NaBloPoMo’s writing prompt for today asks what my biggest fear as a child was. It was the same overwhelming fear I had as a child, a teenager, a college-aged young adult, and as a full-grown woman. My greatest fear was losing my mother. I was forced to face that fear on October 24, 2015, at 3:17 A.M.
Long before dementia kidnapped and killed her memory, rheumatoid arthritis had its way with her. She would tell us that her knees and hands hurt all the time. She wasn’t the type to go to the doctor regardless of how much pain she was in. In my 48 years, I saw my mom go to the doctor twice. I don’t mean for regular check-ups because those she would attend like she was told to. I mean visits that occurred when she was hurting. One of her favorite lines was, “I ain’t runnin’ to the doctor for ever thang.”
My mother came from a time when there was no health insurance and she certainly didn’t have the money to go for a visit. We rarely went to the doctor. Our treatment came in the form of medicines that cost very little or ones she had been taught to create herself: baking soda and honey (my entire body quivered as I typed that because despite it visible similarity to caramel, it is DISGUSTING), cod liver oil, and castor oil with sugar. The stuff that she bought was horrible, but it worked: Syrup of Black Draught, 666 (because it tasted like the devil), etc. She told us that as children, they were given cow-chip tea and whiskey with peppermint for whatever ailed them. We never got sick. We ate what we grew and raised. We weren’t filled with preservatives. Saturday mornings were reserved for picking peas, shelling them, hanging clothes on the line to dry and cleaning that ginormous yard. Nothing makes me prouder than the fact that I am a country girl who can operate a tractor just as easily as I did the Audi I owned.
The only medication that my mother took on a consistent basis was for high blood pressure and she only started that in her late seventies. She wasn’t on much more than that when she died. She was so incredibly strong and seemingly able to rebound from anything. I had seen her do it a million times. I don’t care how bad she felt, she got up and made her way to church every Sunday morning. She taught her Sunday School class without fail. My fear was, though, that one day, she would no longer be able to fight. That process took many years.
Mama had an incredible sense of humor so the fight with dementia was sprinkled with plenty of foolishness every day until she stopped talking. She was a heavy woman and before we brought in a hospital bed with rails, she had started to fall too regularly. They were never hard falls, but she couldn’t get herself up. Nearly every time we would gather to lift her up, she would be all about the foolishness. Her response to our questioning why she was on the floor would always be something like, “I’m playing jacks” or “I’m waiting on y’all to get down here with me so we can play”. Her sense of humor never wavered.
My greatest childhood fear was realized almost two weeks ago so it’s no longer a viable one. I faced it with the tremendous strength that she instilled in me. I have been able to release my mom and her spirit because I know that I’ll see her again. I know that she is no longer in pain. Arthritis and dementia are no longer issues. She’s free.