I guess living in a Southern Baptist home has leaned me away from the brunch cocktail so that was different and probably memorable. I am conscience of collecting memories, which is weird, but nonetheless ... . Shared time is especially valued by me. It seems the greatest luxury to have time alone, even in a crowd, with my adult children.
The walk in beer cooler at a nearby grocery store was full of interesting labels and names - never been a beer drinker but way back in the day, I did join in with the attempt to sing our track coaches crazy with the 99 bottles of beer on the wall chant during long late night bus rides home after meets. Beer seems to be evolving. The visual on that silly old song had only one label on all the bottles!
We browsed around through several furniture shops. My son is very sure of his taste in home furnishings and he definitely doesn't like sales people coming up to help him along. It was a treat to share the day with him. I am very much aware of how quickly time moves along and runs out, suddenly it often seems.
More then ever before, the fragility of life is on my mind.
I can't remember if I mentioned spending a few days with my mother-in-law in the hospital last week.
It is interesting to see that she has retained the memory of her two sons, her absolute need to assert her expectations, and almost nothing else. I mean, her brain scan compared to one done a few months ago shows progressive brain atrophy, how does she hold on to the overt bossiness? The ER doctor suggested she be discharged with a hospice referral (not my call so I deferred that decision until the guys can put their heads together). He said every time a patient in her condition comes to the hospital it's like slicing a piece of them away ... meaning, I think, during the process of what hospitals have to do, perhaps more is lost then what can be gained. She had stopped eating, drinking, was refusing her meds, wouldn't or couldn't speak and was confused (and frightened I thought) when I first saw her in the ER, it had been so for the previous two days the care giver informed me. They, the hospital staff, were unable to find an infection, nor did her blood work indicate any treatable concern. She wasn't clinically dehydrated (I don't know how that is established), wasn't running a fever, her blood sugar levels weren't throwing up any red flags. Her blood pressure fluctuated between really high and even higher. They were unable to get an IV started after she pulled out the one the ambulance guys had gotten started. Not to be morbid, but I was thinking ahead to how to best handle arrangements with both of her boys away. One of them is out of the country and incommunicado until mid November, the other is just not here, no where near here, away working. It's difficult to communicate the true situation (as you see it) over the phone. I snapped a few pics (to send) which felt somehow disrespectful but did help with the thousand word thing. She was admitted for observation with essentially "nothing wrong (save skipping the BP meds) and clearly wishing to be done with the whole thing". That's what I think. Upstairs we went. I was exhausted by, first the drive, then the intensity of the situation. I asked them to try another IV suggesting maybe down by her feet. That, turns out, is an automatic no-go with a diabetic patient. I know practically nothing about diabetes. I even have to rely on spell check to get the word right. After several pain-filled attempts, they were able to get an IV going with a slow drip to re-hydrate her. The next morning I asked the rounding doctor if she could get her something comparable to the "home meds" through the bag. I don't know why that wasn't possible, but they did grind them up and let me feed them to her with jello which she was able to swallow. Pretty soon she was looking slightly less corpse-like and speaking again. Later she was actually somewhat coherent. Like my mother, the awareness of being unable to go to the bathroom to go to the bathroom as a HUGE source of agitation for her and therefore the rest of the floor. As soon as she was physically able to move her legs over the edge of the hospital bed it was ON. Poor baby. I didn't feel that it would be very responsible of me to let her fall out of bed. I sorted through possible ways to explain that to my husband (everyone of them sounded like I decided to let her cross the expressway w/o even holding her hand just to let her see how not well it would work out). I asked for the rails to be put up - you have to ask for that now because it can be seen as restraint. I didn't know that. It seems like common sense to me. I also asked for the bed alarm which was more for me in case I dozed off. Once she worked out the fact that a sideways sprawl over the edges would not render an escape path, she spent a good deal of her time slowly working her way down towards the end of the bed where the rails could not prevent a determined exit ... and every time she was attended to by the nurses, working together, we would move her back up towards the top of the bed (and she'd begin towards her goal yet again). I admired her single minded perseverance (apparently one's will is an actual source of physical strength) and it made me smile that her first complete sentence was a disdainful "You are in my territory" said as I gently lifted her dangling foot back up in to the bed. Territorial to the end, that's her. I wonder how it is possible to "remember" who we are. I wonder how what is remembered is "selected" by a decaying brain. FITBIT has me burning about 400 calories after the daily reset but before I really start moving for the day. Her caloric intake is practically non existent now. I wonder how the brain chooses to fight for flight when there's no apparent source for renewing energy. Having the PT lady come in and help her to standing and a shuffle around the bed really took the sap out of her. By time I drove her back to her memory care facility, got her to the comfy chair in her room, and turned over her care once again to the charge nurse there I felt that we were back to where this adventure began. It is a matter of time. If I were making the choices for her, I would have just brought her home with me. I do not think I know best. I remind myself that this situation was the situation she chose for herself when she was still quite competent. I can understand that decision being honored.
When I am unable to remember, not only these people, but the specific moments of these pictures ... two things; first, why would I care to continue to live (what is "my" life without these memories and the many memories that were shared with my people) and what will I remember? What happens when you forget who you love? If you can't remember that, how can anything else matter? And, I think there is a tragedy in perceiving insult when the opposite intention is being expressed. I am glad that she is unable to pick up on that, because it is less gracious then she would want to behave if she were choosing rather then acting on instinct.
I think, I hope, that I am activity constructing an "old me" who I would like by how I choose to interact with people while I am still able to choose. I hope I am etching the habits into those last few neurons that I'd like to have at the end of my days. I hope I'm not a stinker. I would like for my last days to be less difficult for the people who love me. Mostly, if I live long enough to forget where I am and how I got there, I hope I'll remember the joy(s) of loving these five people especially. My husband says I am best able (temperamentally) to tend to his mother and maybe that is true, but I'm not the best person to be there for her. She needs someone, one of her sons, who she remembers. Someone she has let in not someone feels she needs to keep out, someone she remembers she loves. Anything less then that seems empty to me.
It does seem strange to me that we think it's right to select length rather than quality of life. I am afraid that we aren't very conscious of spending our time on what makes life meaningful on a personal level. I'm saying, if I knew I had X amount of days left, how would I really want to spend them? Thinking about that isn't about dying, it's about living. What feels like the best life? Just walking around with someone I love seemed like a perfect day to me. When I can't do stuff like that, it's going to get pretty tedious. When I can't remember those days I think I'd rather not hang around. I don't want to be here when my favorite thing is orange jello.