Thursday, 13 May 2021

Memories in Mother’s Bed

by Pat LaPointe

It’s nearly midnight. You are exhausted and hopeful sleep will come soon. You crawl into your mother’s bed where you have slept for several weeks. The sound of your father’s rhythmic snoring in the next room reminds you of your childhood. It evokes a peaceful feeling, knowing he’s OK.

As you begin to rest your head on the pillow, memories of the events of the past weeks flood your mind. Sleep will not come easily.

The phone call that changed your life nearly a month ago:

“Mom’s hurt. She’s in the hospital.”

The diagnosis: A fall, her head slamming into a dresser, caused bleeding on the brain. No telling how long it will take for the bleeding to stop.

Someone will have to stay with your Dad. His dementia is too severe to have him live alone. The siblings can’t/won’t stay with him. It was left up to you to take over.

Your days were filled with caring for him and as well as being at your mother’s side in the hospital.

You gave him his insulin. Made breakfast. Called a neighbor to stay with him. Raced to the hospital. Asked how Mom was doing. Very little progress each day.

Your mother could not eat. She had a feeding tube. She could not breathe on her own. A machine breathed for her. She could not/would not speak.

Then a surgery to ease the bleeding. Was only successful for a few days.

Then you glanced at your Mother as one side of her body began shaking hard enough to loosen some of the tubes and wires which kept her alive. You screamed for the nurses. Your Mother had a stroke.

A week passed. Another surgery. They removed part of her skull. You saw an indentation in the bandages wrapped around her head.

The bleeding lessened for the first time in several weeks. There was talk about what she would need when she left the hospital, maybe in a month or so.

You hoped Mom could hear when you told her the good news.

For the first time you felt so relaxed that you began to nod off in the chair next to your mother’s bed.

Almost immediately, loud, repetitive sounds were coming from the monitors. When her heart rate increased, her blood pressure dangerously decreased. Nurses came and demanded: “Go to the family room. The doctor will meet you there.”

You waited and waited.

You began to curse the damn clock with its loud ticking. It reminded you of every minute you were away from your mother’s side.

The doctor arrived. We’ve done all we can. We have tried for at least 30 minutes to get her to breathe on her own. It is likely she will have some brain damage and be on a ventilator for the rest of her life. It is up to you, you must decide. We can work on her a while longer until we get her set up with a respirator OR....It’s up to you.”

“Please keep working on her just until I get back to her room.” And for a few seconds you asked yourself “Am I killing my Mother?”

You reached your mother’s room and the doctors and nurses quickly left. The lines on the heart monitor read out were flattening. You told your mother you love her just as the monitor quit spiking and the lines went flat.

Now, three days later you again try to sleep, but remember that the funeral home needs some of mom’s IDs. You reach for your mom’s purse and begin to riffle through it. You laugh as a notebook and miniature dictionary fall out followed by no less than three rain bonnets all of which were essentials in your mom’s purse. Your mother had been overprotective of her weekly hair styling, often wearing two bonnets when it began to drizzle.

Suddenly you become very sleepy, return the items to the purse and drop it on the floor, a few feet from the bed.

You are just nestling down under the covers when you hear a crinkling noise. You turn on the light and see one of the bonnets lying alone on the floor, just inches from the bed.

You begin to laugh loudly. “OK, Mom, I got your message. But even if it rains, I’m not using those bonnets.” You place the single bonnet under your pillow.

The next morning all the visitors at the funeral home have one last chance to say goodbye to your mom before they leave for church. You are last in line and take the other two bonnets from your purse and place them in the casket.

“You never know, Mom, it might rain.”

* * * * *

Pat LaPointe, editor of Changes in Life, a monthly online women’s newsletter, is contributing editor of the anthology, The Woman I’ve Become: 37 Women Share Their Journeys from Toxic Relationships to Self-Empowerment. In addition, she conducts writing workshops for women — both online and onsite. Pat’s essays and short stories have been published widely. Currently, Pat is completing her first novel, forthcoming late 2021.