Good morning, y’all. I’m going to try to monopolize the computer this evening while everyone is at church. Doesn’t matter the denomination, they all want a second chance at you on Sunday. That works just fine for me. Once I start remembering something ,it’s hard for me to let go before I finish. Here goes.
Well, we left off earlier today with me standing at the foot of Mom’s bed in Asheville’s Memorial Mission hospital. Mom was looking like one of the telepaths in the movie Minority Report. She is pale, asleep, and breathing deeply with hoses running everywhere. I sit for awhile and text Mulva and Jackson that Mom is alive, and looks like she is being cared for. I sit for a bit and then head to the cafeteria to see if I can find something to eat. When I return, one of the nurses stops me to give me an update. Mom is suffering from severe dehydration which has resulted in a sever bladder infection. Turns out the bladder infection is so bad that Mom’s urine has turned to mucous. I am informed that Mom was, “within hours of death”, but was awake now.
I go in, and Mom manages a weak smile before asking, “what are you doing here?”
I reply, “more importantly, what are you doing here?”
Mom rambles for a while before she relates some story about Charlotte and blackberry root extract. She finishes off the story in classic Mom style, “I told Charlotte I brought you into this world and I can take you out!”
There, for just a second, she was back to her old self. Mom then kind of looked drunkenly around the room and went to sleep. I sat for a little while and then tried to compose my thoughts as to what the most important things were for me to do while I was here. I dreaded it, but I knew I was going to have to talk to Aunt Edna and my sister Charlotte to get the details behind this episode. I also needed to get a feel for what they saw in the future.
Aunt Edna lives in West Asheville in an old Craftsman style house. Edna uses the main floor for herself and rents out the other floors as apartments. Mom liked the concept so much that she bought the house next to Edna’s and moved in. Later on, when their younger sister Matilda bought a third house on the street, they were joined together as they never had been as sisters. Mom referred to the sisters as the “Golden Girls”. Mom seemed to be happiest during this time, then long time smoker Matilda died. The passing of her younger sister seemed to change Mom’s general outlook, for the worse.
Next, Charlotte moved in to Mom’s basement and earned her certificate in mental disease. A few years later, depending on the teller of the story, Mom needed to move on and bought a condo overlooking the golf course. Mom was living independently in her condo with some minor assistance in shopping and Doctor’s appointments from Charlotte and Edna. Charlotte, an “unorthodox Jew” was not available on the Sabbath, which was sundown Friday until sometime Sunday, so “don’t call”. Charlotte’s faith did allow her to use the internet, though. You could email Charlotte any time day or night, if you needed to get a message through. Ironically, Mom lost her internet skills several years ago.
I pulled up in front of Aunt Edna’s house and took several deep breaths before knocking on the door. Edna answered in her bombastic manner, hugs and kisses and salutations. Edna was wearing her hair long like Camryn Manheim, and the resemblance was frightening. I accepted Edna’s offer of coffee and settled down to try to find out what the heck was going on. I wanted to gain knowledge, while trying to not absolutely lose it over what the knowledge conveyed.
I updated Edna with my talk with the nurse and start probing as to how and why we got to this point. Edna hemmed and hawed and related her own high blood pressure problems. Edna related how mean Mom was, and how horrible Mom had been to Charlotte. Edna went on ad nauseum about how nothing pleased my Mom. I nodded my head in agreement, I knew all of this. The question was, “how do you let somebody that you’re seeing everyday get sicker and sicker for a week or so and not spring into action?” I forget how I asked that question, but I will never forget the answer, “Well, she’s got that DNR you know, I’ve had my nurse’s training and I know you don’t mess with a DNR”.
“Well, screw me”, I think. The question that still remains unasked is,”Were you going to let your sister die in her own filth in excruciating pain, because, once upon a time, you wore a white uniform and emptied some bed pans at an old folks home?” I did ask Edna to clarify what “D”o “N”ot “R”esucitate means to her. After a great deal of rambling, Edna’s response was generic enough to where, if Mom had fallen down the steps and was semi-conscious on the sidewalk, Edna was ethically bound to leave her there. I guess the look on my face was not giving Edna the positive reinforcement she thought she would get. She went on to relate that “use to”, mountain folk would just take to their beds and never get up again.
“Well, screw me”, I think again. I touch on the fact that bladder infections are prevented by drinking a lot of water. I headed off Edna’s objection by replying, “But Mom doesn’t like to drink water because it makes her go to the bathroom”. Edna nodded in agreement and then related that Charlotte had been trying to treat Mom’s infection with some holistic medicines. “Is that where the blackberry extract came from?”, I ask.
Edna replies a cautious, “yes”. Edna then gives me ten minutes on how mean Mom was to Charlotte the last time Charlotte went over and tried to give Mom a dose. “If you could have seen the look of pure hatred your Momma gave poor Charlotte, it would have broken your heart”. Well, I seriously doubt that.
I make some inquiries about Mom’s properties and what would Edna’s best advice would be for handling Mom’s affairs, short term and long term. After a while, my head is just spinning. I wave off Edna’s offer to have Charlotte come over and join our discussion. I head back to the hospital and go to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee and to call Jackson. I give Jackson the view from 50,000 feet and ask him to stay put, at least until I leave. At this point I’m sure Mom’s caretakers are unable to help her anymore. The “Golden Girls” have turned to tin.
I meet Mom’s doctor in the hall and she looks like she has just come from cheerleader practice. I am old, she is young. She relates the seriousness of Mom’s illness, “doesn’t know why in the world Mom hadn’t gone septic”, and, for right now, they were pumping fluids and antibiotics. The doctor is hopeful that if Mom’s cognition returns she may be released to home health care in a few days. I go in and visit Mom until dinner time and she slips in and out of consciousness. I tell her I’ll be back tomorrow and head out to meet my niece Maggie for dinner.
Maggie relates the day from her perspective, and it ain’t pretty. To get Mom to the hospital they had to use Mom’s van, which Maggie has left back at the condo. Maggie gives me Mom’s keys, which weigh about seven and a half pounds. There’s a key for every lock but the “Pearly Gates” I surmise. I thank Maggie profusely for her stepping in and tell her I’ll stay in touch. I’m in a hurry to get to the condo. I’ve got to see what this horrific mess is that needed cleaning so desperately. Close inspection of the condo reveals no evidence of a mess, or that anyone had vacuumed or dusted or cleaned the bathrooms in quite a while. I call Mulva and fall asleep watching Seinfeld, just like at home.