Watching my mother cry memories PDF Print E-mail
Written by OHmommy   
Thursday, 20 August 2009 00:00

Last night in Chicago, I sat across from my mother watching her eyes fill with tears. She self consciously shifted in her lounge chair, for the shock in my eyes experiencing her emotional must have been startling. Her head titled to the left nearly reaching her shoulder the same reaction my daughter has when feeling exposed.


"Widzisz? You see?"


I nodded my head in agreement, overwhelmed with my own emotions.


"I needed to hear what they were saying." She slowly spoke in her native tongue. "I stood behind the door evesdropping on them both and started to cry."


"What did they say?" I asked in English. Always a tennis match of languages between us both. She begins to speak in Polish, I answer in English and at the end our words mix together in a combined language.


She dove again in her narrative, carefully planting each description of the series of unfortunate events that took place just days ago at 10 Rocky Lane. Her 85 year-old stubborn mother with a broken arm. Her 84 year-old father a walking corpse infested with Alzheimers. The 5,000 miles she traveled across an ocean on a minutes notice to care for them both. Her mother unable to dress, feed, tend to herself and stubbornly refusing any help. Her father sent to a government run hospital for "his own safety" strapped down to a wheel chair in a soiled diaper in rural Poland.


"He couldn't walk. Or talk. Or look me in the eye." My mother paints the picture of her father alone in a room with a gated window. "Ja wiedzialam. I knew. He needed to be home." My grandfather after my grandmother's accident was sent away from his beloved wife of 65 years, his only comfort in a world lost to Alzheimers, to an institution that resembled a jail cell, for care while his wife was ill.


"So, against doctor's orders. I brought him home to where he belonged."


My Babcia (grandma) greeting my Dziadek (grandfather), as my Mamusia (mom) smiles. Taken last year.


"So. What did they say to each other when they were finally alone?" I impatiently asked my mother seeing that her narratives go on forever before stumbling across the point.


"I stood in the hallway." She started again. "And I cried..."


Babcia: "Stanley, look at me. Look. I am weak and without much energy. Look at my swollen arm."
Dziadek: Silently looks at arm.
Babcia: "I'm not independent. I am not available to help you. I am sick. And you... you too are sick."
Dziadek: Silently makes eye contact.
Babcia: "We are both sick. And old. But you came home and we are together."
Dziadek: Nods head.
Babcia: "Sick. Old. But look... we are together again, here. At home. My Stanley."
Dziadek: Looks out the window and raises his hands, "You see. Yes. Yes. We are together."


My mother continues her story weaving a tale of observations, I hang onto each word trying to visualize them to re-create for my own children. As I gasp for air in between each memory my mother paints for me, sitting across from her on the impromptu Chicago vacation she guilt tripped me in, I listen to her final words.


"I showed him how to slip on her dress. One arm sleeve at a time. I told him to do so gently, over her cast." My mother cried. "And.  He smiled at the honor of dressing her.  Slowly and lovingly drapping the dress over his zona.  His wife."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 August 2009 23:14


# pamela 2009-08-19 22:39
wow tears are just streaming down my face now. this is just so beautiful. that is just so.. it gives me butterflies knowing that real love like that is still real
# mamajoss 2009-08-19 22:45
Oh I have such a place in my heart for your writing here. This is so sweetly written. What a love story indeed. Thank you for sharing have me all choked up as I imagine you were even typing this out. Well done :-) I need to come back and read your blog more often -- you are GOOD.

(My Great Grandparent's were all from Poland..and are family is still pretty well connected to our ancestry)

# junebug 2009-08-19 23:44
Once again, that was excellent! Brought tears to my eyes too.
# michellany 2009-08-19 23:50
dziekuje. this is a beautiful post.
# Kelly 2009-08-20 00:01
Took my breathe away.
# Momo Mama 2009-08-20 00:58
AHHHHHHHH! I loved UNITS! I haven't thought about that store for ages... I bet it would be popular again, I mean, have you seen American Apparal? Truly unforgivable!
# Zoeyjane 2009-08-20 02:04

