Saturday, November 6, 2010

In a Hospital Room

She: (feeling her pulse points repeatedly) "I can't find my pulse!"
I: (not looking up from my book) "It's in there."
She: "How can you be so sure?"
I: *Stunned silence* ?
I: "Self-report of clinically significant impalpable pulse is notoriously unreliable."
She: (rolls eyes) "You really are insufferable sometimes."
I: (with sarcastic glee) "I'm quite sure this is not one of those times."

The Sweetness
We have had more than a few nasty disagreements over the years. She loves me, I know. But we'd both admit in each other's presence that we've often not liked the other. We've spent a lot of time one-on-one in the last couple of months. I am able to comfort her when she's at her most agitated. I'm glad of that.

She's not well. She might not leave us next week or next month but I'll bet she won't be here next Thanksgiving. She has talked about my daughters during our hours in the rooms, about how she has loved them so completely and delighted in caring for them as wee ones when I went to work.

I knew in those days how lucky I was to leave my children in the care of their loving grandmother, even if she rarely did things as I wished, if she undid every ounce of discipline and orderliness I'd tried to instill in them. Even if she sometimes overstepped my "Momma Grizzly" boundaries. Even if she perpetuated bottle nipple rejection of precious pumped breast milk by dribbling it on their lips from her fingertips.

I think in these last few days I've for the first time really appreciated the gift she gave to me and to my children -- not the savings, the safety, the convenience, the freedom from infection. The real gift: the family joined over three generations, all of us caring for our others. I've finally felt truly connected to her as we shared our recollections of each daughter in their early months and years. I inadvertently called her "Mom" just fell out of my mouth. This is something I've never, ever done, even when my teen friends would do so. I have one mother: she gave birth to me and no matter how much I might have felt comfort or love from friends' mothers, I never even considered diminishing my mother's efforts by calling someone else by her name.

I love what Mary M. has shown to my daughters about family connections. I certainly loved my grandparents just as I know my girls love my own parents but it is an entirely different family model. I hope my children will let me play the same part in their family lives.

After she'd had her xanax this evening and settled down, the room grew quiet. I looked at a crack in the pink paint over the doorway. I had my first sad moment of the Bethy Blue season that is knocking on my door. Just as I thought of the many hospital rooms I sat in with Beth, she said, "and what an awful time of year it is for all of this to be happening..." Asked to clarify she said, "well, its very close now to Beth's anniversary..." And I swear--- we hadn't been talking about the holiday approaching or its' sad memories.

A few more hours passed and it was time for her night meds: steroids for the pneumonia, colace for its usual purpose, vitamin K to coagulate the blood they'd been thinning for her embolisms (until she nearly bled to death), oxycontin for pain. I read as she watched the silent television. She asked, "has Kathy planned any hikes with Shane?". I said I was confused; I don't know anyone named Shane. Perhaps she was confusing me for someone else? "No," she replied, "your daughter's golden retriever. Are they planning any mountain hikes?" "My daughters, your granddaughters, have a golden doodle named Noodle, a shih tzu named Otis. Maybe you're thinking I'm your sister, Dorothy?"

She said no and closed her eyes, exasperated with me. Then opening one eye only, she studied my face. "You're right. I thought you were Dorothy." I thanked her; her sister is lovely in face and character; they love each other well.

I wonder if she's going now to be with my sister. Over the rainbow, maybe.

[Note: This exasperation on her part that I would not be who she thought I was reminded me much of my Uncle Don Walker's insistence that a nurse on his floor of his nursing home was my Mom. I love that when my Mom did actually visit him, after a period of some length insisting this nurse was his niece (there's a limerick in there, I just know it...), she said, "Uncle Don! It's me: Mary Frances!" And he said, "Well, its about time you admitted it!"]


Special K said...

thinking of you...

KHM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
KHM said...

K--when I talked to her over the phone this AM she told me that the evening we had this talk, she'd had a priest administer last rites just before I arrived. Today she's being transferred back to the rehabilitation place.

Thank you for thinking of us. I think we're now just playing the back and forth of ping pong...I don't think she can take much more and she's having increasing trouble with long standing health issues.

I'm worried and sorry for my husband and daughters.

Melissa said...

Kathy - Having watched your MIL with your girls when you worked and seen the love she has for them, I believe you are all very lucky to have shared that. I am so sorry for what you all are going through. I think of you often. I hope for your family to have a time of peace, calm and love. Regardless of the others, I know love is one you have always.

Please give Rob my best as well.

Love, melissa