November 1, 2014
Adam had been up with my mom since 4a.m. He’d made her coffee, grated her some apples – but she vomited up the apple.
“It’s just an apple,” she said, distressed. “An apple a day,” she added, her voice breaking. She began to cry. “I haven’t eaten in four days! Look at me,” she said, lifting her wrists. “I’m just skin and bones.”
* * *
“I love you,” she said. This was later.
“We’ll always be connected, Mom.”
“Always have been. I don’t know how,” she said, “but I always felt that. You were such a gift. A gift. But I didn’t always treat it well.”
“Treat what well, Mom?”
“My gift,” she said. “You.”
* * *
A little while later, she called to me in the living room. “I’m getting dizzy. Can you come in here?”
I am lying on the bed next to her. Her eyes are closed but she is not sleeping. I am working on my laptop. With my left hand I caress the back of her head. I put my laptop down, sit up, and turn to her.
“Mom, I want you to know that whatever you think you did or didn’t do, you are forgiven. I just feel love for you. Just pure love.”
She nods serenely and pats my face.
* * *
The hospice nurse came and assured us that the Ativan could not be causing her nausea. Mom had probably misconstrued some cause and effect. “I think your nausea is caused by the progression of your disease,” she said.
These are chilling words.
But in fact, Mom has taken pain medication and Ativan all day, with no vomiting. A hospice nurse suggested that Mom may have felt ill a time or two, taken an Ativan – and vomited shortly afterward, before it had time to work. She could then have concluded the Ativan was at fault.
* * *
We were sitting in the living room when she said, “I wonder how much money is going to come out of this inheritance. We’ll find out next week.” The inheritance refers to her brother Horst’s estate. Horst died intestate, without a will, in June. Bonnie had told me, soon after I’d arrived in Montrose a few days earlier, that my mother was doing all she could to hang on for my sister and me. “She wants to make sure you guys get that money,” Bonnie had said.
“Did Christa tell you that?” I now said to Mom, referring to my mother’s only remaining sibling, who lives in Germany. “That we’d know next week?”
“Yes. I don’t know how long I can do this,” she said, referring, I think, to the act of staying alive.
She wonders if she can stick it out for another week?
* * *
Muschi arrived from Las Vegas and Mom cried. “Sixty-five years!” she said. They hugged a good long while, Mom’s face tear-streaked, and before long we had moved Mom into her bed, along with all her logistics. She was tired from the Ativan, barely able to stay awake. At a little after 9p.m. I took Muschi to the worst, saddest, seediest motel in all the world, and she insisted on staying because it was only three blocks away from Mom.
November 2, 2014
I awoke to the sound of my name. It was about 4:30a.m. I bolted upright, debated pants, ran out in my boxers. Mom was at the kitchen’s backdoor. “Pumpkin!” she called. “Pumpkin.”
She was calling Pumpkin, the amateur therapy dog.
She turned and saw me. “I thought you were calling me,” I said.
“Just trying to get him inside,” she said.
She went back to her coffee, tottering on uncertain legs. Her movements were not precise; I helped her to keep her balance. She would drink about a quarter of her cup of coffee.
* * *
Adam and I offer her different choices of food. She tells us: “If you guys keep talking about eating, I’m going to get really nauseous if you try so hard.”
She hasn’t eaten much today. She vomited once, losing what she had eaten. Sometime before noon, she interrupted a lengthy period of dozing with these words: “crunchy fish filet”. She didn’t even open her eyes. “I want a crunchy fish filet.” We baked two from the freezer, but one was perhaps freezer-burned – Mom spat it out — and the other was salmon, which Mom had never eaten and never would, Muschi relayed to us later. Still no nutrition all day.
* * *
Between naps, Mom instructs Adam on how to make potato and leek soup her way. She has him bring a spoonful to her on the couch, where she tastes it and pronounces what it lacks. Sea salt. Dill. Heavy cream.
She mostly sleeps as we watch the British TV series, “Poirot”. Pumpkin, the old orange poodle, sleeps on her stomach or above her head.
I am standing near the couch when Mom reaches up for my hand. I kneel down on the floor and she holds my hand against her cheek. She begins to cry. “The pain,” she says, and I can’t make out the rest of it.
