2880 minute rollercoaster12 March, 2021
Lavinia, Friday, March 12, 2021
After writing my previous blog, I knew for sure: I would fly to Belgium. It took some doing, because I mainly wanted to do it by the book. This meant that I had a lot of research work and a lot to arrange.
The intention was to mentally say goodbye to my demented mother, in the hope that she would recognize me one last time. If I postponed my visit until the Christmas period – when we normally go to Belgium – it could be too late. I had to go now, because the progressing process is going very fast, and does not take into account the time or the loved ones around her. The past isolation periods in the first wave and the additional second wave have been detrimental. Social deprivation, and not-seeing-family, have become the death knell for her well-being. The months of lonely forced “confinement” in a small room – courtesy of Covid’s “1st Wave War” has only accelerated her dementia process. Nobody could have predicted in advance that this would be so bad for her. Fortunately, the nursing home has learned its lessons from this whole thing, and with a real action plan they have been ahead of the second wave. They have ensured that this inhuman condition should never be repeated. They were prepared, and I am very grateful to them for that. They organized their operation in such a way that the residents could always interact with each other and that they would no longer have to sit in pure isolation. Provided they weren’t infected, of course. To my knowledge, they managed to beat corona right up to the inoculations. Well done! Nothing but respect!
Of course the harm had been done to Mama; dementia is simply a disease that you cannot reverse, unfortunately. She hadn’t recognized me on our last video call. It cut a piece out of my heart. Reality hit it very hard. Especially since I had not been able to anticipate this moment, and consciously, physically say goodbye.
Along with the desire to meet Liv, I mustered the courage to face all the obstacles to travel to Belgium.
Much research later, I found that the fastest and easiest way was to just call the Belgian embassy here in Spain to explain my situation, and the Covid crisis cell in Belgium where I obtained all the information I needed in just two short phone calls. I had made it much more difficult for myself than necessary.
The best seemed to be a 48 hour blitz visit. That would ensure that I would only have to take 1 PCR test, and would not have to be quarantined. That way I was completely covered to go wherever I wanted, with of course a legal document from Mom’s doctor with me.
To be most accurate – out of respect for those I would visit – I had a quick test performed a few hours before my plane was due to take off.
It was an extremely emotional and exhausting visit, all about saying goodbye, deep conversations, meeting new life, rebuilding relationships, and assisting friends in the impending death of a parent.
I had prepared myself mentally for the worst when I met my mom. I was too rich for her to recognize me when she caught sight of me. My heart was dancing around and I was able to persuade her to take me for a walk. Something that was not self-evident to her, because she had to leave her safe nest in the retirement home for that. It was a very beautiful and intimate walk. I constantly alternated in the role of daughter or caretaker. From my experience of more than 20 years, in which I worked as an occupational therapist in this target group, I was able to handle this. It is just a little easier for me to let go of being a daughter and quickly get into the shoes of “another person”. It enabled me to fully immerse myself in her world of experience, and to look at the world with her eyes. It enabled me to inquire about how she had experienced her life. And I saw that it was good. I heard her say that she had a very good husband and good children, and that she had been happy. I couldn’t imagine a more beautiful “goodbye” to her as a mama. I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity that I received. I will keep this remembrance deep in my heart and will draw strength from it for the difficult times to come.
Meeting Liv and her caring loving parents were blissful respite. That little pile of human, my own blood, that I was allowed to take hold of was so wonderful, so unprecedented. The wonderful scent of this little innocent -and of course the most beautiful creature on earth-, the softness of her feet, the small, typical baby sounds, her mouth looking for the nipple, her big dark eyes, her crazy-pelvic features, her listening face to my childish talk in a crazy, high voice, her loud screaming, her first laugh, her weeping bright red vulnerable body while she was being washed, her enjoying look in the bath, her sleeping face … Are more words needed to say that I am proud to expose my new title as a grandmother?
I felt an enormous warmth when I saw how Joke and Kenny interacted with their sweet Liv and with each other. It endeared me to see how much respect it was. And again I saw that it was good. I also carry these memories with me in my heart. I am also very grateful for this wonderful gift.
I was able to stay in the apartment of our friends’ daughter. It was wonderful to have a place of my own to retreat to and work on my book. The cozy apartment where I immediately felt at home also offered me the rest I needed in this impossible emotional rollercoaster.
Being able to eat together with my friends – outside of course – and at a safe distance, was wonderful. However, they were in a very difficult period of the impending farewell to their father / father-in-law. I was glad that I could experience their sorrows and fears a little by talking about them and, above all, by listening. It did show the harsh reality of corona. Not being able to hug made me feel like my presence was only half as valuable, my words seemed hollow, as they were not supported by a heartfelt big hug. Even though I know it wasn’t. But it felt strange, unreal, almost inhuman. The pain seemed to hit so much harder, because their goodbye to their daddy should also happen without hugs. This is the worst war ever.
After only 48 hours, I returned home totally exhausted. Plus, the plane was delayed for almost an hour, so I didn’t get home until after midnight. As always, Wim felt me perfectly, and gave me all the space and time to come to myself and to process all of this. The fire was burning wonderfully, the pillows had been shaken, and a glass of wine had been decanted. For hours I talked to him about my experiences, then fell asleep satisfied in his arms.
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