Friday, May 4, 2012

Sticks and Stones

Terrible phrases have become a part of my universe this week. "Hospice care", "pain management" and other terms that have meaning far beyond the words themselves. There is discussion of visiting nurses, music therapists,social workers and even a chaplain. I sag under the collective weight.

My sister and I stare at one another as we sit in the dining room. In her bedroom, my mom sleeps, or does what has now become her version of sleeping. She sometimes mumbles and at other points lets out small yelps of discomfort. I try to make small talk with my sister, asking about matters that in other circumstances might have some meaning. Even my refuge in writing my thoughts down has seemed like a waste of effort.

My mom's 2 remaining siblings now call me to ask for permission to visit. What must be going through their minds?

And what must my mom be thinking? I hope she is not aware of the place she now inhabits. I recall in the early days of her decline how she would speak of what was happening, fighting to regain control over her own thoughts and the arc of her life. Now, this is what remains.

Still there are moments. As the doctor stood over my mom yesterday and gently prodded and pushed, my sister and I stood vigil. Questions were asked as to where the pain was being felt. I rephrased the words, trying to get my mom to comprehend and respond, to no avail. As I pressed in, I said to my mom, "I love you". She opened her eyes slightly and responded with the same words back to me. "We then have a mutual admiration society". She seemed to smile, or at least that is what I saw in my eyes.

It is the next phase. Throughout this long painful journey, there has always been something else lurking, something worse. It was this.

My sister and I listen to the doctor as she recites the doses and timing of the medications. Choices have to be made about quality versus quantity of days. These are ugly, awful conversations. Through it all, my mom lays but a few feet away. I worry that something that we have said may be registering with her.

Earlier this week, we sat at the kitchen table with a representative who was to make a recommendation on hospice care. Son and daughter answering questions and signing documents plotting the future of their mother. "Have you thought about funeral arrangements?" How do you respond to something like that?

These are days filled with a terminology reserved for the worst moments. These are times when the sadness in the eyes of my sister is almost palpable. These are hours that have meaning but no good purpose.

I turn to walk out of the apartment. My gaze fixes on the dining room table and the paper that sits there. The large letters on the top of the form advise, in no uncertain terms, of the instructions for those emergency care people who enter.

"Sticks and stones...". It is a lie.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My thoughts are with you. You are and have a great son. Ted