Back on the Roller Coaster
The nightmares come out of the blue, and I wake up gasping for breath. In my dream, my mother needs me desperately, and I run through the halls of the nursing home, unable to get anyone to help her. This whole experience has become all-consuming. A gift to be able to help Mom, but also quite an emotional challenge.
After the wonderful day we had on Monday, yesterday was the polar opposite. Mom had a really awful morning, having become severely impacted after all of the pain medication during her stay in the hospital. When I first walked into her room, she was wild-eyed and it seemed that she didn’t recognize me, the pain was so bad. I had to sit back helplessly and watch the nurses finally help relieve her. Her cries of pain had tears streaming down my face, and I felt physical pain. Mom always said that she physically hurt when I did…now I know what she means.
I just can’t stand seeing her in pain. I have quickly learned that I have to come back after each request to make sure that Mom’s needs are met. The staff is wonderful but busy, and I have to be the one to pester people into following through. The same two nurses who were so kind yesterday are the ones I now know to go to. They truly care- they will get it done. I hugged each of them, and they told me they had been called to this work of helping the elderly, it made them happy. God bless them both.
I have not written about the other things swirling around during this chaotic time, but after yesterday I feel overwhelmed with having so many people I love going through such hardship. Our dear friend John (of John Wayne) is going through serious life-changing surgery late this afternoon. I will sit with mom in the early afternoon and then sit with Wayne when John is in surgery. The wonderful woman I call my ‘Jewish Mom’, Eleanor, is in hospice. The eighty-four year old woman that I call ‘Yoga Mom’ from Dan’s yoga classes is in the hospital. I feel like I’m in some strange, chaotic, vortex.
Through all of this, I have got to maintain my sense of self. I am no good to any of my loved ones if I become consumed in the vortex of sadness and fear. I am sticking to small basic routines to keep me balanced; lunches with Dan, yoga, time to write…if I have these things, I can make it through. I feel so tired and scared sometimes that things will come crashing down, but I stuff that away and put on my cloak of strength. I know it is there- I have seen it in my mother, and I know she passed it on to me.
I went back to Mom’s apartment at Princeton to find more paperwork that the lawyer needs, and to deliver cookies to our friends there. I was so happy to run into The Rev first thing. I updated him on Mom’s situation and got my big Rev hug. He is such a good and caring man, and I have always appreciated his sincere concern for my mom. He always tells me that she is one of his heroes. She’s one of mine, too. I ran into other favorites, including Mom’s favorite friend, Linda. Mom was so fortunate to live with these wonderful people. I have told them that they will always be a part of my family now- I won’t forget them.
I stopped by the hospital on the way back to St. Martin’s to hug John and try to raise his spirits about his impending surgery. Another gift in Mom’s and my lives- the long friendship with Wayne and John, two of the kindest human beings I know. These men are like brothers to me, and John is truly Mom’s best friend. Dan and I will be there for them, just as they would be for us…and have been before.
I found Mom asleep while having a breathing treatment. I didn’t wake her, as the poor woman has hardly slept since this all began. I know she was exhausted after her morning ordeal. I delivered cookies to the nursing station and to the sweet receptionist that greets me each day- they were pleased and seemed to appreciate the gesture. The little things matter, and I will continue to bake for them and make sure they know I appreciate what they do for my mother.
When Mom woke up, I gave her her mail, which included several wonderful cards from her beloved Space People. She read them to me, and just shook her head, marveling again at these kind people who think of her. What a difference those cards have made. She shows them to everyone who will look, telling them about her fan club. I always laugh at the looks on people’s faces the first time she says ‘Space People’, as I know they’re thinking she’s gone daft…until they realize she means Facebook. Now they know they have a celebrity in their midst at St. Martin’s.
I left Mom feeling so much better. She snuggled under her favorite afghan that had belonged to one of her best friends in Florida, looking tired but much more content. So much better to see her like this.
Yoga is transformative. I went to Dan’s packed out hot yoga class, the sweat pouring off of me, feeling like some of the drama of the day came out of me with it. My friends in the class came up with kind words and offers of help. Such good people. I am going to reach out and have some of my friends visit with Mom while I am away at ClarinetFest next week. I will feel so much better knowing that she is not alone. The woman loves to talk, so I’ve warned them to be prepared to hear a lot of stories. I think they’ll enjoy it- Mom always weaves her special magic through her tales.
After yoga, Dan surprised me by stealing me away for a sushi date night, telling me we needed to be spontaneous during all of this and make magic times happen. How did I ever get so lucky to find this special man? This roller coaster is a wild ride, but we will make it through together.