I got a call on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend from a nurse at my mother’s facility telling me that she fell, but seemed OK except for a few skin tears. The next day, the phone rang again with new information: Her hip was broken.
I whispered to myself “Here we go!”
I know all too well what that means for her future, and then for the immediate moment. It was a holiday weekend.
Mom languished for 3 days in the hospital on morphine before a surgeon could operate. She was restless, confused, in pain, not eating much, but being well cared for by my observations. She needed a “sitter” because she kept trying to get up. She had no idea that she broke her hip and that she was in line for surgery.
Mom finally had her surgery and was sent back to her facility two days later. Now in a wheelchair, she goes to physical and occupational therapy every day, and has amazingly improved with her walking, although not to the level she was before the fall. And I know in my heart that she will never rise to her previous level of movement. I knew this injury would spell out a new life for her, one that is smaller than the previous one, which began the day she moved in to the facility almost 5 months ago. By small increments, her life was fading away any way. Her dementia is mostly responsible for that.
I took her to the orthopedist the other day as a follow-up from her surgery. We had some interesting conversations that convinced me that her reality is so different that her real life. She told me that she had to find a place for Grandma to live (her mother). Her mother has been deceased since 1979, and would be over 120 years old now. She couldn’t figure out why the x-ray people in the doctor’s office never mentioned Grandma.
She also told me that her husband is deceased (my father), which is true, and that she’d like to find someone to “Kick it up with.” I asked her if she meant she wanted a boyfriend, and she said “Yes. I’m in pretty good health, and it would be fun to have someone to do things with.” I was thrilled to learn that at least for that moment, she had hope and plans for her future.
I was cleaning some things out of her apartment today. I found a small scrap of paper with her hand writing. It said: “He taught us how to live and now he taught us how to die. That rainy day is here.” Maybe this is written in scripture somewhere. Maybe she saw it in something she was reading. Maybe she made it up. There’s no date on it, so I can’t match it up to a time in her life when she may have been assessing her status and future. But it does give a clue about how she was thinking on the day she wrote it.
This all makes me wonder if it’s better to be able to contemplate life, death, and everything in between?
Or is it better to think that you’re OK when you’re really not, and have no capacity for anticipating the unpleasant things that the future holds?
I’m not sure I would know the answer if the questions were about me, but as my mother’s daughter, I’m comforted knowing that she has an alternate reality than the one I see for her, and according to her, she plans to have some fun.