# jill 2009-08-20 02:48
Wow... I can't stop the tears. So beautiful.
# Irene 2009-08-20 06:52
Wow, that is so incredibly sweet! I remember when you shared this story a while ago, but like stories from my own parents, it is always nice to hear them again.
# Lisa 2009-08-20 07:25
Oh, that made me teary. Your poor grandparents....and the thought of having to witness your parents go through something like that. I'm sorry they're having to endure this tough time, thankful that your Mom was able to go & help, and thankful that you're having this time with your Mom. Soak it all up. I know you will.
# Managed Chaos 2009-08-20 08:10
That just gives me goosebumps (and totally reminds me of my own grandparents struggle to stay together when my grandma was sick. And my mother who dropped everything to help take care of her.) It's so awesome that you were able to witness that emotion from your mom...a memory you'll have forever.
# schmutzie 2009-08-20 08:26
I just passed this on to the Palinode so that he would understand why I suddenly started weeping at 7:30 a.m. Beautiful.
# Don Mills Diva 2009-08-20 09:00
This is so bittersweet. They are undergoing such hardship and yet they are so lucky...
# sarahcaiafa 2009-08-20 09:07
your stories win me over all the time. It reminds me of my nona and papa. They both all of four foot nothing. When i was little and visiting them. You could always feel their love.
# Crystal D 2009-08-20 09:15
I am so glad you blog for posts like this. Thank you for sharing such a special and heartbreaking moment with us. We should all be so lucky to have a love that lasts like that.
# Chandra 2009-08-20 09:27
This is one of those stories where I dont' know whether to be happy or sad. Happy because they are re-united or sad that they are both in failing health...I guess it's just beautiful that they were reunited and they both were able to recognize that. :-)
# amy2boys 2009-08-20 10:08
This is so sad and so beautiful. Wonderfully written by you. It's tragic and lovely all at once.
# lceel 2009-08-20 10:11
Opowieść o miłości.
# Flea 2009-08-20 10:36
You just wanted to make us cry, didn't you? Alzheimer's never has a happy ending, but it's wonderful to hear this touching bit of their story together. Thank you.
# Missives From Suburbia 2009-08-20 11:06
Oh, to have a relationship like that with such longevity. I hope my husband and I find ourselves home together when we're old and tired.

This was absolutely beautiful, my dear. Beautiful.
# Rebecca 2009-08-20 11:17
What a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing. It reminded me of some of the scenes in the Notebook. So sweet.
# Krystyn 2009-08-20 11:36
I totally got goosebumps. I love that their love surpasses anything and everything else.
# Christy 2009-08-20 11:58
I don't even know you; thus, I was so surprised to find myself crying after reading your post. It is beautifully written and really captured the emotions both you and your mother experienced. Thank you for sharing...
# habbala 2009-08-20 12:40
Tears streaming down my face. This was beautiful.
# mpotter 2009-08-20 13:43
how very sweet & tender.
alzheimer's is a horrible horrible disease....
may we never have to face it!

but if we do----
should we be so lucky
to have the tenderness you described.
# tracey 2009-08-20 13:48
Oh. My....

Very touching, Pauline.

How are they doing now? What is their care situation?
# Ashlie- Mommycosm 2009-08-20 13:49
What a beautiful, heartbreaking story.

I really, really fear getting old.
# Secret Mom Thoughts 2009-08-20 14:01
Beautiful story.
# Kate Coveny Hood 2009-08-20 14:36
This reminds me so much of my husband's grandparents. We're driving down to FL to see his grandfather (the strong - lucid one) because he had a stroke and will most likely continue to decline. He just went home to his frail wife. We always look at beautiful young couples and idealize their new love. So pure, without any stains of hurt yet. But I think that the love of elderly couples is the most beautiful. Because it has endured. Yet another reminder to me not to lament those wrinkles too much...
# Steph @ Diapers and Divinity 2009-08-20 15:46
Can't add much more than what everyone else has said, but it's a beautiful story.
# dysfunctional mom 2009-08-20 15:47
This is absolutely beautiful and makes me want to sob.
# Jodie P 2009-08-20 15:59
This is the kind of love I knew I found when I met Mark. we've been married two years in September, and I hope we get the opportunity to be married 65 years. Very touching story.
# Jill 2009-08-20 16:35
You are such a talented photographer, with such adorable subjects!

