Friday, October 17, 2008

The night watch...

After a brief supper of California Pizza, I returned to Hospice house around 8:00 PM. Mom was sound asleep. My brother Norbert and his wife, and my brother Mark were there. Mary Anne and I chatted loosely while the guys watched baseball. I find TV offensive under the best conditions, sports tv offensive under most conditions. I was having to control my irritation. Mom can't turn over on her own, and because of the tendency to develop sores, we asked that she be turned every couple of hours. It was 8:30 and she'd been on the same side since about 3:30 that afternoon. The staff was unusually busy, with new admissions. They'd been incredibly wonderful - attentive, supportive, kind and compassionate. We hated to "press" them, so we waited and watched the clock. Shortly after 9, a nurse came in and she and I repositioned mom on her back, slightly elevating her head and feet, and added an extra blanket. She looked more comfortable than she had so far. She slept peacefully.
Norbert and Mary Anne left around 11:00, and Mark was snoozing in the lounge chair. The TV was still delivering pitches and play by plays - to no one. I sat patiently. Mark opened his eyes, and sat up and I suggested he go home. Reluctantly, he kissed mom good bye, telling her to "hang in there". Mark is emotionally challenged, and no matter how many times we remind him that it's better to "allow" mom to go when she's ready, and not ask her to "hang in there" - he doesn't get it. We all deal with dying in our own way.
Mark left, I turned off the TV, readjusted the room lighting, and sat down with a book.
The cooridor sounds carried occassional beeps and buzzers, chatter among the aides. Mom's breathing was steady with occasional gasps or gurgles. I would glance up from my book, observe the rise and fall of her chest or the twitch of her mouth then return to my book. I sat with my eyes closed, thinking about my first memory of my mother. I am seven in the line of ten children, and there wasn't much individual time. I remember being four or five and falling on a sharp object and putting a gash in my right knee. I limped crying into the kitchen where mom and my sisters were washing the supper dishes. My memory is of mom's white apron strings as she stood at the sink. "Go on in to the bathroom and I'll be right there" she had said. I was sure I was going to bleed to death before she came in and patched me up.
The nurse popped her head in the door, asked if all was OK, I gave a nod and a smile and she left. Eventually, I readjusted the lighting, pulled a blanket from the drawer, repositioned myself in the lounger and dozed. Mom would gurgle or mumble, bringing me conscious, only to be assured that she was fine and return to my dozing. Around 3:00 AM, mom's mumbling became more aggressive. She began what I call looped language, repeating incoherent phrases over and over. This time is was "please please please... " and then inaudible mumble and then "please please please.." I sat up, held her hand and stroked her forehead. I reassured her all was OK. The nurse heard her and came in. I was being soft spoken, to keep her calm. The nurse, however called her name strongly: "Kaye? what do you want? Kaye? can you hear me?" Mom responded, so I put the lights up. "Do you want some water, Kaye?" the nurse asked. "That would be fine" she replied, so we positioned the straw in her mouth. She drew a little. "She likes ice cream, doesn't she?" the nurse asked. Mom's love of ice cream was well known. "Do you want some ice cream?" the nurse asked "Oh I always would like that!" mom responded. We gave her a few spoonsful, until she said "no more right now" She drifted back to sleep, and so did I.
From my light sleep, I heard a familiar voice in the hallway. It was my brother Mark. "Is Shelly in there?" I heard him ask (he's one of the few that still calls me Shelly - if you ever call me Shelly I may have to hurt you!! ). I looked at the clock and it was 6 AM. I brought the lights up, and sat holding mom's hand. Her eyes darted wide open, just as bright as could be. She began talking incessantly. "I don't know what to do" she would say "Help me" she would plead. I stroked her cheek and said, "Mom. It's Michelle. I"m here..." she said, "My Michelle? OH!" and smiled. It warmed my heart to tears.
Mark came in like a bull in a china shop. Because of his physical and emotional disabilities, he's very indelicate in his movement. Right away he began fidgeting about, placing photos in mom's line of sight, fumbling with a quilt her brought from her home, kissing her on the forehead with such strength that she grimaced and said "stop stop!" Be gentle, Mark! I urged. He immediately took it personally and turned away near tears. I hugged him, told him we all know how much he loves her, and now that he was here, I'd go home.
I'm about to head back in. My nephew from Washington State comes in this evening. Who knows what the day will bring. These are indeed stressful times.

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