December 28th, 2011 ; Morning
I am back at work today. “Back” at work is really a relative term; I am here, and I am also not here. When my alarm clock went off at 5:45 A.M. this morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I wanted to ask my husband to take our daughter to daycare and go on to work so I could lay there. Instead, I pushed myself out of the warm comfort of my covers and into the shower. I went through the motions of my normal morning routine and found myself getting back into the groove of it once I started drying my hair.
It seems like a million years ago that I last did this routine before I was thrown into a blender and poured back out again. Getting Nellie ready, packing her bag for daycare, fixing my coffee and driving the normal route to get Josh to work felt alien; like it was something normal people did in a different dimension. Normal people whose lives hadn’t been flipped upside down in just seven short days. Normal people who hadn’t spent the last week in and out of the hospital surrounded by chaos and imminent death. Doing these mundane things felt both strange and comforting. As I’ve been shuffling about in this whole ordeal, I’ve felt like a ghost of a person drifting amongst the living. When people ask the courtesy question: “hi, how are you?” I pause for a second before answering. I want to tell them what I’ve been through in the past week, but it’s not quite socially acceptable when the clerk at a gas station asks to unload the burden of your dysfunctional relationship with your mother who is dying in the hospice unit you admitted her to on Christmas day, is it? So I pause and answer honestly: “I’m doing okay”.
I’m feeling those walls I mentioned yesterday – the emotional ones I’ve been building and fortifying for the past fifteen years – beginning to weaken a little. The kindness, love, and support that I’ve been surrounded by has chipped away little blocks here and there. I’ve found myself accepting and returning gratitude more easily than I have before. I’ve always had a hard time conveying and expressing my thankfulness and appreciation. I have a hard time telling people I love them. In the past few days the words have fallen easily from my mouth. I sometimes think it’s because I simply don’t have any energy to put forth into keeping my fortress up.
This experience is changing me. I can feel the change and yet I cannot put my finger on what exactly is shifting and evolving inside of me. I simply know that it is happening, and I accept and welcome it.
My bosses bought us lunch yesterday and had a coworker deliver it to the hospital. Their support and love has been overwhelming. We ate in mom’s room with our food on our laps. We didn’t talk much. I sat there eating my fajitas and kept thinking that it seemed wrong somehow that we were eating such delicious food in front of a dying woman. I keep thinking things like, “she’ll never eat Mexican food again” or “she’ll never shit in a toilet again” (seriously, that one crossed my mind while I was in the bathroom the other day). Knowing that death is coming makes you think of those things, I guess.
I’d look over and see the output from her catheter; there wasn’t much there but it was a reddish/coppery color that made my stomach turn. I kept looking at that fucking thing, the last of the urine my mother would produce and I wanted to be sick. I wished that we’d gone out of the room to eat. The sound of her breathing (shallow but gasping, rattle-y and sick) and that container of piss made me lose my appetite and want to vomit. I ate every bit of my food, however, because I apparently am a bit of an emotional eater. I never really realized this until this week’s events began to unfold.
I talked to my brother, who stayed overnight. Her vitals are declining. The nurses offered a vague guess of maybe a day.. Maybe a little more. Her time is winding down. I just want this waiting to be over. I don’t want to do this anymore, and I don’t think she does, either. I’m going to the hospital soon to meet my brother for lunch. The thought of being in that room with her and her shallow, gasping breathing makes me anxious and scared.
I went to the hospital for a few minutes to pick Drew up. They were in the middle of giving mom a sponge bath. I went in because she was agitated and making a lot of noise. It was really upsetting to see her upset like that, and I wasn’t entirely happy with the way the nurses handled her. They were not hospice nurses, but normal hospital nurses. They didn’t have the deliberate, gentle, slow touches that we’ve come to trust from the hospice nurses. The whole experience freaked me out really badly.
Drew and I had lunch and I decided to come home and just sit in the stillness until it was time to get Josh and Nellie. A package had come in the mail and when I got there, and opened it I saw that it was my mother’s Christmas gift to Nellie. It came with a note that said, “To my Nellie Rose. Love always, Grandma Sue-Sue”.
I looked at it for a minute and then broke down into tears for about five minutes. I slowly lowered myself to the floor and sobbed. I eventually calmed down, then burst into tears again. She got Nellie one of those Twilight Turtle night lights and I think Nellie will love it.
Once my crying jag had passed, I had the urge to track down my parents’ wedding photo album and look through it. I didn’t find it, though I do know it’s in my apartment somewhere. I don’t know why I felt compelled to do that.
Mom is running a fever. One of the hospice nurses that I trust most came in to talk to us about needing to bring it down. She suggested a suppository, and from the experience mom went through earlier in the day I was really hesitant. Fortunately the hospice nurse offered to do it herself, and she was so gentle with her, mom didn’t even stir.
The nurses and staff here are truly unique and special. I feel blessed to have met the people we’ve met.