Friday, November 5, 2010

Mom Gets A Little Too Handy With The Scissors

I know I’ve been negligent with my blog. With the beginning of Autumn I’ve spent some time watching the leaves turn gold and red and orange. I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to finish up all the things I meant to do this summer. We went to Philadelphia for Alex and Ryan’s 8th birthday, reunionized with family, went on some day trips, and have tried to cram in all the things we wanted to do in the Spring but were too busy to do until now.

Now it’s already November. How can that be? It seems to be here much too quickly this year. And the clocks change this weekend so soon it’s going to be dark almost before dinner. We spent 20 minutes on Halloween, haven’t even spoken of Thanksgiving yet (couldn’t we at least give it a weekend?) but already the Christmas decorations are out all over the malls and in the newspaper ads.

My mother was quickly becoming gravely ill by the Fall of 2007, right around the time of her 86th birthday on October 26. She struggled more and more to breathe, her chest was beginning to rattle, and her anxiety and confusion became much worse. I was becoming just as anxious and very depressed. I needed to move my brain away from the obvious fact that my mother was dying. I couldn’t help her, or function in life or at work or with Scott or my family if I had to face the truth of what was taking place with her. Fortunately, there was some humor in the tragedy. I just didn’t always see it at the time.

She called me one day at my work and told me she had a very, very bad disease that she feared was killing her. It was the kind of disease she must have gotten from a man and she couldn’t figure out how she got it because there was nothing going on in her life with her boyfriend What’s His Name, and nothing had been going on for a long time before that even though she had been married for a long time, over 30 years in fact, to Walt who had died a couple of years before at the ripe old age of 104. I took a wild guess, based on some of what she was telling me, and asked if she thought she had AIDS. She began to cry and said yes, that’s what she must have but she couldn’t quite figure out how she got it and why she suddenly had it. It just didn’t make sense to her. So I explained to her that she didn’t have AIDS but she did have heart disease and significant lung problems. She was very relieved and thought that probably made more sense.

Then she mentioned that just in case she did have AIDS, she had cut off that plastic thing that was growing out of her nose. It was part of the disease she told me, but now it was gone. My reaction was probably a little louder than it should have been.  Maybe I even screamed.  “YOU DID WHAT??? YOU CUT OFF YOUR OXYGEN TUBE?? WITH SCISSORS???” She wanted to know what I was so upset about and what oxygen had to do with anything.

I was not able to react as calmly as I could have or should have. Yes, in fact, my mother had cut off her oxygen tubing and was now walking around with the oxygen tube coming out of her nose, still attached behind her ears, but stopping at her chin. The oxygen unit was now blowing oxygen directly into the rest of the tube which was lying on the floor oxygenizing the carpets. Nothing was feeding her the oxygen she needed to breathe and keep her body and mind operating. Fortunately, she had extra tubing and soon the oxygen was again flowing into her, off the carpet, and the AIDS problem went away. She no longer had scissors, either. I admit I should have thought of that a little sooner.

We had planned a big celebration for her birthday. The Robert Morris University Concert Choir was coming over to the Willows and putting on a concert for all the residents. They’d sing Happy Birthday to her and we’d have cake and ice cream in the dining room for everyone and decorate with lots of balloons and flowers. We wanted it to be a wonderful, special, happy day for her.

After all the plans for her birthday were set she came down with pneumonia and was admitted to the hospital for a few days. While she was there she had to be restrained because she was getting out of bed, yanking off her oxygen, and wandering into other patient rooms looking for company. It’s not easy to see your mom tied to the bed and it was hard for her to understand why it needed to be done. She’d told the nurses her only problem was that she got constipated often and that’s what put her in the hospital ― constipation. The reality was that chronic pneumonia had been added to the list of problems and challenges she faced on a daily basis.

She was discharged from the hospital just in time to arrive back at the Willows in time to hear the RMU Concert Choir sing great tunes for all the residents and everyone sang Happy Birthday to her. It was very touching because she had forgotten it was her birthday.

This year, on October 26, my mother would have been 89 years old.  Here is the birthday poem our family always says on birthdays:

   Many happy returns of the day
   Many seasons of joy be given
   May the Lord in His mercy
   Prepare you on Earth
   For a beautiful birthday in Heaven.

Happy Birthday, Mom.  I love you and I miss you.

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