Yesterday, there were no smiles from Betty. She seems to be conserving energy.
There were kisses returned from me and blown across the room – albeit weakly - to her caregivers. They are a new family now of more than 8 months of exchanging care with Betty. She let them know - through touch, that universal language – that she was deeply grateful. A very civil exchange - no drama - that cut through a lot of human separation and isolation. Many mention "She rubbed my back when I leaned over to change her." Or "She patted my hand when I was helping her."
She just took permission. This remnant of who she was in the world, is still echoing for me and any others that knew her and are still here (e.g. alive and awake) to look.
We had two calls from ones that are still of this world: two brothers of her three. I have a favorite brother - but I have grown to accept and (sometimes) even appreciate the other two.
I appreciate Jim. A career Marine, and pilot now retired, " Jim is in the early stages of Alzheimers..." says Vianne, his wife introducing the call. Vianne is a Middle West woman that was put on this Earth - like a prairie Quan Yin Goddess or a Mother Teresa who is content with tending her own garden. She is sweet and appreciated like a remembering of your wonderful, cool swimming hole from a hot childhood summer.
"He won't talk much but probably just listen." She explained.
I put it on speaker phone and spoke to Betty. "Hey my darling, it is your brother Jim on the line." She looked hard at my face for clues as to what is happening.
Jim listened too.
I resisted my 'good woman", (social lubricant) impulse to fill in the conversation. It was their - probably - last conversation they would ever have. I thought about my dead brother and wished for that sweet chance.
Jim reached out, " Betty? Are you there?
Betty nodded her head.
"Jim," I said " "She is absorbing your voice - keep talking."
"Betty, I am about 10 years behind you. I will see you then. We can be together again in 10 years. I love you."
I could see my mother trying to process this. Present time was very confusing already. She has two granddaughters in Wichita that are 5"9 and 6.0. That is confusing. She has a middle aged daughter - (me.) That is confusing. She has a body that is not working - that is confusing. Where are all her husbands and why are they not here? That is confusing. Did you say it was 2011? THAT IS CONFUSING. But her career Marine, brother talking about the afterlife...
She did what we humans do every day of our lives, she edited out what did not fit.
She recognized his voice.
"Jim?" Her expression changed; it softened; something very sweet was remembered.
"I love you, too."
...and all that really matters - they said it. It was complete.
My favorite Uncle called later in the afternoon from Tulsa. The conversation with Rick and Jessica painted a picture for Betty of a vibrant downtown Tulsa, where they were going dancing at the Cain's Ballroom - Rick even stepped into the Ballroom where the music was happily blaring - "Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys' were there - without Bob and with the Tulsa Playboys. She smiled.
They said that All Souls (our church in Tulsa, that I was born into) had grown to be too big for their Sanctuary on Peoria St. and they are looking to move downtown.
"You were so involved in All Souls when you were here, I knew you would be interested."
Betty said " We are interested, Thank you." It was the first full sentence from her today.
Such happy news - I saw Betty, wanting to go home, to Tulsa and partake of the party that she started there. She had danced at the Cain's many times.
"We love you, Betty." said Rick for them both.
" I love you, too."