Thursday: I arrived at 12:10 today – I wish I could have gotten here sooner but I had things to go over with my assistant, and it just wasn’t possible to get away from my work any earlier. At 12:10 my mother was already lying down on top of the bed and she was miserable. Feeling cold (despite the 80 degree heat in the house) and feeling sick. When I went in to say hello, she began to cry. She hadn’t been able to bring herself to eat anything all day, and she knows that loss of appetite is a strong indication that the body is in decline. I think she was momentarily scared – mostly because she felt so very, very unwell.”Don’t leave me,” she cried.
I hugged her frail frame for a moment, pressed my cheek against hers, reassuring her that I am here to stay. I reminded her that we are not bodies that have souls, we are souls that have bodies. The transition, when it happens, will be easy, I said, although the journey to that point is physically uncomfortable.
She calmed down and we talked about the turkey breast that needed to be put in the oven for dinner. Once that was accomplished, I helped her pull on her nightgown, cranked up the heated mattress pad, and tucked her between the sheets. Snuggled in, she thought she could eat an omelet, and would I make her one? I don’t think there is anything special about my omelets, but she always has liked them a lot. I hastened to prepare the food, and then I fed her forkful by forkful while she rested in her bed, too weak to sit up. She ate most of it and drank some water, too.
She feels like she’s making me into a maid. I keep telling her that I am happy to be doing all of this and that she is not to worry about anything. I mention that she’d have done the same for her own mother. She is silent.
Later I remember that her mother (who died when my mother was 24 years old) had been ill with heart disease for many years before her death in 1954, and that my mother had had to take over the housekeeping AND look after her mother AND go to college at the same time. All that with no help from her sister, who also lived at home but who refused to do anything but please herself. I suspect that, in her early 20s, my mother had found that burden too much and had resented her mother. She didn’t hesitate to move away from home within a few months of college graduation, leaving the household and the family to get along without her.
Maybe the “chickens have come home to roost” here and she is feeling bad about her feelings at the time, afraid that I resent her as she resented her own family? Pure speculation on my part, but seems likely.
I would like to ask her, but I don’t think I can. She’s got enough on her plate. In the meantime, I reassure her and reassure her and reassure her – I am happy to be here. Even on the bad days.
Friday – bad night for Mom. The worst pain yet, and we had to give her a dose of morphine. She also had a fever of 102.7. This morning seems better – she still doesn’t have any pain as I write this, and her temperature has returned to normal. They are delivering a hospital bed today. When she finally agreed to the hospital bed, she asked me, "Does this mean I have to be bedridden?" "Not if you don't want to be, Mom," I replied. This morning, so far, she's shone no inclination to get out of bed. But her legs feel better today than yesterday, so she might get up yet.
And so it goes.
Let me say, again, how very much your comments and prayers mean to us in this situation. Mom was touched when I told her that people all over this country are praying for her. It means the world to me, that's for sure.