As with most plans, change arises and the unexpected, and, the outcome of what you thought would occur, differs, often times dramatically.
The rise and fall of her chest indicated that she is sleeping peacefully. Her mouth hangs ajar, her lips are pink, and the occasional snore creates sound in the otherwise ominously silent room.
The fridge is buzzing, and every once in a while, makes an unusual sharper noise, like it’s also taking an intake of new breath, and lets out a whir. I wonder if it’s deciding on whether to keep cooling the contents, which is our lunches , and refreshing beverages for the next while? Maybe it feels tired… I know I do.
She has been through a lot these past months. Two major surgeries, then in the hospital alone for three months without feeling the touch of her loved ones. This has a lasting emotional effect on a person.
She has been washed, and cleansed for the day. Teeth have been brushed, and hair combed. She looks fresh, and there are no lingering odors to speak of…which is always a good thing. Now to place her glasses on, and snap on her watch. She likes to have her watch on. I hand her ring to her, and she knows to slide it on the appropriate finger.
Some things are remembered… some are not.
Like how to hold a fork.. this skill has slipped away, and each time I hand her this utensil, and gently wrap my fingers around hers, and place a piece of watermelon, or banana, or peach on the prongs…. it’s like the first time.
It feels as if I’m in a daze as I sit with her. But still wonderful, and strange as I hold her hand in my gloved one.
These PSWs’ (personal service workers) are doing a good job caring for my Mum. They are very loving, caring and nurturing, and have been consistent, with great attention to detail. Some of them have good sense of humors, and I filmed them doing a “tiktok” dance today, which had Mum amused. She was smiling, probably because we were all laughing.. and she was now immersed in a party within the confines of her room.
I’ve been allowed to come in and care for my Mum, as I’ve been trained as a CNA ( certified nursing assistant), in the US. Mum is in quarantine for two weeks at her Retirement Residence Home, after being in the local hospital for a few months.
I’m staying in a hotel nearby, where I am isolating, and only coming from there to where my Mother resides on a daily basis. I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve her, and love her. These are strange and bewildering times to be sure, and I don’t take for granted for one moment our precious time spent together.
Whether I assist her in building a bird castle, or we are singing old gospel hymns, or jamming to ABBA tunes, it is time well spent. She is enjoying a cd with the sounds of nature, including the rushing of waters, birds chirping, thunder storms brewing, and an ocean of waves crashing onto the shore. Her sense of sound is heightened. I read to her about different birds from one of her “Identifying Bird Manuals,” and then I try and copy the bird calls as described in the book. Mum likes this.. it amuses her when I’m a goof.
She nods as I mimic the birds, and responds with,
“ yes that sounds about right.”
I smile, and say,
“ I can see why you like birds so much Mum, they are fascinating, and there are so many varieties and colors too.”
She is not seeing too well as she has cataracts in both eyes, but when I greet her in the morning, she smiles, and even said “ Good Morning” to me in a cheery voice. Every day it’s like she is hearing my voice for the first time..
She enjoys being read to, and so I quietly read from outdated booklets of “ our daily bread,” and also “Chicken Soup for the Soul,(Devotional Stories for Mothers)
Turns out they inspire me as well. Blessing and grace is like a a lovely cup of earl grey tea served in a fragile China tea cup, and heated to just the right temperature. It tantalizes the tongue, and fills the mouth with fragrance and comfort. It can also be enjoyed through a straw, as it is at present by my Mother. The little details in life that create a sense of being hugged. If there happens to be a chocolate covered biscuit nearby, it also slides into the mouth like magic, and brings a raised eyebrow of recognition, and a slow nod of agreement.
I’m wondering if the brain remembers our tastes from before? Even though sometimes she will barely open her mouth for food, when she is finally convinced that you have something good for her to enjoy, she will trust you enough to open her lips just a tiny bit .
Occasionally she is refusing her meds, and so I step away, and sit on the front chair by her door, as a sentinel just waiting….
