The Train Not Taken (with apologies to Robert Frost)

Mom at 96, September 2012.

Mom at 96, September 2012.
Credit: Catherine Fox


I’m very sad today. My mother, 96, one of the most extraordinary, life-filled people I have every known, has entered hospice care in my sister’s home, where she has been lovingly cared for over the past several years.

Naturally, I wanted to travel there to see my mother and to support my sister. I know I don’t have the stamina to drive almost five hours, and when I am sickest my lack of concentration makes me a danger on the road so I don’t get behind the wheel.

I decided to try the train. All I have to do is sit there, right? Amazing how the voice of lyme denial tries to get me to do things I shouldn’t. 

My doctor told me that since we are adding meds this month for the next level of treatment, I should go now if I must, before the herxing increases.  Note the “if”; she understands that I want to go—that this is my mother—but I could hear the reservations in her voice.

Today is the day I’d planned to go. I made the decision last week when I felt better. I came to my senses two days ago.

My therapist is more direct than my doctor. When I told her my plan, she said something along the lines of, “Are you crazy? Your sister doesn’t need two people to take care of.” Of course she said it gently—but in a way that I could hear her.

Good thing I cancelled. I dragged of bed quite late this morning with a ripping headache, stomach distress, and burning pain in both legs. When I walk, my knees feel like they are going to crack apart with the pain. I am lying on my sofa in my bathrobe.

Thanks to lyme, I’m not going anywhere. Even if it means my mother passes away before I can see her again.

My mother isn’t critically ill; she’s just gently fading out on an unknown timetable. My hope is that I can see her in a few weeks after I get to the other side of this herx. Even if she still had her memory and recognized me, she wouldn’t hold it against me for not coming.

One of the most selfless people on the planet, my mother has always been careful not to put others out on her account.  She has always taken the utmost care not to “be a bother.” Actually, she followed this to a fault; maybe that’s why I have struggled to learn to ask for help when I need it.

I remember the time I went for dinner at her apartment and gasped when she opened the door. Until then, I’d never seen anyone literally black-and-blue. She’d tripped in the underground parking lot and hit her head on a concrete step.

So she pulled off her half-slip to staunch the bleeding on the way to her apartment, stopped at a friend’s for an aspirin, and went upstairs to bed.  She was fiercely independent at 75.

I have never heard her complain about anything. I mean literally never, which is astonishing when you think about it.

It wasn’t because her life was perfect; she had plenty of challenges, including cancer, financial crises, and chronic pain to name a few.  But this remarkable woman kept her head up, always gave most warm, genuine smile you can imagine, and carried on.

So that’s what I’ll try to do today. I won’t wallow in my losses. Insead, I’ll do what my mother would want me to do: I’ll take good care of myself, and work hard to take a positive approach to the day. And hope to see her soon.


Update: At 97, my mother was finally failing and my sister called to tell me to come if I could. As someone was putting me on the train in Virginia to go to New Jersey, where I had not been in more than a year because of Lyme, my sister called. My mother was gone. One more loss in a long list: The chance to say good-bye. 

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One thought on “The Train Not Taken (with apologies to Robert Frost)

  1. Anonymous December 13, 2012 at 11:22 pm Reply

    This is beautiful

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