30 October 2011

Gone from our sight, Forever in our hearts

The end was rough, my friends.  Her breathing became labored and raspy, and then gurgly as her lungs shut down and filled with fluid.  Her body was working so hard to keep going.  Near the end, I begged her to let go.  I turned to all corners of the room and looked up in the ceiling and told her that it was okay to go, that this was too hard and that it had to be better on the other side.

I quoted some poetry and prose that seemed meaningful to me and that I knew she liked.  I held her hand.  I stroked her brow.  I kissed her.  I promised her that we would never forget her and that we would love her forever.

I gave her the liquid morphine.  My pop asked me to do all the medicating.  He called the hospice people and got instructions from them regarding the morphine and the atropine.  We gave her the extra morphine.  They upped the dose.  We gave her yet more.

My pop and I were both there most of the time, but taking turns going to the bathroom or making a cup of tea.  I went to the kitchen for my tea run. I sat down at the dining room table and put my head down.  I may have been out of the room for three or four minutes.  Then my pop came down the hall and called to me.  I went into the bedroom with him.  She was gone.  He said that her breathing slowed down and became uneven.  She took a couple of breaths and then a long pause.  Another breath.  And then no more.  I wonder if she was waiting for me to be out of the room when she finally gave up the bodily life.

He wanted me to check to see if I could find a pulse.  I couldn't.  Not in her wrist or neck or axially.  Her eyes were vacant.  We sat with her for several minutes.  Then Pop said that he had to go get my brother.  He walked over to my brother's house (it's only 7 blocks) and back.  While he was gone I kept checking for a pulse even knowing that she was gone.  I held her hand.  I told her how much I love her, even though she already knew that.

Pop and I dressed her in her favorite pajamas and put her favorite slippers on her feet.  I crossed her legs.  She looked relaxed and stylish.  While we were waiting for the undertakers (or whatever they are called) I sat on the bed with her and read.  I stroked her forehead and gave her the occasional kiss and told her, again, how much I love her and how much I'll miss her.  The undertakers came and took the empty shell of my mother away.  The three of us stood on the front porch and waved until the van turned the corner.

It doesn't seem possible that she's gone.  Her vivid presence, her intelligence, wit, warmth and love can't be gone from this world.  My mum was the heart of our family.  And the reigning matriarch of our extended family.  I know with my bodily senses that her corporeal self is gone, but her spirit, her essence, the vibration of her can't be gone from this world.  At least, not as long as those of us who knew and loved her are still living.

Not sure what to do now.  I'm not really taking it in yet.  I guess that happens over time.

Thanks for all of your love and support during this time, dear blog friends.  I haven't shared this much of the journey with anyone else.


27 October 2011

The ties that bind

What is it that keeps us tethered to this life?  Family?  Ambition?  The will to live?  The determination not to die? Obviously, I have no answer to that question.

What is it that keeps my mum tethered to this life?  Family?  My pop, me, my brothers, the grandchildren?  A desire to live longer than her siblings have done?  A thumbing of her nose to those she doesn't hold in high regard?  Again, no answers from me.

Whatever those ties that bind (and, other than family, I don't know what they are) they are slipping, loosening, letting go of my mother as she begins her journey to the other side.

I have spent the last three days sitting beside her.  Holding her hand, stroking her brow, petting whatever part of her I could reach.  And, she has responded in kind.  Holding my hand, and squeezing it; directing her gaze up at me; reaching out to touch whatever part of my body she could reach.  Often, there are not words.  Or, at least, words that I can decipher.  Sometimes she is speaking clearly but mostly she is murmuring under her breath.  My pop wrote down all he could of what she said from 2:30 last night until 6:00 this morning.  She is having conversations with people who mattered in her life.  Sorting stuff out.

The hospice nurse came today.  She said that it looks like we have 1 to 3 days left, but certainly not a week.  Now, I know that we had that expectation before, but this time I don't feel confident of a rebound.  For one thing, mum can't stand anymore.  She has no physical strength left.  She is surviving on will and determination alone.  When those go, she won't have anything left.

