Many months ago, I froze my travel blog in space and time. Not only because of the pandemic, but because of two serious family situations that I could not yet share online. For legal and emotional reasons, I kept quiet about what went on in my life. Today, I open up.
The first situation involves my family-in-law. After D’s mother suddenly died in August 2020, D’s father, who was sliding into senility, found himself in undesirable and precarious circumstances from which he could not free himself. D and I left Vietnam as quickly as was safely possible and returned to the United States to defend the father’s rights in court. We accomplished half of our goal almost immediately: We became his fulltime caregivers, and as such, were able to nurse him back to health with loving attention, natural light, good food, and an extensive medical tour including brain scans, new medication, and hip surgery. The legal half of our goal took longer to achieve, but after months of stress and strategies, we succeeded in April. My father-in-law is now safe in his own home, protected and in caring hands.
While the first crisis took place in Florida, a second situation in The Netherlands became more and more urgent. This one is all about my mother. I don’t know why I haven’t written about her before. Perhaps because it was too personal, too intimate. But now it feels as though I am lying by omission if I don’t address my current pain at all. Not that I’m obliged to be totally truthful online or required to share everything, but if I want this travel-life journal to mean anything, I need to speak about my mother.
She is not doing well, which is an understatement. After several years of memory problems and severe anxiety, she was diagnosed at a fairly young age with Alzheimer’s in January 2020—a week before D and I flew to Asia for what was supposed to be a three-month journey. Then Corona happened, and when I finally returned to The Netherlands after a prolonged stay in Vietnam and a three-month stopover in Florida, I had not seen her in over a year. She still remembered who I was, but was no longer the mother I had left behind. Now, returned to Holland from Florida for the second time, I am losing her even more rapidly. Her mind is like quicksand and her will to live gone.
I’m not sure how much I’ll be posting in the challenging time to come. I’ll make notes during these weeks with my mother, knowing they will likely be our last, but I cannot yet tell what I will want to share right away. Like most humans, I tend to retreat when I grieve. All I can say is that it will be a complex, emotionally charged ordeal and a memoir is in the works.
Photo: Portrait of My Mother as a Young Woman.