Death by Chocolate

I drove to Houston Mother’s Day weekend for the second (and last) weekend of the estate sale. Mom’s been ill with another infection; one that has hit her especially hard. The new antibiotic, injectable Rocephin, was started on Friday before I arrived at mom’s assisted living. When I got there, she was reclined in her lift chair watching a Modern Family marathon. Well, not watching exactly, since she wasn’t entirely coherent. The sitter I had hired was with her, playing with the cat.

Mom smiled when I arrived but talked little. She wasn’t up for more than one-word responses. She wasn’t strong enough to go down to dinner, so they brought a plate of fresh fruit to her room. I fed her the first few bites, and when I told her she could eat it with her fingers, she began feeding herself. I watched tv with her and played with kitty until it was time for bed. When I spoke to her, she stared blankly at me much of the time.

It took three caregivers and the sitter to transfer mom from her recliner to the bed Friday night. She was so weak, she couldn’t help them much. Once she was in bed, I pulled up a chair and sat with her, holding her hand. I put kitty in the chair so she could reach him for petting. She lay there with her eyes closed, stroking the cat. She looked so weak and vulnerable. When my eyes filled with tears, I got up and turned away so she wouldn’t see me. I left after she fell asleep.

I spent the night in mom’s house. (At some point over the past three and a half years, it shifted from being my parent’s house, to being mom’s house.) The house is in complete disarray, with everything out of the closets, cupboards, drawers, and cabinets for the estate sale. We sold a fair amount of family treasures (along with a good amount of crap) two weeks prior, but it seemed to have barely made a dent. I slept in a twin bed in my brother’s old room, feeling lonely and wishing I had the company of Lucy, like I had the prior visit.

After a restless night, I got up and made a pot of coffee, thankful we hadn’t yet sold the coffee maker. I’d stashed my mug in the refrigerator the weekend before so it wouldn’t be sold. At 7:45, the garage salers began ringing the doorbell, like vultures descending upon a carcass. I didn’t let them in until my sister arrived five minutes later. My sister and I both were in a surly mood, and not having nearly as much fun as the prior sale weekend. We seemed to be carrying more mementos out to our cars than we were selling. Knowing this was the last weekend, things felt a bit more final. Letting go of family treasures grew more difficult.

In the afternoon, one of the garage salers told us of an estate sale in a nearby neighborhood being run by an estate sale company. My brother-in-law went and fetched the owner, who came over to talk with us about taking over the sale. We quickly reached an agreement with him, and closed up shop early. In two weeks, the estate sale company will run the sale again. This time, in a more methodical fashion, with more comprehensive ads, prices on everything, and a group of “professionals” on two sale days. Once the sale is over, they’ll auction what remains, and donate what can’t be sold. The house will then be empty and ready for the next step: sale of the real property.

After the estate sale owner left, my sister and I went through the house room by room once more, adding a few more treasures to our piles. A few, meaning as much as I could fit in my car and still see through my rear-view mirror. Odd how suddenly we felt frantic. With each item carried out to my car, I vowed to clear out my closets by year-end to alleviate the feeling of suffocation that overcame me.

When I visited my mom Saturday evening, she seemed a bit perkier. The second antibiotic had begun to work. I was flooded with relief. I had brought mom a big bouquet of yellow flowers, happy flowers, and explained to her that the next day was Mother’s Day, and we were going to have a picnic. I stayed with her until the caregivers helped her to bed. She was stronger than the night before, but still very weak.

On Sunday, I awoke early and went for a seven-mile walk with a friend. The mosquitoes were fierce due to the flooding weeks before. Afterward, I took what I expected would be my last shower ever in the house and packed up my belongings. I walked around the house that for nearly forty years had been “home”: room by room, I told it goodbye.

I arrived at my mother’s assisted living shortly before lunch. My sister, brother-in-law, and niece both were there visiting mom. They were preparing to leave as my brother-in-law had gotten word that his brother was dying and wasn’t expected to make it through the day. (As it turns out, he would not get there in time to say goodbye.) As they left, my niece and brother-in-law lingered over my mother, giving her kisses and telling her she is loved. My sister, in contrast, was already out the door.

