Bed sores, it turns out, will heal.
My Mama’s life force is something to be reckoned with. For the umpty-dump time, she was supposed to die. But she didn’t.
I wrote about her bed sores a couple of weeks ago. If you need to be brought up to speed, you can read about it here.
She had slid down into silent staring. She had a sore on her back, and she was refusing food. Everyone thought that she would be leaving soon.
I insisted that we change her wheelchair around so that nothing rubbed. And I got her to start talking. It was hard work, but I kept at it until she began looking at me and talking.
She didn’t recognize me. The things she said didn’t make any sense. But I got her turned back on.
Then, I watched as she stood up, grabbed a table and hand-over-handed herself into a chair. The nurses were horrified, afraid she would fall. But I knew right then that she was not going to die today.
Whatever it is in her that fights had clicked back on.
She has not recognized me once since she took that last turn down. I don’t think I will ever be recognized by my Mama again. But she’s stopped staring at me blankly and saying “I don’t know …” as in I don’t have a clue who you are. Now, while she doesn’t recognize me as me, or even anyone in particular, she does recognize that I’m a good someone, a trustworthy and welcome presence in her world.
She did recognize my oldest son for a moment, knew who he was. Then, she slid into thinking he was her father. But thinking straight enough to remember her father was a big deal, and actually knowing my son was incredible.
That may have been the last time for any us. I don’t know. But it may have been.
Last night something happened that is the worst thing I’ve had to experience in this whole passage down for my mama.
It was … I don’t know … three am? Something like that.
I didn’t have my phone in the bedroom, but my iPad was there, beside the bed. It began ringing.
I saw that it was the nursing home and I immediately thought “She’s dead.”Even after all this, that hit me like a club. She’s dead.
It was the night nurse, someone I know and trust; a kind and good person. She told me Mama had fallen. She had a “scrape” on her arm and another on her back. Her skin is so thin, and her body so weak that scrapes are a big deal. They don’t heal and can turn into sores. They were taking her to dress the scrapes.
I heard my Mama in the background, screaming in a wretched voice for her Mama, my grandmother. I’ve never heard that before.
She sounded terrified and miserable beyond any depth of misery I can imagine.
It’s a fact that when people get very old, they go back to being babies again. They wear diapers, play with children’s toys, grab things from one another like toddlers, push and shove. I’ve heard people in the nursing home calling for their mamas many times.
My own mother stopped recognizing me as her daughter quite a while back. She thought I was her mother.
But last night wasn’t a gentle confusion in which she mistook me for my grandmother. She was shrieking in terror and anguish, screaming for her mother.
I didn’t go to the nursing home last night. Usually, when one of these calls comes, I go over there right then. But last night I was overwhelmed, flattened. I just … couldn’t.
I knew that she would be in her bed, asleep, by the time I got there. She always is.
But that wasn’t why I didn’t go. I was just too grieved. Throughout all this, my objectives have been clear to me. I wanted Mama to be happy and not have any pain. Everything else, including length of life, was non-essential.
What I heard last night was my precious mother in horrible emotional pain. It just … took me down.
I’m going to go see her in a few minutes. I’m not sure what the particulars of what I will find will be. She may be talking. She may be staring. But I doubt very much if she recognizes me, and I fully expect last night’s horror to be gone from her.
Whatever her condition when I get there, she will be calm. Or, if she’s not calm, she will at worst be agitated and talking in angry word salads.
I’m pretty sure that the anguish I heard on the phone last night was a night terror. The nurse told me mama had done this before. She’s the night nurse. She knows about night terrors.
She assured me that she would hold mama and comfort her, that she wouldn’t leave her like that. We don’t always recognize heroes when they’re right in front of us. Caregivers, from our own mothers, to nurses who take care of us when we’re sick, are the most important and least recognized heroes we have.
I think my primary purpose in writing this is just to share it. I want to write it out and say it to you because the weight of it is too much for me to carry alone.
Thank you for listening.