Monday, October 29, 2012

The Reassuring Chuckle

My mother is dying.

In checking my blog stories, I realized I’ve written about mom and the state of her health, which recently has taken a serious decline, a few times now. Here are a couple -

Right now she is in a Palliative Care unit of a local hospital. Her dementia has progressed to the point that she doesn’t know she is in a hospital, which is the beautiful thing about palliative care; it doesn’t look like a hospital room. No medical equipment, no meds in view. Far as mom knows, she’s on a nice vacation in a nice room.

Which is exactly where we want her mind to be.

Her mind is now at a point where people long dead have visited her. She’s perplexed that Kenny, my brother, is not sitting on the couch talking to her when a few minutes ago she swore was there. Which would be kind of tough since Kenny is here in Florida and my mom is in Ohio. But at least she is now in a place where she can just relax and let her mind go wherever it wants.

Being the youngest, mom likes to sound brave when I talk to her. And, thank goodness, whenever I call she knows it’s me. I consciously test this each time I call. When she answers, I just say “Hello there,” without giving my name, and she always replies “Well hello, son.”

And then she gives me that reassuring chuckle.

It’s a delightful little sound which gives off the message of, ‘I’m doing just fine; it’s just a thang. Don’t worry about me.’

Oh, but I do. Or I should say, I did. She’s now in a place where she is safe and she’s comfortable. I don’t have to worry about her lighting a cigarette on the gas stove anymore, her grey hair hanging precariously close to the open flame. Going back home is not going to happen – she can no longer take care of herself.

She also has stopped taking her meds. Which is fine, as the palliative care staff does not make patients take them. They are there to manage pain, and if mom is in pain she will take something to ease it. But blood pressure meds, heart meds, meds for the sake of taking meds? She’s done with that.

Cue the reassuring chuckle.

Aside from the obvious emotional trauma of watching a loved one slowly die, and dementia is way too long of a death, it has almost been, and I hesitate to use this word but I will – fascinating – to watch. To watch a woman who was the smartest person I have ever known, who could balance million-dollar corporate budgets to the penny while raising four fantastic kids, to watch her mind atrophy to the point where she does not know where she is and is imagining people that aren’t there is, well, fascinating.

Cue the reassuring chuckle. I inherited it.

Sometimes the reassuring chuckle is akin to whistling past the graveyard. Mom knows how bad it has gotten. But she will never level with me on that. Being the baby she has to appear strong to me. I, of course, know how bad it has gotten, so when she gives me the reassuring chuckle it comes across differently now – it comes across as a mother being motherly. Parents do not let their kids worry about them – it’s their job to worry about us.

Which, until the day she dies, is what she will do. Unfortunately (or maybe thankfully), that day will be very soon for mom. She is in a comfortable place now, and old dead friends are visiting her. She is happy.



oz108us said...

I cannot read this w/o tears in my eyes.

oz108us said...

You are truly a beautiful Writer. Fantastic job.

Jerry B said...

Thank you Homes. It was tough to write.

Tony Bryan said...

I'm glad we got that great picture over the summer, and I'm glad you made good use of it.