She works to pull herself together. “The pain,” she repeats, “losing you – I don’t think I can handle it.”
* * *
I talk to my sister for a good while, but Mom is asleep or talking to the hospice nurse throughout. I hear Mom asking if someone can share their thoughts on food. What to eat. The nurse says it’s too individual, no advice to give. Mom is disappointed. When Candy calls back, Mom is again asleep. I make another blog post, “Missing Her Already”, and not long afterward my sister’s best friend, Tanya, who loves my mother as her own, calls to ask how I’m doing. She is amazingly loving and supportive and I thank her.
* * *
I come in and hear Mom and Nancy talking about my sister, I gather.
“. . . there’s bills, and work, and everything. I remember what it was like, being a single mother and not being able to go anywhere because of the kids.”
This makes me happy for my mother and sister, my mother’s understanding.
A few minutes later, she is complimenting Nancy on the life she has. “I see your grandkids and your kids and you’re making all those improvements. It’s really enviable,” she says. And then she turns her face away from Nancy, but I can see her features form into pain, and I see the tears in her eyes.
* * *
Candy calls again, but now Mom is asleep, again. I am determined to get them talking more. They have always had a challenged relationship, a good deal of miscommunication, and my sister is now commuting and working 14-hour days. They haven’t had much conversation since my mother and I flew my sister and niece to Colorado in June.
* * *
Silke comes and rubs Mom’s feet. Mom suddenly sees a vision of hazelnut cheese spread on crackers, along with green grapes (not the red we had on hand, those were too sweet for this kind of cheese). Adam and I head out to try both City Markets but we can’t find the Mirabo cheese she wants. I pick out a spreadable sundried tomato and basil cheese, and Adam gets another kind of cheese and hazelnuts he plans to crush and mix with the cheese. “That won’t work,” I say to him, “trust me.” Mom eats quite a bit of all this, especially Adam’s concoction. We cheer her eating.
We have her on the Ativan again. I now keep a notebook of everything she takes and when — food, pain meds, Ativan, cannabis oil. Now we can spot trends, and also know when to give her the next round of meds. She has stopped the frightening vomiting, which had seemed to portend a rapid, and therefore frightening, decline.
* * *
In the kitchen Muschi says to me, “Can’t we get your sister here? I would pay for her ticket.”
“It’s not so much the cost of the ticket,” I say – my sister couldn’t afford it but I’d put it on my credit card – “but the income she’d lose if she took off from work. She doesn’t have vacation time yet.”
That gives me an idea. I know the solution to this problem. I send a text to Candy, asking how much after-tax income she’d lose if she came for a week. Maybe we will get her here after all. I am thinking of Candy as much as Mom.
Carrie, who was 15 when she walked the Camino with us and just graduated in May, stops by to say hello.
* * *
At a little after 8p.m., I ask if Mom wants to call Candy. She says she’s too tired. Then she changes her mind. She fumbles with her new phone for a while and I take it from her and find Candy’s number. They talk for ten minutes or so. Mom cries a little when Candy repeats some of the memories she’d written in her letter. They must be talking about the possibility of Candy coming to Colorado. Candy says, “I’m workin on it, Mom” and Mom gives a timeframe of the next seven to ten days.
Candy told me that Mom’s oldest grandson, Dylan, who lives down the street but hasn’t been in touch with Mom since about July, is afraid to come here, to Mom’s house. “What bullshit,” Adam says.
* * *
Adam made a very good potato leek soup today from Mom’s recipe. Other than the Halloween candy, I’m eating pretty well. I’m not exercising – I don’t see anything in Montrose I want to do. I’m not a runner, I have no bike here, no mountains to hike, and no yoga class that interests me. Weightrooms bore me. I suppose I should look into Gold’s Gym and see what classes they have. Exercise is a great anti-depressant.
In the evening, Mom always goes to bed first – sometime between 7 and 9p.m. – and Adam falls asleep while we’re watching a movie. I finish the movie and go to my bedroom, where I am nightly faced with the Hobson’s choice of either closing the door and risking not being able to hear my mother, on the one hand, and subjecting myself to Adam’s locomotive snores on the other. Of course I leave the door open.