I'll be spending the next few nights at my parents' house.  I'll keep you updated as i can.
Please send up a prayer for an easy transition for my beloved mother, Kathryn Elizabeth.  I know she'll be ok, I just don't want her to be met on the other side by people she didn't like on this plane... but that's just me...


25 October 2011

In bed

Mum didn't get up today.

Yesterday she got up and made it all the way to the living room, but did so with a ride on the scooter (the walker, or rollator as they like to be called).  Once she got to the living room she fell asleep in the wing chair.  She stayed there until I left, once my pop was up and about.  I went back over in the evening to help get her to the bathroom and then to bed.  And that all went well.

But, today, she's still in bed.  I'm afraid that may mean that she is staying in bed.  Yesterday she said, a couple of times, "I can't do this anymore."  That sounds like she is loosening her grip.

I spent a big chunk of the morning sitting next to her bed, holding her hand.

Not sure where we go from here.  Or if we go anywhere.

19 October 2011

Medication issues

Ok, so, my mum takes a whole lotta pills.  And, until recently, they were doing their job of keeping her comfortable.  Last week however, we mentioned that she is in some pain when she wakes up.  The nurse thought that she should switch to a pain pill that would last through the night so that she would still be comfortable when she awoke.  Good idea.  Wrong pill.

They prescribed morphine tablets, which apparently work for lots of people.  My mum, who takes handfulls of vicodin and flexeril and other stuff every day, is quite susceptible to the effects of morphine.  We found this out the hard way.

My pop gave her the prescribed dose of two blue pills on Friday evening.  Then the prescribed dose of one blue pill on Saturday morning.  She slept 11 1/2 hours on Friday night, and she slept nearly the whole time I was there on Saturday morning and was pretty groggy the rest of the day.  On Saturday night Pop gave her half the recommended dose, just one blue pill.  She slept really well again.  On Sunday morning he broke a pill in half and gave that to her.  At this point I said, let's not give her anymore!  Let's go back to the vicodin.  He spoke with the nurse on Sunday and she said yes, go back to the vicodin, give her some extra haldol to counteract the morphine and increase the steroid.  (Also, it turns out, you shouldn't break those morphine tablets in half.  They just work faster.)

Another consequence of the morphine was the loss of strength in her legs.  She is having a hell of a time standing and walking.  She has needed help getting up for a while now, but since this weekend she is so much weaker.

And, a consequence of the increase in the steroids is that old demon, 'roid rage.  Holy smokes!  My mother has always had a strong will.  When you mix that with steroids and anger at fate, well, you have a pretty potent old lady rage going on.  Since this weekend, I'm going over earlier in the mornings and going back at night to help my pop get her up and into bed.  It has been crazy.

One thing she insists on is spending a very long time on the toilet.  This became a problem when she had been there for 3 hours and refused to get up.  Yes, three hours on the pot.  I arrived at 9am, as usual, and my pop said that she had been there since 6.  He couldn't wrestle her up by himself and every time he tried she told him no.  Well, he's a good husband, and when his wife says no, he listens to her.  I said this is ridiculous and she can't stay on the toilet for three hours. Her feet were like ice!  Cold!  Circulation cut off!  I said we were getting her up and that there would be no arguing about it.  We decided who would lift where and on the count of three up she would come.  This whole time she was saying NO!  I said, Yes!  We started to lift her and she said, "No, stop, put me down!"  And, dammit, my pop started to lower her back down!  I said, Pop, No, we HAVE TO GET HER OUT OF HERE!  Well, we did.  And she was mad.  And this keeps happening.  In fact, yesterday, after we got her to the living room, she looked at me and said, "Don't you have somewhere else to go?"

You gotta laugh.  It's the only choice.  I know it's the drugs talking.  At times, though, all I can think is, good thing her short term memory is gone... she won't remember the next day how mad she was.

This morning we switched her old comfortable leather chair for a firmer, higher wing back chair.  And, tonight when I leave work, I'm headed to the store to buy one of those elevated toilet seat things.  And then I'll go over to their house and put it on and give her 10 minutes on the pot.  Then she's up and out and into bed.  I can be strong willed too...

