“We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that mortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses, we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves. As we were. As we are no longer. As we will one day not be at all.” – Joan Didion
I walk into the hospital ward, and even though it’s a hospital I’ve never been in, the setup is familiar. Here, a door remains locked until I am buzzed in. There, a tired, slightly bored nurse looks up from behind plated glass and asks me who I am.
I sign the clipboard. I turn off my cell phone when requested. I turn in my visitor’s pass. I await seeing my mother, who hasn’t eaten or drank much for days, to my knowledge. The last description I had had of her was that her mouth was cakey and her lips were so dry that they were pulled back. The last visual I had of her was her crazy hair and her wild eyes, and the sound of her voice, screaming at me to leave her alone.
So, as I wait for her a week after she’s been admitted to the hospital, I am automatically thinking the worst. I think of my mom, who might be wasting away. I think of lips bleeding and cracking. I think of gluey spit puddles and jaundiced eyes and sunken cheeks.
When I see my mom, she looks better than that. To be clear, she’s lost weight, but she is not the nightmare I had imagined.
And she’s manic. Lord, the thoughts. How they tumble and roll.
She’s convinced the world’s problems can be solved by Vitamin E – or if not the world’s – maybe just mine. She doesn’t believe in a dab doin’ ya, you have to sterilize needles, and pop capsules of IU 400, and smother those fuckers everywhere. Scars be damned. She tells me I can use it to take off the little makeup I’m wearing too, and if I rub it on my eyelids just so, it will get absorbed into my eyes overnight and it’ll help my vision (this last part she whispers conspiratorially).
And she laughs. Oh, how she laughs.
And I sit there, and I comply with her requests to see what I’m wearing, and I smile at appropriate times, and I tell her maybe she should take meds, and I ask her why she’s not eating, but all the time I’m also thinking, “Wow, my mom looks really good in yellow. Much better than those blue or white hospital gowns they usually make you wear.”
And I try to think of my mom in younger days, a woman I have never known, maybe laughing because something was truly funny, maybe being outside with the glint of sunshine in her hair.
But now? Now I just feel old, because I’m looking at my mom, and realizing that – even though we went through the proper steps and we paid the money and we made the phone calls and we went to court for months and we got her back into privatized housing where she was supposed to be eating 3 meals a day and taking meds – it’s all bullshit. We thought we were doing right, and right turned out to be just another cog in the machine.
I’m losing my mom. And I don’t know what to do about it. I have an incredible support system behind me – mom2, my sisters, my besties, my boyfriend, hell – even my boyfriend’s family – and…
The funny thing? I feel numb. Every time the catastrophe hits, I reach out, and I ask questions, and I worry – the only reason I’m writing this right now is because I can’t stop fucking thinking about it. But in the back of my head, I wonder if there’s not something more I could be doing. And if you do that long enough and hard enough, you become surprised at how quickly you just go through motions.
I’ve been fighting with the hospitals and dealing with the dumbest people on the planet. Seriously, it’s a wonder the medical community is filled with intelligent people, ’cause I think a few got graded on a bell curve or something.
And my family says, “We know you’re doing the best you can.”
But even if I am – why aren’t other people? If I tell the fucking social workers and the fucking nurses and the treatment teams to tell the fucking idiot piece of shit doctor that what you’re prescribing my mother out of convenience to you and ONLY YOU isn’t working, WHY WOULD YOU CONTINUE TO DO IT?
Is your medical degree fake and you’re afraid of being found out? Is that why you’re dodging my calls?
Because look, Dr. Fucktard, I understand that you’re busy, and that you have a life maybe, and that you have other patients, but … like, you’re fucking with someone’s life here. You’re fucking with someone’s mother here. And maybe not today, or tomorrow, or next year, or five years from now, but eventually, there’s gonna be nothing left.
And I have to believe at one point, because I’ve seen glimmers of it, that my mom was a radiant, charismatic, lovely, decent, kind, human being. And I know that it’s tough – dealing with her voices and her paranoia and all of it – and to be honest, I didn’t even experience half of what my other siblings did.
But like… she’s my mom. And when I was helpless and couldn’t take care of myself she tried to take care of me. So now I’m trying to repay the favor, and I am failing miserably. And I’m tired. And I’m sad. And I’m crying. And I’m writing angry blogs because it’s so much easier to do this than cry.
My mother told me a few days ago, operate in kindness and goodness. So I’m still furiously trying to do that, even if I am furious.
Because seriously… i’d like to punch her doctor in the face.
Have a better night than I’m having, friends. And be kind to yourselves.