The texts before lunch went like this. I thought Mama J was just mistyping, but that funny alarm bell was chiming in my head a little, too.
“Mama, I just brought you this today, from Anthony’s,” I said. “You haven’t had a cannoli for weeks!”
What the heck? The rest of my lunch hour was much the same. She called her iPad a “zip code.” She would start a story, then fall asleep sitting up, then start the story again but in a later part, with a chunk missing in the middle.
I called the hospice nurse, who had just been there. She said that Mama J’s oxygen sat was a little low and she had seemed a bit reserved but ok. I left her settled in, napping in the recliner, and headed back to work.
As I was pulling in the gate to her apartment after work, the phone rang. It was her medical alert company, telling me that she had fallen and needed help. “I’m pulling in now,” I told the dispatcher.
I flew in the door, throwing purse, keys, water bottle down, and ran into the bathroom, where I found her sprawled on the floor, a puddle of urine beneath her on the rug. “Had an accident,” she said. I know, Mama, I said. It’s ok. “Fall,” she said. “Hit head.”
Frantic, I reached my arms under her and somehow got her to her feet, 78 pounds of deadweight. A purple goose egg was swelling on her forehead.
I got her to her bed and began making phone calls, trying not to panic. Hospice. B. Mike O.
The short version, a long visit from the nurse and several hours later: She is having trouble coughing up fluids from this upper respiratory infection, so her oxygen levels are low, which is causing the tiredness and confusion. And we have now moved into some other kind of phase, which at least for now will require 24-hour care.
What else I learned:
- Her nurse loves her. When you ask the nurse if your mother is dying and she has to choke back her own tears as she tells you a COPD flare-up could get better or worse, you know she loves your mom.
- My husband is amazing. Of course, I already knew that, but his gentleness and kindness to me last night were the only things that made the night a little more bearable.
- I have the best friends on earth. I feel your love, surrounding B and me and Mama J. And I love you all so very much.
- I am not ready to figure out this 24-hour care thing. The thought of it makes me nearly hyperventilate, and just staying here last night, without my bed and husband and dogs, selfish as it sounds, was the thing that nearly caused the biggest meltdown of all. When I went home to grab a few clothes and toiletries, I stood at the bathroom sink, looking in the mirror and holding in tears, saying over and over, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” But I can — we can — and we will.
As a writer and former journalist, I try to end my blogs with some kind of writerly wrap-up. The bottom of my inverted pyramid. But I can’t do that today. I can barely think to write these words as I watch Mama J struggle to eat her breakfast and form a sentence. All I have today is a plea — please keep praying hard for Mama J. I know she’s feeling your love, and so am I.
Next post: I can’t even…