12 October 2011

Blogger Meet Up!

Today I had lunch with eb and the Queen!  Wow!  Yes, they are real people!  We had lunch at a little pub around the corner from my house called The RaT (really it's called The Rose and Thistle but we love an acronym).  The RaT is next door to a yarn shop so I think the Queen was pleased by that detail.

It was wonderful to meet these two characters.  They are on the Pacific Northwest leg of their current car trip. Originally there was talk of them staying with me, but with my life being in such a weird state of flux right now, well, it didn't turn out.  Happily, they have friends in a suburb west of here.  And, come to find out, the Queen is allergic to cats and we have three.  Might not have worked out too well anyway.  But, I would have loved to have them stay so that we could drink copious amounts of deliciousness and tell tall tales.  I'm sure it would have happened like that...

However, I got to have a long leisurely lunch with them and that was very pleasant.  Amazingly, the irascible T came along and behaved herself pretty well.  I'm including these two pictures as proof but, as you know, my phone takes the crappiest photos of all time so it could be anybody in the picture.  Especially the second one.

The Queen had on a spectacular tie dyed shirt with a crazed beaver on it.  I was sure she had purchased it here in the Beaver State (yes, Oregon is the Beaver State - look it up!  I'm not kidding!) but no!  It's from a chain of rest stop/gas station/mini-mart/restaurant type thingies in Tejas.  Still a good choice for Oregon, though.

Hahahahaha!  That's me with eb behind the flash!  I think she'll send me some pix, or post them on her blog.  They'll certainly be better than these.

So, there you have it.  Real life people behind all the bloggish glamour.  I love it when that happens.

07 October 2011

October and Matthew Shepard

Originally posted: October, 2008


Thoughts about Wyoming

With the ten year anniversary of the hate crime that took Matthew Shepard’s life, I am thinking about Wyoming. As are so many us.

Have you been to Wyoming? Have you driven through the state or visited Yellowstone? I’ve done both in the last decade.

My daughter and I took a road trip through the upper Western states when she was transitioning from middle school to high school. She had gone to an “alternative” middle school, run by hippie-ish types that encouraged self expression, among other things. Part of her self expression was her pink, orange and purple hair. As we left Yellowstone, driving through western Wyoming, she got a scarf out of her bag to cover her hair. I asked her why and she said, 
“They kill people for being different here. I don’t want any of them to see my hair.” 
What’s a mother to say to that?

This spring my girlfriend and I flew out to Michigan to collect my daughter’s car and drive it back to Portland. On day two, as we approached the Wyoming state line, we got into an argument. We spent a couple of hours in stony silence. As we drove through Laramie we both started crying. “Why are we doing this to each other?” we cried. “We have to be strong together to fight against the assholes of this world.” We felt very strongly the sorrow, fear and shame that linger in Laramie; or at least linger in our minds when we think about Laramie. We couldn’t stop there, even though we needed gas. We couldn’t set foot on that ground, spend money in their town, even look away from the highway. Every fence reminded us. We pressed on through the town and filled the tank away to the west, in Rawlins. We were on edge through the whole state, and Utah wasn’t much better. We didn’t really breathe easily until we were cruising through the Gorge on the outskirts of Portland. So. Glad. To. Be. Home.

And, Wyoming? I don’t hate the place. I don’t hate the people. I don’t want to increase the balance of animosity in the world; I want to reduce it. I don’t feel safe in vast areas of the US, and I resent the fact that I feel I must be on guard when traveling in those places. But I am determined to give everyone a fair shake, an unbiased hearing before I make up my mind. There are probably wonderful things about Wyoming and I would be happy to hear about them. True, I’ll never live there, but I would like to travel through it or visit without fear.

03 October 2011

New haircut

I just had my hair cut super short.  It was bugging me and that was pretty much the only solution I could come up  with at the moment.  Mind you, I just had it cut a couple of weeks ago, too... If it irritates me again I'm going for the clippers.

My phone takes lousy pictures, but you can at least see how short it is now.  Amazingly, my mum didn't say a word about it this morning.