“Why doesn’t Dierdre kiss her mother goodbye? What’s her deal?” I asked them.

“She’s not affectionate,” my niece said. “You know that.”

“She’s always been that way,” my brother-in-law said.

“No wonder she likes me better,” I blurted.

After they left, I pushed mom out to the courtyard where we could watch the birds. It was a beautiful day. Mom had improved even more, having been on the right antibiotic for more than forty-eight hours. I ordered lunch from a nearby cafe, and sat holding her hand and talking with her until it was time to pick it up. As we watched a mourning dove chase the others away from the feeder, I asked her how she was feeling; if she was feeling better.

“I’m just feeling content,” she said.

Content. What an exquisite word.

Mom told me it was time for me to pick up our lunch, that twenty minutes had passed. I looked at the time, and sure enough, she was right. I picked up her omelet and my salad, and added a giant piece of chocolate cream pie to the order. The waiter gave me a white carnation for mom. When I got back to the courtyard, a gentleman in a motorized wheelchair had come out to enjoy some fresh air. I greeted him, and mom and I tucked into our lunches. Eventually, I made my way toward the topic I’d wanted to broach with her.

“Mom, Dierdre wants you to do rehab at a rehab hospital. Do you want to do rehab at a hospital?”

“Not today. Maybe later I’ll try it.”

“But do you want to leave and stay somewhere else to do it? Stay overnight somewhere else?”


“How about if we do rehab, physical therapy here, in your room? You can sleep in your bed and you won’t have to leave your cat?”

“I would like to try that. Maybe tomorrow.”

“But you don’t want to leave here and go somewhere else and stay overnight to do it?”

“No, I want to sleep here.”

“OK. I told Dierdre you didn’t want to go to a rehab hospital. She can be kind of a bully,” I joked. “But I can take it. I can stand up to her for you. I will tell her you don’t want to go to rehab. That you want to do therapy here. At some point, it just gets to be too much work.”

chocolate cream pieAfter she finished her omelette, I opened the container with the huge slice of chocolate cream pie. She broke into a big smile. I cleaned off her fork and handed it to her.

“OK, we’re not going to eat the whole thing. We’ll save some of it for later,” I told her.

“I might be able to eat the whole thing,” she said.

“But what if it does crazy things to your blood sugar? What if it makes you go into a coma?”

“I’m sitting down so it will be OK,” she said. And she laughed.

“But mom, you don’t want to die by chocolate, do you?”

“That would be OK,” she said.

“I suppose there are worse ways to go, than death by chocolate,” I said.

We ate in silence, savoring our pie. The man in the wheelchair then told us he was going for his “walk.”

“It’s a nice day for a stroll,” I told him.

“You’re a good daughter,” he replied.

I thanked him, surprised.

“You are a good daughter,” he repeated, and he motored away for his walk.


  • We always seem to think that whatever ‘is’ right now will be the same forever, yet life is about change, so why are we always surprised when parents age and we need to deal with the things they’ve accumulated? Perhaps I’m assuming how you feel, because that’s how I felt when I had to sort out the old family home.
    BTW, that pie sounds delicious!


    • I definitely used to think my family would stay the same forever. Having been smacked around a lot by change over the past few years, I’ve learned better. Still, my mother wanted her home to remain a time capsule. It’s been a long process getting her to let go. The surprise to me at this point was just how much stuff was packed into that house. Sheesh! Despite the stuff I brought home, I’m determined to embark on a minimization project. The pie was delicious!

