Friday, November 1, 2013

I'm Empty

Thursdays are good days. I love my Pilates foursome, a mid-morning gathering of women of a certain age, each with our individual aches and pains, but all of us committed to the method. JannyLou and I drive up together, and there's just enough time to catch up and feel the love. I missed it all this morning.

The House Manager at G'ma's pod castle interrupted my morning routine. G'ma was in pain. She was unable to remain in the dining room during breakfast.  Nausea, perhaps from the pain, sent her back to bed, with a Tylenol or two to ease the aches.  The doctor had already been faxed and would be called when the office opened at 9.  Did I want to come over and see her?


I didn't want it to be happening at all.  I was on my way to my own rehab, to a pleasant morning of movement and chatter followed by a walk around the Prince Playground with goblins and ghouls and ghosts. I didn't want to enter to cavern of care toward which she was beckoning.

Of course, I went.

G'ma was asleep when I arrived and she stayed that way until the doctor arrived four hours later. She didn't budge in the bed.  I didn't check to see if she was breathing.  I looked at her, curled up under the Horace Mann blanket, atop the covers because that is where one naps,  and then I sat in the orange upholstered chair we'd carted from Long Island to New Jersey and across Tucson. It's filled with memories of grandchildren sprawled over its arms, reading over the sitter's shoulders and elbows. We might not have been happy, but we were healthy.

I wish I had those times back right now.

I distracted myself with Mark Helprin's latest, a story about a young man exactly my father's age, living in post-war New York City. My dad has been on my shoulder ever since I read the opening paean to Manhattan; he was with me as I listened for his wife's breath this morning. Those were four very long hours.

The gerontologist is a Birkenstock wearing, jeans clad, two-hoops-in-his-left-earlobe 40-something who meets G'ma, snark for snark, with a big smile and a knowing look.  It's quintessential New York, though I'm sure he's never been there.  It makes her smile, connecting her to that which is, in some way, familiar.  She has the patter, the answers, the pace.  For the moment, trading barbs about her refusal to roll over so that he could listen to her stomach, I was seeing the woman she used to be.

Whatever the cost, for that moment, the home visit was a bargain.

She looked skinny to him, and, though I hadn't noticed it, she has lost twenty pounds since last spring. She is now officially thinner than I am.  This is not right, and she knows it. That fact caught her attention, and she began to wonder along with us why she wasn't eating. We were having a conversation, and I didn't want it to end.

Her digoxin will be discontinued, in case the dose is becoming toxic as she loses weight. She will have blood drawn and x-rays taken and a plan will be created. "We're not doing anything drastic," he reassured me. He remembers our end of life conversation, the three of us kneecap-to-kneecap, and he knows that this is exactly the situation she wanted to avoid. He knows that there is nothing we can do about it.

"Perhaps she's getting ready to fade away," he offered. Through tiny tears, I shrugged.

Knowing that it's G'ma, she'll rebound with a resilience no one imagined.  It's all together probable that she will be up and at the table when I drop in tomorrow morning for breakfast.  That's been her modus operandi since I've known her; she's rarely sick for long. And if she doesn't..... I'm not going there.  As G'ma's mother always said: You'll have time enough to be sad after it happens.  Until then, why waste the good days?

Wise words..... that's all I have left.


  1. Cyber hugs to you! Both of my parents went fast so I can only imagine the pain and sadness you are already living through. Saying my Mom went fast is not entirely accurate ... she did start to hardly eat anything and lose weight about 3 months before her death. "Why waste the good days" is a great attitude to try and hold on to but I think you also have a good sense of the reality of the situation. As does G'ma's body, even if her mind doesn't.

    1. Thanks for the hugs <3 It's comforting to hear other stories, and to know that kind hearts are out there, sending love.

  2. It's tough. i remember. It could be she's trying to let go of a life that isn't what she wants anymore :( No good answers.

    1. I think that's it. She's always liked to be in charge of herself, and if this is her last hurrah, I can smile through the sorrow.

      No good answers, indeed. Just an end to misery... with a whimper, not a bang.

  3. I think Rain may be right. It's sad....but her mom was right.

    1. Thanks, Kenju..... it's sad, but I'm trying to smile and stay focused on the reality - she's here for me to hug right now.


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