Long Goodby 

Bonnie Boerema

© Copyright 2017 by Bonnie Boerema

Photo of Bonnie's mother.

Mom had been a plucky, strong, independent woman her entire adult life.

But all of a sudden we started noticing changes in her. She had a stroke at age sixty seven. The whole left side of her body was shaking, out of control.

An ambulance brought her to St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Missouri. Her face was jaundiced and yellow. After a few days in the hospital, they released her. She was diagnosed with Polycythemia Vera (PV). The doctors said she had too many red blood cells, and her platelets, (blood clotting cells) were starting  to multiply.

That’s when she decided to move from Lebanon, Missouri to Springfield, in 1990. She hired movers in Lebanon to move her furniture, and brought the small things in her car. She’d always wanted to live in Springfield. She had several aunts and uncles who lived there. She’d always enjoyed shopping, and all the restaurants in Springfield. Her Aunt Alice, who lived on Portland Avenue off South National, and mom had always been close. Their friendship continued. Mom would visit and take her a pie.

Mom loved her new place to live. It was a large duplex, two bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, with a patio and large backyard. On her patio were several hanging pots of impatience, petunias and geraniums. She’d hung a Hummingbird feeder, which attracted many. She loved to watch them.

She recovered from the stroke, and was her old plucky self for seven years.

But by 1997, we all were noticing major changes in mom. I was going over to her place two or three times a week. She had a car wreck coming home from Aunt Alice’s house. She pulled out on South National in front of a car, and somebody hit her.

Mom was up by 5:00, and would go for her morning walk. One morning she couldn’t find her way back home. In the meantime, she was having several TIA’s, (mini strokes). She was too proud and independent to discuss them with the family. All she’d say about them was, “My head felt funny.” I’d put her meds in her pillbox.

She’d still forget to take them. She’d forget to pay her rent, or pay it twice. It was getting scarier and scarier.

When family would visit on weekends, she didn’t remember who visited, or anything about it. My son, Rick introduced her to his new girlfriend, Vicki. She didn’t notice it wasn’t his same girlfriend, and thought he hadn’t missed a beat.

I took her to Walmart with me. We split up for about ten minutes, and I couldn’t find her. I was frantic, and described her to the greeter, and asked if she’d seen her coming out the front door. She said, “No.” Then I found her coming slowly down one of the aisles.

I took her around the corner, in her own neighborhood to her favorite grocery store, Dillon’s. I parked in front of the store, and waited for her to get a few things. When she came out, her eyes were searching for me, and my car. I called out to her from my car, “Mom, over here.”

Dr. Nelson, mom’s Internist referred her to a Neurologist, who told her because of the strokes she’d have to give up driving. She didn’t take that news very well. She called me, almost crying, and told me they said she’d have to give up her wheels.

My sister, Connie kept insisting we let her go awhile longer. But it was too scary for her to be living alone. My husband and I knew we had to keep her safe. Mom was a shrewd, intelligent woman. She got to be terrified to be losing her memory. By August 1998, she told us she wanted to enter herself in Manor Care Assisted Living, and wrote them a check herself.

We hired movers to move her best antique furniture, and other favorite pieces. Mom had a green thumb and loved plants. One month after she moved in her plants were all dead. She’d over-watered them and killed them. She did get good nursing care, and a pleasant staff, who took care of her basic needs. She drove her car to the Assisted Living, and parked it in the front. My sister, Connie and I were afraid, knowing our mom’s strong-willed personality that she’d get in that car and try to leave. It was our responsibility to keep her safe.

We talked to an attorney to see if we could be her legal guardians. We both had to testify on the witness stand in court about her situation, and why we wanted to be her guardians. The judge said it’d have to be me because I lived in Springfield.

Connie lived out of town, in Jefferson City, Missouri. Ironically, mom had already handed her checkbook to me before I was legally made her guardian. She said, “Bonnie, you’ll have to do this, I can’t do it anymore.”

Little did we realize how short mom’s stay would be in the Assisted Living area.

In the spring of 2000, they told my sister, Connie and I that mom’s Alzheimer’s had progressed. They weren’t equipped to take care of her back there, and would have to move her to the front part of the nursing home.

It broke our hearts. I was working full time, and so was my sister. Neither one of us was equipped to deal with Alzheimer’s disease.

Hospice was there for her the last six months of her life. I was thankful for all their help, as the stages progressed. She still knew Connie and me, and hardly anyone else. The last year and a half, she didn’t even know us. The nurse said Juanita always made them laugh, some of them don’t, but she did.

Mom died June 6, 2003. Connie and I stayed with her the last night. She was in a coma. There was a nurse standing over her from 5:00 a.m. until she died at 8:00 a.m. She was the one to pronounce her dead. I went to the rest room at 7:55 a.m. I came from the rest room just as she passed. Mom looked like a little angel in that bed. My husband saw it too.

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