I am going to try to write this. I don't know if I can   :   it is 7:00 A.M., I just had nine hours of sleep, yet I am so very, very tired. My whole body aches. I am not sick, just tired.

It started five days ago, a day that began at 4:30 A.M. with a phone call from my mother. The ensuing scenario involved the rescue squad, an ambulance ride for her, eight hours in the ER, and the ending of a long, sad story that is repeated all too often in today's world.

My mother is in her 90’s and has lived alone since my father died seven years ago. I moved here to Florida from France in 2001 when it became apparent that she needed someone near at hand. My brother, my only sibling, lives 2,000 miles away.

I have never been my mother’s favorite child. Whenever my brother walks into the room my mother’s face lights up as if the sun had just come out, but I am the one she depends on to get things done. All three of us know this. That’s just background information.

My mother is in general good health for her age, but it has become increasingly harder for her to walk. A knee replacement in 1990 was redone in 2002 and since then she has been using a walker. Mentally, she has been very alert but doesn’t trust her memory and has had me handle her finances for the past 18 months.

When we had our first bad hurricane in August I insisted she go into a shelter for the elderly. She came out of the shelter three days later very angry as she somehow had the idea that she had spent several hours in the trunk of my Honda, in a parking garage. I put this down to stress, but began to think more seriously about Assisted Living for her. Like most elderly people, she was not receptive to the idea.

She has been wearing a LifeLine alert bracelet for several years as she cannot pick herself up if she falls down at home. This has happened every few months; she falls, she punches the button on her bracelet, and the City sends out a team of three rescue workers to get her on her feet again. Since earlier this month the rescue squad has been called out three times, the last being the other day when she was taken into the Emergency Room.

Fortunately, nothing appeared to be broken. The ER doctor who handled her case asked me if I thought she could function on her own at home. This was my cue.

”I’ve been told by someone in the medical profession”, I said, “that if her doctor will put her into the hospital for further tests, she can then be sent to a rehab, and eventually into a nursing home.”

He looked at me and nodded. “I just wanted to be sure we are on the same page.”

So it is done. She spent the regulation three days in hospital so Medicare can become involved, and is now in a rehab center. She should be there for 100 days, which gives me time to find either an ALF or an “extended care facility” for her. For the last read “nursing home”, which has become politically incorrect in today’s vocabulary.

Like most caregivers, I hadn’t realized how much ground has been lost over the past year, or how fast she has been going downhill in the past few months. She admitted to her doctor that she had been hiding the true nature of her condition from him as well as from me. He didn’t know, for example, that she was enrolled in the LifeLine alert program. I didn’t know that it was so difficult for her to get out of her recliner.

Looking back, I realize that whenever I visited her lately she would stay in the recliner. Earlier in the year she would come to the door when I left her house. I mentioned this to her the other day in the hospital. She grinned and told me that she did the same with everyone because “I didn’t want people worrying about me.”

”Yeah", I said, “it gained you a few more months at home and you could have ended up with a broken hip.”

”That’s okay”, she replied, “I was willing to take that chance.”

So there we are. My brother flew in for a few days. Once he leaves I have to put her house in mothballs, start looking for a permanent care facility, try to sort out her paperwork, and so forth and so on.

The last five days have been hectic. I filled the tank of the Honda three times, racing between home, office, hospital, airport, my mother's house, like a hamster in a cage. And it is the Happy Holiday Season.

I don’t know if I will be able to continue working, as everyone tells me that the only way to ensure good care is to visit her on a daily basis at different times of the day. I am so tired and it hasn’t even started yet. I am just going to take this one day at a time.

I heard a great story today, which touched my heart among others in a congregation. The Madrigals of my high school, of which I sing sexy Base II in, were singing at a church session. Sometimes it is asked of us to provide a speaker, or even up to three. Being a Utah community where the The Church Latter-Day Saint is domininant the group has sung mostly at those settings. Today in one such meeting, a good friend of mine in my choir section, gave the following quoted story for his speech.

Who Will Take the Son?

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art.

When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and he grieved deeply for his only son. About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.
He said, "Sir, you don't know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love of art."
The young man held out his package.
"I know this isn't much. I'm not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this."

