Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Monday, February 09, 2004

The guard

I’m on my first overnight watch. She fell last night (was it only last night?) after getting up to go to the bathroom. She was fine until she was on her way back into bed, then she fell onto her front, cutting her chin on a box fan on the way down. Dad and I were on our way in to give her night meds, as we had both forgotten to give them to her on her way to bed. Dad said later that he heard her land, but all I know is that when I arrived in the bedroom a moment after him, Mom was flat on the floor in the dark. I ran to get Paul and the strap/belt that the Hospice person had brought over to aid in getting her up.

With the two of them taking care of things, I walked into the bathroom, slumped to the floor, and started to cry. I had purchased a $50 baby monitor so that we could hear her when she got up, and even though I had spent the better part of the evening hunting down screwdrivers in the right shape and size in order to assemble it, I had forgotten to turn it on. I left Dad to say goodnight to Mom in private, intending to turn the monitor on when he returned to the family room. I ran through the whatifs and didn’t come up with a satisfying end. It was my fault. She could have been so badly hurt. We might not have found her like that for hours. The purple remains of the cut remind me that, at least for one evening, I failed in my caregiving duties.

Dad, never a man of emotion, gave me the longest hug we’ve exchanged since I got all my teeth. Paul, he of brute strength and aggression, held me carefully for what may have been more than a minute. Hope brought me Kleenex, and Brooke sat on the floor in front of my chair, patting whatever part of me she could reach. Then Dad went out for a cigarette and Paul returned with another round of drinks. Over more tears and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade, I tried to resign from this taking-care-of-my-dying-mother crap. Everyone looked at me silently for a few moments, generally expressionless, and turned back to the TV in the hopes of finding something that would be Not This. We settled on Law & Order: SVU, an episode involving the murder of a rapist and torturer.

This all leads back to me, right here, on the couch, which I’ve made into a bed. And writing. Since I sat down to write, I’ve gotten up three times to help Mom get comfortable.

Oh, yes, details:

Mom is weak and can’t lift herself into a sitting position, much less walk from the wheelchair to the toilet less than two feet away. This morning (Sunday morning), Dad and I agreed that a hospital bed was best, and he placed his order this afternoon. It arrived without warning an hour later. The overstuffed armchair, Dad’s favorite, is now in the front room, and we rearranged to fit the hospital bed in the family room in front of the TV. It’s near the kitchen, so anyone from the refrigerator to the couch can see her to see if she needs anything. Mom’s also not isolated, but is in the middle of the fun that is family life around here these days.

So here I am, on the couch. I’ve taken to fussing about even more neurotically than before. I managed to get my third stye since the middle of December, as well as since my birth. Normal people get hives, you know. I’m also breaking out like mad, but maybe it won’t be long that I’ll look like I’ve been attacked by mosquitos. And this is neither here nor there, but it’s disconcerting to share my waking hours with no one but a socially inept Persian with a propensity toward humping blankets.

I never expected that my father and I would bond the way we have. We actually talk about things. We’ve talked about our emotions and how we feel now and how we’ve felt and what things might be like in the future. I know now that I have a connection to my father. For so long, it had been overshadowed by my connection to my mother, but it was there. It’s been made and is being made stronger by our mutual love for Mom, the woman we’re watching die.


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