The nurses have their way of coaxing her to comply, and while the taste of the meds can be a “ bitter pill to swallow,” they mix them with banana pudding or strawberry yogurt which is sweeter on the taste buds.
Mum is doing a great deal of sleeping which makes me feel sleepy. We are not allowed outside her room, except for when we are coming and leaving for the day.
A lovely PSW named Siya brought in a coffee maker, and I brought the “ cafe Verona” from Starbucks, so that’s been a welcome addition to our quarantine room… and.. we have a microwave now too.. I can barely contain my excitement.. modern conveniences.. good.
There is more equipment in this room than when before her surgeries happened a few months back. Things are changing and progressing.. it’s to be expected, but it’s not welcomed.
Mum is no longer mobile. Thus far she will not stand up, or attempt to walk, and she is re positioned in her bed every two hours. I think it’s possible I’m in mechanical mode, and caring for her in a professional manner, but also attempting just about anything to elicit a smile, or giggle to make her days brighter.
Yesterday my cousin Cory, sent a clip from the movie, “ Steel Magnolias,” and I held it up for Mum to enjoy . Unable to really focus on the screen, She did laugh when Wheezer says to Claurie,
“ you are a pig from hell,”
where upon the whole cast of girl friends starts to laugh. In this scene it breaks the building tension of the graveside, where a Mother has just buried her beloved daughter, “Shelby.”
These girlfriends are supporting the Mother, their friend, and doing their best to be there for her, but she is mad..she wants to know….
” Why Shelby’s life is cut short.. I just want to know… why.. why.. why?”
There are always the questions that cannot be answered.. always.. on this earth. There will be the “why do I have to live without them?” These are difficult to contend with, and can certainly steal our joy. This life is harsh, and it can be unforgiving. For every question that has an answer there will be more that never can be .
This time with my Mum has been a time of reflection. This space is where we all get to. It may not be in a hospital bed, or a wheelchair, or using a commode, or needing to be turned in a bed throughout the day and night, but we all get to the closer space where the exit to our lives is illuminated like a neon sign hanging outside a convenience store.
We will “ exit” this life eventually…
We wait for the breakfast tray to arrive, where we carefully open the door, and prepare for the first meal of the day.
The nurse will arrive shortly to take Mum’s temperature, and other vitals. Thus far she has not been infected with the current virus. We are grateful.
At noon we lift her via hoyer lift into her wheelchair, and shortly thereafter lunch is served.. She is not eating much. Her inner thoughts are kept to herself, and at these times she seems very far away, in her own world.
I pray that she is comforted, but I see searching in her eyes as she tries to see what’s in front of her on the fork, or spoon, but the light is fading.
Long goodbyes are the hardest.
There is a quote that says,
“It’s an honor to care for those that once cared for you.”
“There are only four types of people in the world- those that have been caregivers , Those who are currently caregivers, Those who will be caregivers, and Those who will need caregivers.” Roslyn Carter
“Caregiving often calls us to lean into love we didn’t know possible.” Tia Walke
Prayer is necessary to me … I couldn’t breathe for long without it.
I sometimes find myself lost on Pinterest, and half the day has gone by… I’ve redesigned my dream house, found a good haircut, shopped for clothes that I didn’t buy, found quotes that touched my heart, and become lost in another world… I guess this is one of my escape hatches when things get too real within the confines of the quarantine room that must be lees than 350 sq’.
If possible, always start with the cookie.
“Doctors diagnose, nurses heal, and caregivers make sense of it all.” Brett. H. Lewis
I am honored to be of service with others who are caring for those who are forgetting who they are, and are oftentimes frightened, and wandering, and trying to escape, and looking for their rooms. These dear souls that I pass in the hallways who look beseechingly into my eyes for recognition… There is a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes as I walk towards the door that is secured by a touch pad code to gain entrance, and exit to this sacred home.