Wednesday, March 25, 2009

tough peasant stock

I walked into my parent's room a few days ago and found my mother slumped in her chair. Her head hung down....saliva dripped from the corner of her mouth.....she didn't respond when I called her name.

I ran out into the hallway and yelled for a nurse.

Two aides came running towards the room to help... we placed my mother in her bed. I called my hub and simply said, "Please come."

I thought she had another stroke....the unresponsiveness...her loose jaw...the yellow-gray of her skin....all added up.

The nurse asked if I wanted to call the doctor ambulance or did I just want to sit with her. She has a do not resuscitate order as per her living will......but I could override it.

"We'll stay with her," I hand went over my heart to control the emotional pain....I imagined something would happen to my father first....not my mother.

My hub came and we sat around her bed. Her breathing rate dropped....her heart rate slowed.

There was a moment..... a very long minute ....when her chest didn't rise and she looked so pale.....I started crying.....after all the trouble of the last couple weeks I still wasn't ready for this.

My mother gasped and then gulped for air......which is not uncommon near death......she gasped again and one more time......and then started breathing ....regularly.

In a couple minutes......her eyes fluttered open....she tried to lift her head......then her lips trembled...she struggled to say something.

"I..... need......."

"I need......."

"What mom...what do you need?"

She took a few deep breaths.......she raised her head again and looked at me.

"I need.....a toothpick."


She laid back and closed her eyes then put her finger to her mouth.

"I need a toothpick"

I felt like someone hit me with a wet knees buckled....I sat down in the chair so I wouldn't fall over.

"Right here"......her finger pulled her lower lip down and she showed me her teeth. "Something's here....I need a toothpick."

"I don't have a toothpick Mom." I felt this crazy exasperation....I don't carry toothpicks....there's none in the room.....and who knew the need for a toothpick could bring a person back from the other side.

"I need a toothpick."

"Do you have one?" I asked Hub. He looked startled too and shook his head.

"I'll bring one tomorrow....maybe you can just brush your teeth now."

"Okay" she if we had been sitting around the dinner table and the need for a toothpick just came up.

We sat for a while....she asked for juice and water.....a blanket.....finally the startled aides returned and said they would get her ready for bed.

I kissed her forehead.... said good night.....drew the curtain back which separated my parent's beds.

My father glanced at her....."She's fine dad...she just needed a toothpick"

He raised his hand up.....a kind of.....well of course she needs a toothpick ...gesture.

I left the room....and headed for the door. I was so shell-shocked I couldn't remember the electronic code to exit. I kept punching the key pad and getting my # and my * confused.

When I reached my convertible.....I was too weak to open the door and drapped myself over the hood.

Did this really happen?

Did I really just find my mother unresponsive and close to death ....and then she perks up and asks for a toothpick?

I shook my head....this whole event went into the "I can't believe this " column ...which is getting mighty long.

"I need...."

"I need a drink," I said to myself.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rubber girl

I wake up in the mornings now....not only unsure of what day it is....but also unsure of what will happen....

right now...I've given up on plans....plans were in the old days of my life....were you could say things like...."I'm going to go to work this week" or "this weekend I'm going to clean out the garage" or " I have a dentist appt on Tuesday."

No matter what I plan...or what I think I'm going to do....things are in a constant flux right now....

this week I drove up to Chicago because the plan pick up my son for spring break.....have my daughter come in from Ohio.....and start working on my parent's house....detrashing.....starting to organize things.....even have a real estate agent look over the house.

But the day before I was scheduled to dad entered the hospital for pneumonia. I was with him till 4am he could get through the emergency room process and get into a room.....then several hours behind I hit the road at 11am....assured that my family there could watch over him for the weekend....

I told my daughter not to fly in.....just Tom and I would work for the week .....and then on Monday.....I received two surreal phone calls.....

One from the hospital at 10am saying my father will be discharged to the nursing facility and the next call at 11am......from the nursing facility telling me the doctor had decided my mother's leg infection was worse and she needed to go to the hospital.

so parents crossed each other on the freeway in ambulances traveling to and from the university medical center......

that was bizarre my family down there raised the white flag of surrender and said come back Tom and I are getting in the car in another hour or so and heading down south....

I simply shrug my shoulders at a 10 hour drive.....make sure I have an audio tape which will occupy me for about 6-8 hours.....adjust the rear view mirror....buckle the seat belt....and go.

My trusty dog Ozzie, who has accompanied me for several of these trips....also jumps in the car without hesitation ....he knows mid-trip an Arby's plain roast beef sandwich appears in a paper bag to gulp down.....a couple of exciting rest stops with the smells of hundreds of dogs are waiting for him ...and finally....when we're almost home...he knows if he stares at me licking my vanilla ice cream cone from McDonald's so hard ....I'll give in and give him half... What more could a dog ask for?

I feel like I'm turning into rubber band.....flex....change positions...cry...laugh....sleep here ....sleep there.....rethink this ...rethink that.....get rid of those thoughts....soak in new thoughts..... assess..... prioritize....what needs to be done right now?

And apparently what needs to be done right hop in a car...and drive back home.

Okay...where's the car keys?


Thursday, March 12, 2009


I am sitting here waiting for my phone to charge.

I will need it today.

I woke up....and for the first time in many weeks actually slept through the night. Although there is much stress with my parent's condition....I visit once or twice a family visits also..... we have an eye on them in terms of their care and comfort. Everything is easier to handle when you are at home in your familiar surroundings.

I even had a chance to sit with my parent's cat for a while this morning...she is recovering in our bathroom. We had her spayed and declawed....she lived mostly in a cage by my mother's recliner in the den....a choice showing my mom's deteriorating mental status rather than true cruelty.

