This Friday has me working on an offline essay about my mother.
The biggest realization I had during my trip to MO last week was that my mother will most likely die sometime this summer. She is only 73.
Everything I do, everything I think or say has that fact behind it. I bake bread; my mother is dying. I walk around the neighborhood; my mother is dying. I sit at the kitchen island pecking on my laptop; my mother is dying.
I've worked my entire professional life with the critically ill and dying. I'm no stranger to death. I have worked as a critical care nurse, an oncology nurse, a hospice nurse. I thought I knew what it would be like to face the demise of a family member.
What I'm learning is that although death is universal, the experience of it is particular. And what I thought it would be like is not at all like the reality.
The reasons I think she will die are myriad. Her kidneys were "knocked out" (Kirkepiscatoid will appreciate that term) by the dye given to her during her stent placement in April. Her vascular surgeon tried his best to keep that from happening; he absolutely flooded her with IV fluids before, during and after the procedure. But it didn't work; she is a diabetic and kidneys are fragile in diabetics. My brother had been pretty graphic in describing what I would see, and he was right. I use food metaphors to describe what she looked like as they work; her color was that of unbaked pie dough, her legs and lower abdomen were hard and puckered like orange peel, and she had large berry stains under her skin where her insulin injections were given. My brother told me that her coagulation studies were "way off", thus the berry stains. She had a stress echocardiogram earlier that indicated her pulmonary circulation was was as pliable as a brick wall. Thus the swelling; she is in congestive heart failure that is not helped by the kidney issues. But her vascular system is too fragile to even think about passing a catheter for dialysis.
In the meantime, her ischemic (no blood circulation) feet are giving her lots of pain. She cries constantly, despite the Vicodin the doc gave her. And she is exhausted. She sleeps probably three hours for every hour she is awake. She is apathetic. And she no longer can do the activities of daily living, like take a bath, most of us take for granted. She no longer walks.
My father, who has mental health issues, is going absolutely bonkers. He has been much better over the past few years but during my visit I unfortunately regained the crazy dad I had as a teen. Mom and I were chatting and suddenly Dad yelled, "Don't make fun of me!" We weren't speaking of him or anything related to him at all. A few minutes later, we heard, "What's going on in there?!" "Nothing," Mom replied. "We are just talking about vacuum cleaners" (which we were). Later that evening, Dad begged my brother not to put him into a "home."
It is difficult to live regular life with all this in the background. My brother, who needs some surgery, went ahead and scheduled it as he can't predict what will happen with Mom, or when. None of us have crystal balls. Taciturn and I have planned a vacation to Vermont since February; we decided, unless Mom really crashes, that we will go ahead. After all, although she is dying, her process is not acute. If we have to return all of a sudden, we will.
No matter what any of us do, my mom is dying.