3.3 billion years is how long it takes to create one diamond, and exactly .25 seconds to lose one. That is what I discovered yesterday. I was standing in my bathroom, almost nude, a salt bath filling in the tub behind me, a glass of Chardonnay sitting on the counter to my right, and Metta sitting on a bath mat to my left (he doesn’t like the cold marble floor on his little bum).
It’s been five long, tumultuous weeks since my mother fell, resulting in a 5" laceration on her leg. The trauma of the event caused the dementia to worsen to such a state that she now must live in a special care home. My mind was full of emotional thoughts, warring thoughts, hell, warring emotions. I’d consumed half the glass of wine. It was just beginning to soften the pain in my head and heart, both of which were heavy with grief. My mother is dying at the hand of her own fruition. She has given up, depression has overtaken her, and nothing we’ve tried has made the difference to revive her.
As I pulled my last garment off, a multi-strapped crisscross sports bra, I felt a yank behind my right earlobe. Every girl knows the feeling: the top you are removing has caught the small back post, which usually holds the earring in place gallantly, and instead yanks it clean away. I automatically delivered the earring-yank prayer; “Please let me find my little gem, let it land right in front of me. I pray all the drains are closed, the windows are drawn tight and the dog doesn’t catch and swallow it.” I wasn’t immediately worried; this has happened dozens of times in my life, and in a contained space such as this, how far could it go? I heard one drop, but not two. My eyes darted to the source of the noise. There, about a foot in front of my bare toes sat the backing- a large extra-enforced safety back, meant to prevent the very thing that’s just happened. Suddenly my head spun. I felt dizzy. It wasn’t the wine. I couldn’t see the diamond. I’d lost it.
When I saw my mom that morning she greeted me with daggers is her eyes. “Good morning, Mom,” I said. She gave me the finger, with both her right and her left hand. I turned to the caregiver and said, “Good morning,”desiring a kind human connection. The woman my mother used to be would have never, ever given me the finger. Her face would have exploded into a smile upon seeing me. I sat with her, despite her sour mood, and tried to find ways of connecting with her. It had been so much easier the day before. We’d sat for over an hour holding hands while listening, and singing off key, to the soundtrack of A Chorus Line. Today I cannot find my mom anywhere, she is lost right in front of me.
I dropped to my hands and knees and began crawling over each square tile of the bathroom floor, methodically looking for the diamond. I lay my cheek on the cool ground to gather a new perspective. Nothing. Being so close to the tile did make me aware of my heart racing at an unreasonable pace. I forced a slow exhale. It would show up, I was convinced. I just needed to calm down. I stood up, stepped into the warm salty tub, and stared off into space.
She never gave up on me. When I was 6 years old, “they” advised my parents to hold me back a grade. I couldn’t read and I may “never be able to read past an elementary school level” is what my folks were told. My mom did not believe it, she knew she could make a difference for me. She spent every day that summer teaching me how to read. And every day, I wanted to give up. I wanted to run away, it was so very hard, the words and letters made no sense. I wanted to be left alone; I felt dumb, I felt useless. Mom weathered all my temper tantrums, and there were a lot. She was committed that by the end of the summer I would be reading. Her resolve was a gift. By the time the school year began, a mere 3 months (and many meltdowns) later, I was right on track to stay in a mainstream class. She believed in me. She did not give up on me. She taught me to not give up on myself. I’m not sure there is a greater gift anyone could give a child.
Simon entered the bathroom breaking the staring competition I'm having with myself. I recounted the story of my missing earring and he instantly went to work scouring every corner of the bathroom. Over an hour later, no earring was found. I was beginning to give up… it was gone, it was a mystery- I joked that we should call in the CSI unit. This little 3-billion-year-old sucker had vanished. An irrational amount of tears started running down my face. I told Simon, “It’s like God is saying to me, this is your practice for losing something, your mom is next.”Simon holds me tight as I sob. “You know I am not crying about the earring, right?” He whispers back,“It’s okay my Love. It’s okay. And, we will find the earring.”
I met with the social workers and therapists at the center my mom is rehabbing at- they deliver the disappointing news that she is not progressing. I asked,
“What else can we do?”Lots of mumbles followed. I asked the question differently. “What else can I do?” More mumbling. I look directly at the OT and ask her, “What else can be done? I know there is more. This cannot be it.”She looks at me blankly. She glances to my mom, and then back at me, “I’m not sure what you mean.”I want to rip her eyes out. I cannot give up on my mom. We cannot give up on her.
The next morning Simon declared that he will taking the pipes apart in the bathroom to continue the search for the missing earring. It seems a bit extreme, we’ve already concluded that the earing most likely couldn’t pass through the short stopper. I nodded and smiled but there is no sense of hopefulness in my heart. My mind was elsewhere. I moved about with the rest of my day.
The director of the new facility we will be moving my mom to after she is discharged from the hospital is very sweet and likable. My mother even responded well to her. The woman tells me with complete genuineness, “It’s all going to be ok”. “We will make your mom better,” she assures me confidently. I smiled and thanked her, but I know better, you don’t get better with dementia you only get worse. My mom continues to slip in and out of hysterics, agitation, and reality. My mother asks me for a gun so she can kill herself. It’s not the first time. The agony is too much for her, she tells me, angrily, when I do not comply with her request. What a strange reversal. Surely, my meltdowns as a child pale in comparison, but still, her patience with me then reminds me to hold steady now.
I returned home that afternoon and discovered that low and behold, Simon had not only pulled the pipes out, he was cleaning them and searching through all the pipe gunk to recover the missing earring. He worked tirelessly, going far above and much beyond. He tells me that he has also gone through Metta’s poop after his walks to see if he may have swallowed it. No diamond-in-dog-poop was uncovered. I watch Simon sort through the muck and grime of the pipes, looking for the glimmer of a diamond, and I know just how he feels. I’m impressed with his efforts but also confused why he is working so hard, I’m sure he has many other things to do today. Then it hit me, he had to do this! He was desperate to do this! The one thing I need “fixed” he cannot fix, or solve or even ease the pain- my mom! My mom situation was weighing heavily on him. It must pain him to know he cannot solve that for me, and take away my pain. He has no answers, I have no answers; no one does. I’ve no doubt Simon would be willing to be stuck with 100,000 needles if it would cure her, and consiguently ease my pain. It is not that simple. He cannot solve this mystery, and cannot fix this problem. In that regard we are both helpless. But, what he can do he does with 100% focus and 100% determination, he will solve the mystery of the lost diamond earring.
Photo: Me and my mom circa a long time ago when her diamond still sparkled