Thursday, August 8, 2013

Did She Fall?

The phone rang at 10pm. I knew it would be bad news before I lifted the receiver; Caller ID told me that the pod castle was calling.  There was nothing I wanted to hear from them at that hour of the night.  I was right.

"Your mom fell."

My heart dropped. The plane to Chicago and BlogHer and Little Cuter was leaving in fifteen hours, and I planned to be on it no matter what. 

"How long was she on the floor?" I asked.  "Is she bleeding?  Have you called the doctor?

"Not long. No. No. She's fine.  We just wanted to tell you.  We found her in her chair.  She doesn't remember a thing."

This is where it starts to get fuzzy for me.  G'ma was not bruised.  She was on her chair.  She, of course, was unable to tell the staff what had happened.  I wondered how they knew she had fallen. No one was able to give me an answer.  I'm not suggesting that they didn't give me a good answer, I'm saying that they didn't have an answer at all.

I appreciated the phone call, required as it might have been.  I like being kept in the loop.  I just wasn't sure that there was a loop to be completed.  With no damage, with G'ma found on her chair, without complaints of pain or blood running onto the carpet, I am left scratching my head and wondering. 

Is this the edge of a massive cover-up?  If it is, what can I do?  There is no way to prove anything, no way to rerun the hands of time and determine exactly what precipitated the phone call, no way to know what went on.

The lack of control is frightening.  My job is to be certain my mother is safe.  I can't do anything about her increasing dementia, her lack of appetite, her unwilliness to get off her chair and join me for lunch out at Subway.  I can try to keep her safe.  At least, that was the plan when we admitted her to the pod castle.  Sixteen apartments, four or five staff during the day, alarms on her chair and her bed, overnight staff that is aware of her limitations, all of these were in place and, for a while, working well.

Then, there was that phone call.

She is losing muscle tone and interest in the world around her.  The surgery's anesthesia, though mild, left less of her in the world.  It's a commonly reported side-effect among the already demented, though I've not found reliable research that would suggest that surgery be avoided.  And really, the woman had a broken leg; surgery was not optional. I thought that returning to the pod-castle would reawaken neurons and synapses, that she would relax into her familiar, comfortable, surroundings, that she would be the same.

I'm a dreamer.  I look at the bright side.  I'm often disappointed.

There is blather where there was none.  I used to say, with confidence, that G'ma was fine in the moment.  She might not remember where she had been ten seconds ago, but within the confines of a conversation, she was on-task and coherent.  That's not true any more.

She pointed to Mark Harmon's gorgeous face on the television set, and began to tell me something about him.  The sentence started off well enough, but it devolved into a string of unconnected words before the second comma.  G'ma looked confused, surprised, perplexed.  I finished what I thought she was saying and didn't make a big deal over the drivel I heard, but my heart was breaking.

I treasured those moments of clarity, those conversations about the weather or the kids or the outfits on the people across the room.  They were glimpses of what had been, reminders of the woman she was.  Those encounters reinforced the notion that the old lady in the recliner-she-can't-remember-how-to-operate was still the woman who gave me sage advice, whether I wanted it or not.

I'd really like some now, Mommy.

I'd like to know if you are happy inside.  I'd like to know if you realize you are unable to complete your thoughts.  I'd like to know what to do about it all.  I'd like to know if you fell.

Channeling Mick isn't helping at all. I know I can't get what I want.  I'm trying, but I'm not getting what I need, either.  I'm not giving up, but I'm not sure where to turn. If there are answers out there, they are well hidden. 

It's really no fun at all.


  1. The tears welled up as I read this. I've been reading your blog and following your experiences with your mother for a long time now. I'm not a commenter-type person, but today I have to. The exact - I mean exact -words and questions you put forth were mine when I went through the same thing with my mom ten years ago. Reading your words, it was like yesterday. And it brought back all the emotions. As long as I could think that inside her was the strong-willed always with the comment, funny mommy who raised me, I was okay. It was okay as long as her Brooklyn Jewish voice played in my head. I knew what she would say, what she was saying inside her head as she dealt with the caregivers we had with her in her apartment - they were wonderful and warm in their own way, but definitely not up to the "smarts" of those at home (home being Brooklyn). The day I wasn't sure she was having these conversations in her head was devastating for me. I still find myself sometimes wondering if she realized what was happening to her -- and if she was scared.

    1. Anon, thanks for the prompt for tomorrow's post. Let's finish the conversation there.

  2. I'm really at a loss for words. With my grandmother, the cancer took over way before the dementia got worse. There were things she couldn't remember, but we would remind her of them and then she would complete the sentence. With my father-in-law, he was just starting to show signs of dementia, but he died from heart failure before it progressed. I know this is really hard on you and it's hard to see our loved ones' minds just whither away. I'm with you though... hoping at least she's happy. That would be the most important thing for me-being happy. If she was suffering, I would be very upset.

    I don't know if there is anything else you can do. I haven't had to face this yet. My heart just aches for you. :(

    Sending lots of love and hugs!

    Megan xxx

    1. Love you right back, Megan. Mom and I often joke about the fact that the only heart attack she had happened while she was in the hospital. Otherwise, "I'd have gotten my wish".... to die in bed. I am not sad all the time; I use The Burrow to write it down and try to move on... or move it to a less achy place. I know, as you say, that she is happy and not suffering and that's the way I aim to keep her!


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