In my family, real life consist of communication about What We’re Going to Do.
I’m going to drop this off at M.’s, then run over to the Jewel and pick up coffee, come home, take a shower, get ready for dinner.
I’m going to pick up Safta (grandmother) at the beauty parlor, drop her off, then run to the cleaners. When I get home I’ll baby sit so that you can go to your appointment.
Stuff like that.
During the past three years, as my mother's health declined, she lived independently at a retirement center. She rarely asked for help, although she needed it. We could anticipate her needs, but she hated that we had to meet them, so independent for so long. "Go home," she would say, when I checked on her. "Go take care of your family."
If my brother or I wanted to go to a conference (our vacations are always conferences), we communicated well in advance. Someone had to be around in case our mother needed something, in case something happened to her. We always accommodated one another, only too happy to do it.
About a month ago we had a problem. We had a schedule conflict.
FD and I rarely leave the country, hardly ever, unless someone in the immediate family is getting married.
But in February he tossed me a pamphlet for a tropical vacation, and a conference we could both attend in the fall. We talked about it as if it was a dream, probably something we couldn’t pull off, but surely an idea worthy of serious consideration, planning. I offered to present a workshop there, too. Never did reach the right person for that.
As my mother became unsteady it seemed unlikely, this dream. And yet. . . anything’s possible.
Only a few weeks ago, visiting my mother, she seemed tired, too tired. I called my brother and told him that I had to go to work, but that she didn’t look good to me, and if he could stop in to see her after hours, it would be good. He did and popped her into his car and drove her to the hospital. I was minutes behind.
In the ER I happened to mention the tropical vacation and my sister-in-law jumped in to say that they, too, had a trip scheduled for the fall, same week-- overseas-- and it couldn’t be changed, the tickets, already purchased.
Admitted at Evanston Hospital, the hospitalists pumped my mother full of fluid IV and got her sodium up, discharged her in 18 hours, much to my dismay and outrage. Thanks, is what I told the doctor who insisted Mom couldn’t possibly stay longer for observation. Thanks, I repeated as the young professional left the room, finished with this case. For nothing. .
Not something my mother would have said.
We went through a nursing home stay, then an admission in another hospital, then a discharge, knowing recovery to be unlikely.
My mother, always the people-pleaser, passed away last week, four weeks later.
She probably didn’t want to be a burden.