Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Mother of the Man I Love

In the middle of everything that I am going through, I don't want anyone to forget that there is another woman going through this with me; a woman who has loved Terry since before anyone else knew of his existence.........his Mom. My mother-in-law is a very petite little lady, about 5' 1-1/2" in her prime and weighing at this point about 90-95 pounds when she's soaking wet!

Ms. Gladys married at a little later age than many, if not most, women of her generation. She was about 26 when she married Terry's Dad, Mr. Bob. Although she wanted children badly, it took her about 5 years to become pregnant with Terry, which put her at about the age of 31 when he was born. Terry was born in 1954 and 31 was an advanced age for a woman to birth her first child in that time.

Ms. Gladys suffered a blocked kidney while pregnant and went through a lot just to carry her pregnancy to term. When the time for Terry's birth finally came, she had to have a Cesarean section, which was a major surgery in 1954. To add to her troubles, she also had to have a blood transfusion due to having had the Rh blood factor. This was before the expectant mother was tested and given injections for this situation during pregnancy. At that time, either the mother or the baby had to have a transfusion after delivery. In her case, she had to have the transfusion. Although it was difficult on her, she was so happy that she had to endure it instead of her newborn son.

Terry was the light of his Mom's life; everything she did revolved around taking care of Terry and his Dad and making a home for their little family. She was definitely in her element, nothing in this world gives her more pleasure than homemaking, gardening and cooking. She worried over her young son, maybe was even a bit over protective. She had been through so much in order to bring him into the world, and his Daddy didn't want her to try for another after him because she had had so much trouble with Terry. So, she doted on Terry.

He was a sick child, suffering terribly with tonsillitis for the first several years of his life. The doctor finally felt he should have his tonsils out, so he was admitted to the hospital when he was about 9 for a tonsillectomy. Again, Ms. Gladys worried over her young son and doted on him. However, her world was soon to come to a crashing halt. On Aug. 5, 1963, only a few months after Terry's tonsillectomy, Mr. Bob was killed in an auto accident.

Suddenly, Terry and his Mom were left alone. Ms. Gladys reeled with the grief of burying her husband and the worry of how she would support and raise her young son alone. She soon went to work in order to pay her debts and support herself and Terry. The life she loved and reveled in was gone forever it seemed. She relied heavily upon her parents for support again. Her family rallied around her and with time, she settled into a new routine of working and keeping house and raising her son.

Barely 4 short years later, her world was rocked again when her Dad died suddenly of a ruptured aortic aneurysm. He died quickly and quietly, falling in his steps in his front yard. Once again, Ms. Gladys was lost as to how she would continue without this wonderful man who had been by her side from the beginning. This man who had loved her and supported her and guided her, who had made unimaginable sacrifices for her, both when she was growing up and since having lost her husband. He had become the father his grandson no longer had.

Reeling again with grief and worry, she pulled herself together and managed to go on, continuing to help her Mother out as she could. Then, about a year later, she remarried and moved herself and Terry to her new husband's farm on the other end of the county. She went about making her new life and trying to help her new husband and her son make their relationship work, which was no small task. She was now back on a farm and was enjoying every minute of it. She continued to work because she could not bear the thought of being left in a situation where she didn't know how she would support herself ever again.

The years passed and life was good. Terry grew up and he and his stepfather developed a loving, yet unusual, relationship. Then, Terry met me. We were in love almost from the day we met. We dated two years while I finished high school and married in June after I graduated in May, 1975. Ms. Gladys was now in the 'empty nest' stage of her life. Although she missed having Terry at home, she flourished while she awaited grandchildren. Unfortunately, that was never to be. She watched as all her family and friends had grandchildren and had to accept that this was a joy she would not be able to share.

Still, life was good. We were happy together, which made her happy. She and I got along so well together and she told me more than a few times how I was the daughter she never had. She and Mr. Bo, Terry's stepfather, were so happy together. The four of us enjoyed so many good times together just visiting and enjoying each other's company and her wonderful home cooked meals. Then, her world took another blow when her Mother died in 1978. Like all the times before, she found the strength to go on and be happy.

In April, 2000, Terry's accident occurred. He was severely injured and permanently disabled. Again, she sat by watching as her only child suffered and she could do little to help him. Her heart ached to bear the pain for him, yet she could not. Terry went through his rehab and did so well, it thrilled her to come to visit and get to come to the rehab unit and watch as he learned to walk again. One of the happiest days of her life was when she walked into our hospital room one day and he was standing there with his walker getting ready to walk down the hall to therapy instead of riding in a wheelchair. She beamed as she watched him and tears of joy rolled down her sweet face.

Life was good again and, as life sometimes is wont to do, it rises up to slap you in the face. This happened again to Ms. Gladys on Oct. 17, 2002 when Mr. Bo died. Once again, she prepared to bury her husband and once again she bore her grief with so much grace and dignity and determination to go on living. It took some time, but she was once again happy and living on her own. Then, in August, 2006, she fell down her back steps and broke her back. That is when Terry and I came to live with her. It took her about a year to really get back on her feet again after that fall.

In October, 2007, we had to tell her that Terry had been told he had End Stage Liver Disease and was not expected to live more than 6 months. She grieved so hard at the thought of losing him, but again she pressed on. On March 25, 2008, she fell again and this time broke her right hip. After surgery to repair the hip, she was admitted to the Long Term Rehab Unit at a local nursing facility. She worked so hard to recover and get back on her feet again. Unfortunately, as she became stronger, Terry became weaker and was requiring more and more care.

Because of the circumstances with Terry's health, we moved her to an Assisted Living Care Facility in August, 2008. She is happy there, yet would love to be at home. This amazing woman has met life head on since her youth. She has faced adversity and overcome so much so many times. She is a rock of grace and dignity and pure determination, which can sometimes come out as a real stubborn streak, but that's another story!

Now, after a lifetime of sacrifice and overcoming, she has to face the very real probability that she will have to bury her only child. This child whom she has made the center of her existence since the day she found out he existed. This child whom she has loved and sacrificed untold things for. This child whom she loves more than her own life. My heart breaks for her. I cannot begin to understand the depth of her suffering at this time. I cannot comprehend the pain she must feel at the very thought of having to lay him to rest. Yet, I know these are the exact things she has looming before her.

I don't' know how to help her. I am not a mother, not in the since that I have raised a child. I can't know what she's feeling. And, I have quickly learned that, while you may think you know what someone is feeling or that you may be imagining their pain and grief, there is no possible way you can know unless you have walked in those shoes. Someone who has not raised children cannot possibly understand how painful it is for a mother to bury her child, just as someone who has not watched their spouse die a slow and painful death cannot understand the pain of having to endure that grief.

I want so much to comfort her, to make her pain more bearable, yet there is nothing I can do for her. I love her with all my being. She has been so good to me and always treated me like her own. Yes, there have been times when I was so frustrated with her I could squeeze her little neck. There were times when I felt that same way about my own Momma and there are still times when I feel that way about my Daddy. But, I love them all and I would move heaven and earth if I could in order to prevent them from suffering. However, that power is not within my grasp.

So, I will be here. I will love her, I will take care of her, I will do everything in my power to make her son's last days comfortable and help him meet the Lord with dignity. It is my last gift to him and my most precious gift to her, this precious lady who is the mother of the man I love.

1 comment:

Raggedy Girl said...

Thank you for posting this. You know how hard it was for me to not be able to understand family dynamics that were different from my own. This helps to explain where Terry's mom is and why it is so hard for her to accept and let go of her little boy. Prayers being said all last night for all of you.
Roberta Anne