The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture.
"Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me.
It's a gift." The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them the many of the great works he had collected.

The man died a few months later.
There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.

On the platform sat the painting of the son.
The auctioneer pounded his gavel.
"We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?"
There was silence. Then a voice in the back of the room shouted "We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one."
But the auctioneer persisted.
"Will someone bid for this painting? Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?"

Another voice shouted angrily, "We didn't come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!"
But still the auctioneer continued. "The son! The son! The son! Who will take the son?"
Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room.
It was the longtime gardener of the man and son. "I'll give $10 for the painting."
Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.
"We have $10, who will bid $20?"
"Give it to him for $10. Let's see the real paintings!"
"$10 is the bid. Won't someone bid $20?"
The crowd was becoming angry. They didn't want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections.

The auctioneer pounded the gavel.
"Going once..., twice..., SOLD for $10!"
A man sitting on the second row shouted, "Now let's get on with the collection!" The auctioneer laid down his gavel.
"I'm sorry, the auction is over."
"What about the paintings?"

"I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!"

God gave His son 2,000 years ago to take upon himself the sins of all mankind. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is, "The Son, The Son, who'll take The Son?" Because, you see, whoever takes the Son gets everything

Another of the group, in the Tenor I section of the choir, has lived with his mom alone since the age of five. They have a very special relationship. He asked us to stay after to sing to her because she was having a bad day. For the first time that I can ever recall, the Madrigals gave a personal performance for his mother. We sang better then than ever before - it was as if Christmas was trying to finally get its meaning to me.

My brother and I dropped over to visit my Aunt and Uncle to wish them Merry Christmas. Janice has always been a pill, but she was nearly killed during a car accident back in college and underwent her first hip replacement before she turned 30. Dennis is Dennis, stable, cheerful, supportive, in love with sports, fine wine and technology.

Both are well past 70 now, and their condo is evidence of decades spent working abroad. The place could double as an art museum, every item unique and exquisite, right down to the mechanical hummingbird, a wind-up toy that sounds and moves like the real thing.

Janice drags us into her room. We're about to watch some video, old 8mm film converted to VHS. We're about to see ourselves as we were long, long ago. I see myself as a toddler, operating on the principle of preservation of momentum. Someone must be moving. If my great-grandfather sits then i must run. I watch his long gone form chasing after me again. There's my mother in a dress, 20 years and exquisitely beautiful. Mom, it seems, was a babe. As was Janice. My Dad as a very young man. I watch them play charades and a friend of Denny's swilling beer on a pleasant New Year's Eve.

Finally i see my Aunt Jean. She died in 1986, and rarely appears in these pictures. She took most of them. She bought the movie camera and projector. I remember how many times we stared into the brilliant lights so she could film some important moment of our lives.

These films don't show much of Jean. She was the quiet one, the plain one, the one who spent her last years caring for her Alzheimer's stricken mother. When we went to clean out their home she had stacks upon stacks of Harlequin romances in the guest room. I had no idea they had published so many.

Jean never married. It's not that she was unattractive, but she came of age back in the fifties. Back then female brains didn't matter much and Jean had major brains. She became a secretary because back then nice young girls didn't become physicists. Guys didn't want women who were smarter than they were, they didn't want quiet responsible girls so much as they wanted pretty girls who baked a mean meatloaf. Well Jean could make a mean meatloaf-- she made a few for me when I was growing up, but she was never a party girl. She was a geek before the word existed. My brother and I served as her surrogate children. We used to spend every Saturday night with her until puberty hit and suddenly kind middle aged aunts became a lot less interesting than our peers, particularly the now curvy girls.

Jean was relentlessly good. While she never, ever mentioned it, I think the mountain of romances she read stood as testament to the one part of her life that never, ever found fulfillment. She would have made a fine wife, particularly for a man who enjoys a woman fully capable of matching him. She'd have raised wonderful children. But this very good woman never found love.

This world is not a fair place. We sometimes hope that things will even out, that sooner or later the scales will balance. The words "You'll find someone" roll so easily off the tongue. But there are no guarantees. Breast cancer claimed Aunt Jean. She died quietly in her sleep, having spent her entire life taking care of everyone else, and hardly ever herself. If only someone could have been there to take care of her.

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