Love the photos.
# Scary Mommy 2009-08-20 17:22
I love when you write like this- such a beautiful post!
# aussiechic 2009-08-20 19:09
Oh, that brought tears to my eyes.....if only we are all so lucky to have such love in our lives for so long......bless them.
# Al_Pal 2009-08-20 19:32
*sniff* Beautiful. Goodness, what a story.
# Jennifer 2009-08-20 21:50
Tears are streaming down my face...I can only imagine the waterworks you and your mom had. Such a beautiful story of true love.
# ali 2009-08-20 21:53
I don't even have the words. This is so beautiful.
# Jennifer 2009-08-20 21:55
Looks amazing...I can't believe I've never been.Definitely going on my to do list. Thanks for the tip!
# Elaine 2009-08-20 22:39
They are blessed to still have each other. Prayers for them and your mother... (and you too...)
# amy 2009-08-21 07:42
Thinking of their love and the beauty of your words, paints a loving and bittersweet picture.Thoughts to your mom and you.Hugs too..
# 3 peanuts 2009-08-21 08:58
Oh P! I will pray for them. Their life long love is beautiful and they belong together:-)
# Allison 2009-08-21 15:28
I used to ask for the Jem's car.

I turned out fine. There's plenty of hope for Lola.
# Tara 2009-08-21 20:31
Beautiful and thought provoking.

Thank you!
# the mama bird diaries 2009-08-21 21:03
how sweet and beautiful. lovely.
# Krista 2009-08-21 21:58
absolutely beautiful. I, too, have tears in my eyes while reading this. Alzheimer's is a sad disease, but love can usually bring someone "home."
# Amber 2009-08-22 00:08
This is beautiful. You write so well.
# Elisa 2009-08-22 14:17
This is so lovely and so sad at once. A love like that, where your loved one is your only companion, where you cannot bear to be away, no matter how old, how ill, how difficult it is to do everything.

It's amazing. Thank you for sharing this. I love when you talk about your family.
# oh amanda 2009-08-22 16:28
Such a beautiful post! They embody true love in a marriage-- in sickness and in health.
# smilinggreenmom 2009-08-23 08:53
Pure, beautiful, inspiring true LOVE. Thank you for sharing. Goose bumps.
# Mishelle 2009-08-23 20:34
Oh, Pauline, that broke my heart. :(

But, wow. What a message.
# renatamic 2009-08-24 09:36
what a love story! alzheimer's is a horrible disease and it's always so heart warming when they "breakthrough" and have a moment of tenderness and rememberance!! this is my favorite post ever - EVER!
# Miss E 2009-08-24 15:27
I needed a tissue warning, friend....I'm crying at my desk during lunch. Such a beautiful story. So touching, so full of love. Oh my gosh. Thank you for sharing this.
# Brigette 2009-08-24 20:19
Wonderful post. I love it when you write about your family and Poland. Before I had children, I went to visit a Polish-American grad school friend who was living in Warsaw for a year doing dissertation research. Her Babcia and Dzadzek (sp??) lived nearby and I got to spend some time with them. Your posts about your grandparents always remind me of them.
# anymommy 2009-08-24 22:25
I think my heart is a little broken now. Loved this.
# Sarcastic Mom 2009-08-25 20:52
I don't have adequate words.
But that certainly just hit me in a very tender spot and made me weep. Powerful.
Thank you for sharing it, Pauline.
# Carie 2009-08-25 21:33
Beauty on the page. Thank you.
# Tami 2009-08-26 10:07
Such a lovely post. Makes me miss my grandparents so much! Such a great example of loves endurance. Thanks for sharing it.
# SJ 2009-08-26 11:47
I have no words to describe how that touched me. I sit typing this with tears streaming down my face, such a beautiful story of love. Thanks for sharing and for the reminder that true love is still out there.
# Collette 2009-08-28 14:58
This is beautiful! I am Polish on both my mom & dad's side. My only grandparent left is my babcia, my dad's mother. She is 92. It really is amazing to see your babcia & dziadzia together even through all the suffering. I hope you are able to hear their stories for a long time. Life is too precious to let it slip by.
# Kari 2009-08-29 15:24
Beautiful and sad. I love a good love story, though. And, this is definitely one of them!
# chrissy 2011-09-17 23:23
With the tears flowing, I can't help but hope that in my future I will still have my husband to love and care for the way that they do. into all of our lives tumbles sadness, trial and tragedy...but to be there to care for one another through it all is the magic. My heart would break to be separated from Jamal at a time like that and I can easily imagine how he will care for me if needed...he already does when it is needed now with so much gentleness and simple goodness. Life is full of beauty, isn't it?

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Pauline Karwowski.

Is a self proclaimed globe trotting, minivan driving, SAHM stiletto ho.

Happily married mother to 3 Cleveland natives: Jay the son, Lola the daughter, and Fifi the banshee.

Now in Chicago, IL.

The content on this blog is the opinion of the blogger.


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