Friday, April 27, 2012

the nightmare

My mother is trapped in a nightmare, in exactly the kind of situation you do not want for your aged loved ones. She is terrified and furious. She does not want to be in hospital, and she probably does not want this upcoming heart operation, with its weeks of recovery and rehab. But, as the doctor said when I enquired about the wisdom of the procedure on one already so weak, without it, she will die soon. With it, she may have a few years more life.

But what kind of life? It's sure, though I hate even to write it down, that she will not be able to live in this lovely bright 3 bedroom apartment ever again. We will find her a good place with nursing care - we'd already looked at several, because we knew a time of need would come - and there she will be safe. She won't have to fear falling in the night and lying on the ground for half an hour with the walker lying on top of her. But she will have a tiny impersonal space and a million daily invasions. Her old life is over, and she is furious and terrified. I would be too. It's very hard to see; to watch my independent mother tremble because she's too afraid to stand up.

She can hardly move because she has no muscles. Except that very large brain, which yesterday was banging through a crossword puzzle and word jumble, as she used to every day at home. Sharp as can be, until she faded and fell asleep.

And here am I, jet-lagged and awake at 5.30 a.m. in her apartment, surrounded by the life she can't have any more, wondering how to help. Her operation is scheduled for May 1, which is the day my teaching term starts in Toronto, and in the meantime, Anna awaits her baby in the next weeks. Talk about torn.

The joy of being a writer, though - as I sort and tidy, I come across stacks of letters and cards, so many of them that I've written and mailed through the years. We have not lived in the same town since I was 20, but I've kept her company through the mail, not to mention the endless phone calls. Seeing her now makes me ache with grief and compassion. But I do not feel guilty about my mother. And that is a very great gift.

And yes, there is undoubtedly fear, at the back of the reptilian brain, about what my own end will be like.

Sorry, my dear readers. As I said the other day, we are not in Paris any more.

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