerous cells.
Meanwhile, Mom was still driving her car, visiting friends and kept on keeping on until about six weeks before she died. The only things that she had altered in her routine in the last few months were that she had been using a cane because it hurt to walk, and she was on the Duragesic patches for pain. This bothered her greatly. She was very proud that she beat polio as a kid, long before Dr. Salk and Sabin came up with cures. She spent almost two years in hospitals and all you could see of that was the limp that came when she was very tired.
Maybe that glimpse at her mortality when she was seven is why she was such a vivacious person. She saw what had happened to others from Polio. At seven, she was aware of how bad it could be for her: wheelchair, walker, or death. In 1938, there wasn't much that could be done to treat the disease. It makes you wonder, how people survived when others didn't. Was it medicine, protocol or just the patient's resolve? A combination? Whatever it was that was needed-she had it. She learned to walk again.
Growing up, it seemed like Mom was always pushing herself when others would have stopped. She had energy that seemed to come from nowhere. I don't think caffeine and cigarettes could provide that much, because I know others who live on that and have nada in the energy department.
In 1998, she and my stepdad decided it was time to move to Florida full time and she would finally retire from working. My stepdad had retired years before, but took on various jobs to keep himself busy (a sanity saver for both of them, I am sure). Now it was her turn. I'd thought Florida was probably not the place for them. Several reasons for it, but the nickname "God's Waiting Room" definitely had been at the top of the list. This woman was definitely not in the 'waiting to die' camp.
How wrong I was. They moved into a community that my grandparents had purchased a double wide in back in the 70's on a bay close to the Gulf. Over the years, they had been vacationing in my grandparent's home, so they knew many of the residents on a level.
Once firmly settled, there wasn't a retirement, just a change in what would become Mom's full time endeavor. She remodeled the mobile. She got involved with the social committee of the community, eventually leading the entertainment crew. There was always something going on, some activity to take up her time.
I think Giggles can probably relate the same thing here, that if you called her on the phone, there was always somebody there with her at the house. She was saying hello to someone, or goodbye and thanks for visiting. Always.
The month that I stayed with them while waiting for Ed and the boys to make the move to Florida was a whirlwind. She was just as busy as she'd been when working, but now, it was to make sure all her neighbors were having fun, activities were happening and her good friend Jeanne was eating! In the four weeks at their place, there was a 4th of July BBQ, a pancake breakfast, a spaghetti dinner and two memorials for residents. If that's slowing down, I want to know what busy is, Mom!
My free time was spent running all over creation with her, getting a gift for this one, picking up tomatoes at the farm market for the barbeque, going to her beloved Burdines so she could shop (and now, to her delight, stopping at Dunkin Donuts to get some coffee, too). My stepdad complained to my mom that I worked too hard when he saw my schedule, but hey, all he had to do was look at his wife to see where it came from.
In the past couple of weeks, I've said to a few people that I finally feel like ME again. The type of person who can keep that pace. The past year, I felt like I was sitting in God's Waiting Room, without the energy to go, to do, to see, to BE. Thankfully, I got my dose of being my mom's daughter back.
Its frustrating when you want to do things and you can't. It's even more frustrating to see people who can and don't. Life isn't meant to be spent sitting and watching it pass by, it's meant to be enjoyed. The word Ed used to decribe my Mom was so apt: Vital. She enjoyed until almost the end.