This feels very daunting for me to write, not because I do not know what to say or where to start even, but because there is just SO much to say, and I don’t know where I should stop. I am pregnant with my first child, and very very happy and excited and experiencing the most surreal feelings of bliss and curiosity that I suppose many other first time mommies-to-be happily and nervously have. My mother (Mama), who has three children of which I am the oldest, followed by a son and another daughter, is a lover of old cinema and British comedies, sewing tiny things by hand, and making lavish decorations for holidays and parties. She is now terminally ill. She is still young. This is a compendium of some of the things I see and hear and feel while seeing my mom in a place foreign to her.
On May 20th, 6:30ish am, she was admitted to the medical center. Yesterday, July 5th, she was transported from the hospital to a “healthcare facility”, aka, nursing home & hospice, aka a place that is part hospital, part cheap hotel, but less personable than a hospital, even, and smells worse than a cheap hotel.
That makes 46 1/2 days she spent at the med center: one day in E.R., two in a private room on the 5th floor, 16 days in ICU, and the remaining 27 1/2 days in another private room but different area of the 5th floor.
Yesterday was my mom’s second day at her new residence–and the second time I visited. The first time was during her first evening there–after working until closing time, driving to the not too far but still odd little Tennessean town I am not familiar with, and being guided by spurts of fireworks and looming giant red airport-welcoming lights, I found the facility after the third try of turning around. It was past 10 pm, and visitors are not supposed to be there anymore, but I am able to go in unassumingly–no one at the front reception desk, and most of the halls empty. My mother looked stunned to see me there. I was wondering and asking what it was like to leave the hospital, to be transported, and what she thought of this new place. She complained of needing pain medication, and that she was given nothing, so far, at this “home.” I thought it strange, as she’s been on some exceptionally powerful meds during her whole stay at the hospital. When approaching the desk at the end of my mom’s room hallway, the worker looked perplexed at me, while I still had on my uniform, and an elder gentleman just leaning over the counter laughed hard at me, saying with a very very long and odd sounding draw “This little girl is so looooooost.” I was tired, unnerved, and confused as to why my mom was in extra pain, and let them know this. ”No, I’m not lost, and I just have a question.” They blink. “This is my mom’s first night here. There isn’t any button or remote for her to alert a nurse, so how can she request something, like medicine?” “Honey, just go to that nurse in that hallway over th–” I walk away as soon as I see the med nurse. I tell her where my mom is feeling pain. She tells me “okay”, and nothing else. I join my mom again in her room. A nurse never comes in to see my mother while I am there, except to lean in an arm through the door to switch off the lights—no words are said to my mom or the other woman sharing the space. They are not even looked at. My mom threw her hands a little up and seems confused–she cannot talk, and I have not been able to hear her voice for over 40 days now. Her means of communication is through writing, and the outed lights prevent her from seeing the clipboard in front of her. I ask if she wants me to turn the lights back on–I am so tired though, and know I am leaving soon, anyway. My mother is staring out into space and between the abruptness of the workers there and the sadness in my mother’s face, I begin to cry. My chair is squished slightly behind her line of vision, sandwiched between her bed and a wall. She can not see me cry. She starts mouthing words, of which I can never understand. She is gesturing, and I can not tell what she is saying to me. When she first lost the ability to talk at the hospital (due to being intubated), I remember seeing how much she wished to articulate herself again, but how confused my brother and I would be, without her writing words onto a page. We would be patient and try to understand, before asking her to write it out for us, in her notebook. This night, I was not patient, but it wasn’t due to her–it was out of frustration of wanting to hear her again so much, and I cried out to her “I don’t know what you’re saying!!” She could tell then, in my voice, that I had been crying, and in the way that she shook her head and looked down. At that moment, seeing her expression through her eyes, I knew exactly what she was thinking.