On the eve of 40, I wrote the retrospective of life up to that point – 39 years, 364 days.
I wrote about Mom
When I look at Mom, she looks more like my grandparents and less like my Mom and it scares me and sometimes I can’t look at her.
Sometimes I let myself try to understand that the empty gut horror oozing through the numbness feeling will hit me again some day. That she will leave me too.
It came very, very close this week. I found her Sunday morning, and for a moment, with her slack jaw, I thought she was gone. Flashbacks to Dad in that ICU bed years ago. My never sick Mom. It was hard to believe that the right choice was going to be to call 911. I couldn’t really believe she wasn’t going to wake up fully. I was calm on the phone, I was calm with EMS. I was calm when they carried her out of her house on a tarp. Calm in the ambulance. Calm in the ER. Calm when they said they needed to intubate her. Unyielding when they said to go wait in the waiting room.
“I’m staying right here” I said, from the outside of the trauma bay.
“Well we will close the door.” They said.
I shook my head no. “I am not leaving her,” I said.
“Then come in here so we can close the door. Understand it can get dicey, we can have to resuscitate (insert other accurate badness that can happen here.)
I sat in the chair. “I am not leaving her.”
I was calm. I was as peaceful as Lincoln on Mount Rushmore and as immoveable.
I watched monitors record tachycardia, low blood pressure, howling monitors of badness. I sat through a central line inserted. I noticed her shirts had been cut off. The doctor continued to remind me, “she is very SICK” with a look at me like he was asking me to understand without him saying the words.
At some point, I felt Dad around me. A weight around me.
Every badness converted to some improvement. Her brain scans were clear. We could admit locally which would make some logistics easier. We admitted, made the long walk from ER to ICU (seriously, I don’t think they could have placed the two areas farther apart.
She was critical. Unconscious. “Diabetic Ketoacidosis” Which is one hell of a way to find out a person is diabetic. Her blood sugar of 877 beats her brother’s highest that she knows of – so she feel superior in beating him 🙂 (Not really, but we take what we can get.)
I knew there was this possibility that I was going to have to give the okay for the thing I didn’t want at all. I might have to give permission to let her go, to set her free and invite that horror into my world again. Full orphan at 40. I did not want this.
In the case of mom, I knew she would not want a half life. If life was going to be pounding on her chest, code after code, risking a living shell without her spark. I knew that was not what she wanted. That was a comfort – to know that if the worst came, I would have the ability to save her from a life she would hate. I lived very minute to minute, moving to hour to hour, blood check to blood check. I wasn’t ready to let her go, I needed to say my piece to be able to have my peace.
My lips were chapped, I hated the feeling. I looked over and there was Mom’s purse – which always has had carmex in it. Decades worth of reliability. What would I do without her.
By Monday afternoon, I was shredded. I’d had sleep, but the stress was wearing. I crawled into bed with her and sobbed and begged her to come back to me.
It took another day, but Tuesday she roused enough to reach for me, my face (sometimes to distract me from her grabbing at the vent.
By Wednesday, she was responding expressively with head shakes. I was so happy to be told NO. Next, she was extubated and awake. Our faces were close enough that she could see me (her glasses were off). There was the most beautiful smile I ever saw looking at me from my Mommy’s face. Another couple hours and she was cogent enough to ask what happened.
Mom has never been one for direct sentimentality, but she did comment, “you were the first thing I saw.”
Amen Mommy. Amen.
We have this. We will be okay. You and I and our little posse of folks.
I am so grateful for this pull out couch in the ICU, the sound of the antibiotics whirring through the singular IV (down from 7). I fall asleep with peace and gratitude.