Tuesday, January 17, 2006

mothers & daughters

Sunday evening DH and I went out for a low-key dinner at Buca di Beppo. (I've heard Buca criticized for not being "authentic" Italian, but I can taste the freshness of the ingredients, and I love whoever it is who balanced the seasonings in their recipes... it was all delicious.) After dinner we went to B&N and got coffee and cheesecake, and sat in the cafe each reading something interesting and funny, occasionally reading passages aloud for the other's appreciation. It was really lovely.

When we got home, we had a message from Connecticut: our sister-in-law's mother, who had been quite ill for some time, had died. We're 2,500 miles away and there's not much we can do besides offer our condolences and send flowers. That sucks.

Today, when I was driving DS2 home from school, I had an "uh-oh" feeling: Something's wrong with Mom. It was a strong, bad vibe -- there's no other way to explain it. I shook it off, though, sure that I was just feeling the after-effects of my s-i-l's loss, manufacturing worry on this first occasion of my going out without my mom after hearing that sad news.

When I got home, Mom was fine, and I completely forgot about that uh-oh feeling until a few hours later when the phone rang.

It was the youngest of my brothers, calling with news about our Pennsylvania brother's mother-in-law. My sister-in-law has been caring for her mother, who has dementia, at home for several years now. Sometimes the medications seemed to help stop the deterioration, but nothing restored what was lost. Lately, her mom has become completely unmoored, often not knowing who they were or where she was, but at least retaining her own sense of identity.

Today, though, the situation turned in a completely horrifying direction: my s-i-l was attacked by her mother. Fortunately no one was hurt, but her mother had to be hospitalized to calm her down, and now she will have to live in a managed care facility.

I can only imagine my s-i-l's heartbreak. She lived with her mother until she married my brother, but she was always close to her. When my brother first had to move out of state for work, his mother-in-law moved with them to stay close. All of their houses since then have had mother-in-law suites for her, so she could live with them and still have her own space. She was a wonderful, sweet, generous woman, and it has been incredibly difficult for my brother and sister-in-law to watch her decline -- and it has been very hard on their children, too.

By the time I heard the news and finished fetching children and doing homework, the window of opportunity to call had closed, but I will call my s-i-l in the morning. I wish I could do more than that, but again: all the way across the continent, here, I'm stuck.

And somewhere in the back of my mind is that horrid, horrid superstition: Bad things come in threes, but I know that's just what it is, a superstition, and I'm not going looking for any trouble.

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