My Mother Isn’t Here
I haven’t written much of anything this month because I’ve been going through a crisis concerning my 91-year-old mother. Things have been different since we got a call from the Life Alert company at 10 p.m. on November 2, the Monday night before the election. I raced the 4 or 5 blocks to my mother’s house, where she lives alone, to find her sprawled on the floor, her back against the wall, and a huge blue knot rapidly developing on her head.
I called the ambulance and my sister. Then we waited. I crawled down on the floor with her and covered her with a quilt. Her eyes appeared uneven to me and as a retired cop and frequent first responder, I knew that wasn’t a good sign. She had no idea what had happened. When I first turned on the light and entered her bedroom, she looked at me with confusion and asked, “what are you doing over here?’
From that moment, our lives changed. Often days begin with hope, then end dismally with mother forgetting, again, where she is. Others start with us feeling sure she will never come back to us and end with some words from her to indicate she knows who she is and what is going on. It’s an hour to hour, day to day roller coaster. From my standpoint, there has been none so shocking or devastating as when she looked at me just a few days out of ICU and asked me my name.
My mother, amazingly, had nothing wrong with her before she fell. Her health was excellent and doctors found her to be in good shape for a 70-year-old, never mind a 91-year-old. There was some mild forgetfulness from time to time, but she was still driving her car, going shopping, running her household, paying her bills, and generally tending to her own affairs. She made my husband a cherry pie (his favorite) a few days before her accident.
Mother grew up very poor and worked herself out of it until she became a highly valued “job accountant” on many large construction projects. She was part of the team that built shopping malls and mega-hotels all over the U.S. She had lived in many major cities as she moved from job to job with her company. She truly loved her work. She retired and then went back to work about six times before she finally quit work for good. There was always something else interesting to build, and she was frequently recruited to come out of retirement for “one more job,” as she was masterful at what she did.
After she fell, she was raced 50 miles to our largest city and put in ICU. Her brain was bleeding. The bleed caused a subarachnoid hematoma. What it really meant was that blood pooled between the brain’s protective covering and the skull, causing pressure on a part of her brain.
It happened the night before the election, when she, along with so many of us, was excited about the next day’s election and hoping we’d be rid of Trump. No one despised what he had done to the country more than my mom. She was praying for a landslide. She has been my favorite person to talk to when the state of the country seems hopeless. In fact, for many years now, she’s been as much my friend as my mother. We had our differences when we were younger, but the last few years, she’s the first person I call to say one of my Medium stories is doing well or to tell about something one of my grown kids or almost-grown grandchildren are doing. I go hang out with her to fuss about my husband after a tiff. I call her when I hear something funny she’d appreciate, and she calls me if I haven’t called her all day.
We visit. Sometimes we sip wine together. We’ve been a long way, mom and I, from when I was a difficult teenager and she was a difficult mother. Now I can visit and enjoy spending time with my mother. We are truly each others’ best friends and closest confidantes.
I normally write a lot of political pieces, but I almost lost interest as my mom lay in the ICU and we waited to see if she would die, be in a coma, become mentally incompetent, or hopefully, be able to recover.
It’s been 16 days and she is out of the ICU, has been in a stepdown unit in the hospital, and is now in a hospital rehab program where they are trying to teach her to walk, dress, and function normally again. They are also trying to bring her back mentally — with varying degrees of success
We don’t know, my sister and I, if our mother is ever coming back. Right now she’s an angry, sometimes difficult lady who wants her car keys and doesn’t understand why people are, as she says, “ holding me against my will.” More than once my sister or I have been called upon by the hospital nurses to talk to her and try to calm her down. She doesn’t remember what happened to her even though we tell her repeatedly. She only knows that she has a huge bump (still) on her temple.
Some days she wants me to call the prosecuting attorney and bring charges against the “scam artists” who are holding her there. The other day, my mother who has never been arrested in her life, told me she’d been cleared of all the charges so it was time to take her home.
She could heal and come back to us. But that’s not the likely outcome as far as I can tell from reading about her kind of injury and hearing about the experiences of others.
I always knew I would lose my mother if I lived long enough. I thought it would be because she died. This. This is also losing her. But in a way that is in some respects worse than death.
We can only hope that once we can bring her home, to familiar surroundings, she will regain some or all of what she has lost. So we hope.
And we pray. We pray a lot.