Monday, December 14, 2009

Mom Barshaw

Hospice has been called in for my mother-in-law, Mom Barshaw (her name for herself; we called her "Mom").
So here I am, stuck 90 miles away, on deadline for this book, and trying to keep my head in the book, when my heart is in Detroit.
Mom's in good hands. Her kids are gathering. My husband Charlie is headed there now. He was there yesterday and all weekend; he was there when the decline got worse. He's been at her side often this past few months.

This started in August. The kids had a birthday party for her (she was turning 80) and she didn't want the day to herself so she made Eddie, her youngest, and me share it. He's 40, I'm 50.
It was the typical party at Rosemary's, wonderful, with great food because most of the Barshaws are excellent cooks -- we're talking chef quality.
Mom didn't look healthy at the party. It was alarming enough that the kids took her to the hospital on the way home. Since then she's had a couple surgeries and procedures, some wicked meds interactions -- deplorable care by some of her "doctors" but good care from nurses and therapists -- and her kids have given vigilant 24-hour care.

Mom Barshaw had 9 kids. One, Mike, died when Charlie was 18; they were best buddies starting to take opposite paths. There's a novel in that, I keep saying, but it isn't mine to write. Charlie's a writer and after a long dormant stage he's writing again; maybe he'll tackle that story.
Recently Charlie was given his dad's wallet. Inside is a clipping, a newspaper article about a writing competition Charlie won as a kid. His dad carried it for years -- you can imagine how touching that is.
Mom has been cleaning out boxes and living spaces for a couple years, giving us such things as old photos and books. We have the sweetly-inscribed book she gave to Dad about the time when they married.
And she gave us the story Charlie wrote at age 13. It's very, very good! I knew when I married him he was the best writer I'd read; this is proof he had early talent.

Mom and I butted heads on a few things. Sometimes I did funny things just to exasperate her, like cutting a piece out of my birthday cake before dinner -- and cutting it from the center of the cake. (I was 35, young and silly)
But we didn't leave love unsaid. She closed every phone call with "God love you, God bless you." I saw her in person a few times over the past couple months, while picking up or dropping off Charlie (we only have one car) and I said it aloud, "God love you, God bless you, Mom," and she looked pleased.

Mom has always had rock-solid faith. She believes in prayer's deep power and potential; we called each other when we needed prayers. I liked to think I was the devoted biblical Ruth.
I knew her death was coming. I've been warning Charlie and my kids so it wasn't an awful surprise. Funny how you can plan for something and it still surprises you. With every person I lost, I felt they left too soon.

I was close to Charlie's dad. Mom gets to join him now, and her son Mike, and her parents who died when Mom was very young (orphaned, Mom raised her two sisters, sacrificing her own dreams for theirs; there's a book in that, too). She has had a tough life, but I believe Mom will be very happy soon.

Mom is a good, honest, strong, hard working, determined woman. She loves me despite my many shortcomings.
So how do I get this book done when all I can think about is Mom?
Pray for focus, I guess. Go easy on myself. I've lost enough dear people to know that this won't be easy. But Mom believes hard work is prayer; I will work hard.
So, back to work now...
I have 85 pages of final art done. The second half is due ASAP -- hoping to have it done this week. It's a stretch, even in ideal circumstances. I'm good under deadline, though.


Lori Van Hoesen said...

Charlie's mom sounds dear. I'm thinking of you and your family. <3

Ann Finkelstein said...

What a beautiful tribute, Ruth. I'm sending hugs to you and your family.