She doesn't know much about being a cat or getting lots of love and we decided to give her a chance in our household....I sat down on the plush carpet near the sink and she curled up on me and purred..... I felt happy and hopeful that there was a small part of the world coming together.

Then the phone rang....and the nurse from the nursing home called to talk to me. "We believe your mother had a slight stroke this morning."

"My mother?"

"'s mild but she is having difficulty using her right hand....and is wobbly on her feet. Her vitals are stable, we called the doctor."

I sat for about 5 minutes...trying to digest mother had a small stroke.

I visited her late last night...she was already in bed and I tucked her in and kissed her....fully realizing our role leaning over to kiss her good tucking her in bed.

Her dementia may have been caused by multiple small strokes...this episode....might be a bigger manifestation of smaller events which have happened over the last couple years.

Still I am in awe at the slippery complicated slope we are on......

how everything is there's no plateau yet....just new challenges to face.

A few more minutes.....a bit more charge in the cell.....and off I go.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Crossing the threshold.............

I feel like I've crossed some type of threshold the last few my heart and soul and character have moved into a new place.
I often feel I've had some type of Bar Mitzvah.....where I've walked over to the podium and proclaimed to the world that I am now an adult.....a particular type of adult that has passed through bonding and babies and is now dealing with endings and dying.
I feel the circle of life in a unique way.....I am responsible for my children....and I am responsible for my parents.
I sense time and generations.
I am acutely aware that I span two different shores.....that I have seen and known my children's great grandparents.....and that my own children are forming bonds that may lead to marriage and babies of their own.
I have an intense desire to remember and write down what I've seen and heard....because as my father's breathing worsens and his body thins with only tube feedings....I am fully aware his voice is gone... and I am the only one left to write down who he was and what he did with his life.
It feels like such a solemn gather the spin the push what I know of him forward to his grandchildren and perhaps their children.
I can see how you lose generations.
How so little can move forward on one level and how much moves forward on another.
Tonight my hub scraped my dad's inner cheeks for his DNA....for a piece of his code.... for genealogy testing.
Dad was always fascinated by these tests and I realized if we didn't do this now.....we would lose a portion of who we are.
This place I am in now.... feels a bit sacred.....I have reached a point....where I can sense the basics of wisdom.....I can look in each direction and see the feelings, trials and challenges of both the young and the old.
There should be some kind of ceremony for arriving at this point....some kind of feather you could wear in your hair or tattoo to mark you.....some party you should give for yourself to celebrate surviving and morphing into a bridge between generations.
I only pray that I am a strong the beautiful ones I crossed in the Bay area of California....graceful....strong ....but able to sway and dance with wind.
Damn....I feel so grown up.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A change of Positions.....

My parents house is dark and quiet except for the little orange night light on the kitchen table.

There's a couple of inches of fresh white fluffy snow .....creating this insulated.....womb-like feeling.....around the house.

My dad's wind chimes play sweetly outside the window......such pretty music seems to belong to summer instead of a cold winter night.

My parent's made it....they are safe and sound in a facility near my house....but my dad is not very of physical therapy and speech therapy maybe just talk....not reality.

My dad is aware of people for short periods of time during the day ...he squeezes my hub's and son's hands.....and tries to say something with a mouth that will not obey him.

My mother is bored and wants to take a "streetcar" home....she has two quarters in her purse and constantly tries to bum another quarter from the staff so she can hit the road.

I feel like a thousand pound weight has been lifted off my that my parents are secure...but there is still so much to do .....with the house .....and the stuff of 40 years.....that I curl up mentally and wonder if it will all be settled some day.

I'll be here for a couple more days before I head down south....their finances ....such a mess I need a few more business days to visit banks and other financial institutions.

I have spent the entire day de-trashing my parent's kitchen....but I'm only half done .....with many more cabinets to explore.

My parents saved everything. In a dainty tea cup, I found my mom's hospital admission ID bracelets from 6 years ago......a large coffee mug stored every extra button from every blouse or shirt for years........6 giant soup ladles and 10 casserole dishes were cramped in another cabinet...even though my mother never cooked.

I talked to my cousin in Tampa, Florida tonight. She called my mother frequently.....between my story of my parents and other people's stories of my parents.....I am beginning to piece together who they were and how they lived their would think a child would know their parents.....but that's not always the case.

My cousin tells me my mom cried and told her I never called and visited her.....I tell my cousin how my mother in two years never phoned me and how she told me not to visit her.....My cousin says my mother wondered why I hated her.... I tell my cousin I wonder why my mother hated me.....

I visit a friend of my parents to update her on their status..... she grabs my hand and tells me she has kept a secret for my mother for many years.

"You know your mom and I have been friends since kindergarten."

"Yes yes..."

"Well I'm going to be 88 in March"

I'm not sure why she is telling me this....until a bell rings and the logic part of my brain says....if my mother and her friend attended kindergarten together they are the same age.

"You're 88????"

"Yes ......and so is your mother."


"But all her records say she's 80......all her documents say the same birth year."

"Your mother was clever and fixed them. This was before could hide things. She never wanted you or anyone to know your father had married an older woman. That's why you're an only child....your mother had you late in life."

" what if she is older?"

"It was important to her..... even your own family kept quiet about it."

My mother 88 years old.

She looks damn good.....and always has......

I'm confused but.... it explains a mother's constant irrational fear my dad would leave her for a younger woman....the thousands of jars of face creams......a basement full of exercise machines before any one had exercise machines.

My cousin warns me I will find out a lot of things about my parents.....she is ten years older than I am.....and perhaps knows more........there's a long pause between us .......she adds nothing.

It seems like my parents and I have switched places....they are safe and secure now......and I am the one who is disoriented and faltering.