It’s been a bit of a week.
I’ve been feeling very down. Much of it s work stuff that I can’t talk about here and friend stuff that I also can’t share. I had an online friend threatening suicide for several days and now… nothing. I’ve not seen a post from them in a couple days and I’m terribly worried but I have no way of contacting them so I don’t fucking know anything. I’ve had another friend check herself into the psych ward and I have so much respect and love for her strength and spirit and, well, everything. It was all I could do to visit her a couple of times, but I’m glad I went. And I walked down the sunlit halls of the hospital with a sense of deja-vu, to a different hospital but the same time of year, last year.
It hit me when I heard the steel doors close behind me, after visiting hours were over and I was politely but firmly ushered out.
This week, last year, was when my mom tried to die.
It was when I had to tell her to put clothes on and I was taking her to the hospital. She was still in her house coat and nearly out of her head with pain from a horrific allergic reaction to a lotion she’d put on her legs. I told her she had exactly as long as it took me to put my groceries away before she was headed to my parking spot, or I was calling 911 and she was riding in an ambulance.
She chose my truck.
I made the second of many, many drives to Providence Milwaukie just past noon on that bright spring day. We’d been to the ER once the week before for the same condition, but she didn’t do the instructed aftercare correctly and the burns on her legs had gotten worse. They were hot to the touch, excruciatingly painful, and were starting to smell.
I got this down to an art form, at this point.
Hwy 212 to Hwy 224, go past Bob’s Red Mill and then turn right on (I think) Harrison. It’s the intersections with Mike’s Drive In. Follow the signs to the Emergency Department. Pull in to the turnabout in front, turn off your engine so the escaping carbon monoxide doesn’t harm the other people visiting the facility. Find a wheelchair and a nurse. Get Mom inside the building, started on check-in, and leave to park the truck in the spaces designated for emergency patients and their visitors only. Cry a little in the parking lot, text your husband, his girlfriend, and your other partner that you’re at the hospital again. Take a deep breath and a gulp of water while you wish it was gin, square your shoulders, and walk inside.
Inside, your mom looks old and broken in her wheelchair. Something is funny with her blood pressure. It’s where a normal person’s should be, which is very high for her. You have the first argument of the afternoon when the admitting nurse shrugs it off and you insist that something is wrong. They have to look at her legs, which are feverish and leaking fluid all over the chucks pad they put on the wheelchair’s footrest. She screams and moans whenever she is touched. She is babbling incoherently and you have to translate for her; she’s your mother and her language is the first you ever learned and you can still speak it even when she makes no sense to others.
They refuse to give her pain medication.
They refuse to give her food or water.
Both of these are just in case she needs surgery.
Every time the medical staff leave the room, she begs you for crackers or some sprite. She’s dizzy, having been in too much pain to eat that day.
You have to say no.
You have to be the bully.
You have to be the parent.
She cries out of the same brown eyes you face every morning in the mirror. DeBord eyes, she calls them, from the French side of the family, and you are the only child of 5 to have gotten them.
Doctors come and go. Her heart rate is too high. They begin to pump her full of drugs to stabilize her. They can’t even worry about the infected wounds on her legs because her heart is trying to give up.
You ask to speak to the dr. You tell him she can’t go home; it’s not safe; she won’t care for herself there.
They agree to admit her. They give her food and water at some point. You drink a cup of hospital coffee and realize you’ve tasted better paint thinners, and it sits heavy and full of acid in your stomach.
Your husband’s girlfriend offers to bring home pizza for the kids. Your other partner offers to bring you dinner. When he asks where you are, you tell him it’s the only fucking hospital in Milwaukie and he needs to figure it out himself.
You get your mom checked in and the ward nurse is your best friend from grade school. Stress and fatigue is giving this whole day a nightmarish cast. Somewhere in there, you’ve told your boss that you have to take family leave. Again. Your boyfriend brings you a hamburger and a chocolate shake from Burger King that tastes like cardboard and sticks in your throat. Your husband texts you that the kids are fine. You sit in the cargo area of your SUV with your boyfriend until he has determined you can drive safely. Then you drive home.
That night, your mom almost dies. Her roommate notices her acting funny and gets a nurse. Her blood pressure and pulse have dropped to terrifying levels. They tell you all of this the next day.
You spend the next 4 days arguing with your mother and the hospital staff. You live on Starbucks and snickers bars and you crochet endless green and blue granny squares. You keep your dentist appointment and find out that if you tell them your mother is in the hospital and you need them to be quick, they listen. You begin a long journey of hospital visits and wound care appointments and the crazy balance of full-time mom, full-time manager, and now full-time caretaker for an aging parent.
That was a year ago, this week. I know it because I just had my April dentist appointment a couple of days ago. And I looked at it like, holy shit, it’s been a year.
And my mom? She lived, but she lost that whole week. We were talking about it over lunch the other day. She has very few memories of that time, or of the few weeks following. And we’re starting the process of getting her into a retirement community now, because I can’t be on constant watch anymore. That awful week aged her and me both. Her memory has holes now. Her body is breaking down. I think, if I’m lucky, we might have another 5 years together, especially if she can go someplace with some extra care and services.
She doesn’t remember most of that week.
I remember every painful detail.
I think I always will.