      Liked by 2 people

      • My mom died when I was 9, but when my dad passed, years later, I seriously considered lighting a match and burning down the house. I didn’t, but boy, was it tempting!
        He had a 5 car garage and kept his lawn mower and car outside because there was no space for them. (I couldn’t make this stuff up.) He kept every magazine and newspaper, tied them with twine into tidy bundles and had them stacked to the roof…. I called the recycle guy and he was my life saver, but there was still a lot of junk to sort through… He had boxes and boxes of empty jars, tin cans, egg cartons, etc.- all sorted by size. For instance, he had a box that was about bushel basket size full of tums bottles…
        Feel better about your mom’s house, now?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Holy moly! I do! My dad had only a two-car garage to pack full of his tools and fasteners and coffee cans full of odds and ends. If he’d had a five, surely he would have filled it. I do understand the burning-it-down sentiment. Which is why we didn’t linger long over the rooms full of paper mementos.

          Liked by 2 people

  • I’m sorry you’re having to deal with so much difficult stuff. I heard a tip recently that might help with minimalising. Our memories aren’t in the physical things we hold on to, they just act as symbols or triggers for the memories we store in our minds. A photograph or scan of the physical object serves the same purpose, triggering the precious memories but allowing us to release the physical burden of owning the stuff. Take care x

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is helpful. Now that I’ve got the stuff home I held onto last minute, I can take time to go through it, and through the memories it triggers, and let it go. If I still have trouble, I love the idea of a photograph. Thank you, ToTW. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  • When I would travel from Austin to Alamo Heights to sit with my Grandmother in her final days last year, I was always annoyed by my two Aunts, hovering and squawking over stuff that… did… not… matter. “The sisters”, my dad calls them. “Dad, why are the Sisters clucking about Gran needing to take Calcium pills? For her 94 year old sedentary bones?” One day, the Sisters were quite dismayed that the caregivers were not feeding Gran a healthy diet and complained heartily that all she would eat was pancakes swimming in syrup. Out of frustration, I blurted, “if the old woman wants pancakes, let her eff-ing eat pancakes!” So you know what, we should all be so lucky to experience contentment of spirit with a belly full of pie…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pinka, I totally get what you are saying. I’m glad my grandma’s only sister didn’t harp on any choices of treats and stuff we brought to Grandma when we visited. My grandma was allergic to chocolate, but we never deprived her of anything else. My aunt (her sister) always brought her something special and not chocolate everytime she came to visit. One time, we went for Christmas Day to visit, and my mom brought pepperoni, cheese, and crackers. No one stopped grandma from eating it. No one ever harped over what she ate, as long as it wasn’t chocolate!

      Liked by 1 person

  • I’m so glad your mother perked up over the weekend so that you knew the antibiotics were working. And chocolate cream pie too!


  • When you write, I’m so drawn into your story. I love the title of this post – and the prior one is next to it. “To treat or not to treat” – looks like you got your answer in a unique way. I think having a piece of pie is absolutely the sweetest thing and one of those memories you’ll hold onto.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m getting better at it. If I listen, she lets me know what she needs. And really, we’re more alike than I knew. Cats and pie. It is that simple. Thank you for your encouragement all the way through, Phil. I hope the rain goes easy on the Realm and the kids get out for some fresh air and muddy paws.


      • Funny how much we learn about ourselves later in life – when there’s the combat about growing up and gaining independence is over.
        Simple is good. And enough. Takes a long time to realize that.
        Oddly the mosquitoes aren’t horrendous here yet. Maybe Galveston Co is already spraying or something. Clouds keeping temps down so late afternoon walks aren’t out of the question yet. Molly show no interest in learning how to use the treadmill.

        Liked by 1 person

  • I love your writing too. I almost feel like I’m there with you.
    I’ve always thought of daisies and sunflowers as happy flowers. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  • This reminds me so much of my Dad’s time in the hospital and rehab facility after his several bouts of pneumonia. I remember bringing him in a hot fudge sundae and telling him he should just eat a bit at a time – we didn’t want to tip the nurses off with elevated sugar levels. He got very lucid for a moment, smiled and said that he was going to eat every bite and make sure there was chocolate on his lips as evidence! It is one of the good memories I hold onto.


  • Cat and mouse
  • I’m so glad I came back and found you again. My blog didn’t show that I had followed before. There have to be so many people who benefit from your sharing. Its such a demonstration of love. in lak’ech, Debra


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