Home Bound (Week IV)
Week IV – The Last Week Scott and I’ve decided to move my mother to our house. The hospice nurse has told us there’re only days instead of weeks left and the move may be too much for her frail body, but I need to be in my house, to be with my husband and children. “You’ll have a room with a bathroom next to the bed, and the bed looks out on the backyard,” I tell her. She’s silent so I add, “You can see Allison and Alex every day.” Over the last two weeks she’s lost interest in her friends and her Canasta games but has asked repeatedly for her grandkids. When she hears their names she smiles and I know that, despite her wishes, the move’ll be best. I spend the night packing our things. There’s no need for a suitcase. My mother’s meds and the two fresh nightgowns my husband bought her fit easily into a brown paper grocery bag. When the ambulance arrives the next morning, I’ve medicated her enough so she sleeps through the bone jarring transfer between bed and stretcher. At home, I settle back into my routine of kids and housework with the added confusion of caring for my mother in this new environment. I insist the kids continue to attend school, although my twelve year old son begs to be allowed to stay home. My husband enrolled him in a new school two weeks earlier and already he is miserable. Each day he comes home and immediately goes to my mother. “Grandma, please let me stay home with you. You need me here,” I hear him beg. He is kneeling on the floor next to my mother’s hospital bed, holding her hand. “Please grandma.” He tells her how he’s forced to ride the Special Ed bus and when he gets off in front of the school, the kids ask what’s wrong with him. Although I had talked to my son every day when I was at my mother’s, I’d been unaware that he rode the bus to school. That evening, my husband picks up the phone and listens to a conversion between my sixteen year old daughter and her father. My daughter tells her father that “grandma smells bad” and that she “can’t stand having her in the house, dying.” I’m ashamed when my husband tells me this. Ashamed that I’ve raised this child who would voice such disgust and equally ashamed that my husband knows. By the end of the week, the nurse puts my mother on oxygen. “It’ll help her relax through the pain, make her breathing easier,” she says. She’s also taken her off all her meds except the morphine and a bandage sized pad of blood pressure medicine that I’m to reapply to her chest every four hours. “The goal at this point’s to keep her out of pain,” the nurse tells me. My mother can barely swallow and sometimes when I put the morphine drops between her gum and her cheek, they slide back out and run in sticky rivulets down the side of her jaw and neck. I double the dose to account for the amount lost. Eventually I start giving her morphine every time she moans or cries out. Our communication has been reduced to just touches and smiles and I cry openly and without provocation in front of her and anyone else who’s around; something I’d always feared doing before. One night, Toad, our Persian cat jumps on my bed, awakening me. She begins scratching at the covers and I think she must’ve gotten locked from her cat box. I get up and she leads me into my mother’s room. My mother is tangled in the bars of her hospital bed and is moaning softly. I rearrange her in the bed, give her some more medicine and start to go back to my room. “Don’t go,” she says, her voice is clear and it surprises me. I haven’t heard her talk above a hoarse whisper for over a week. “Can’t sleep.” “Can I lay down with you?” I ask. The hospital bed is even narrower than a twin sized bed but with one side of the bars in the down position, we both fit. “Remember when we always used to sleep like this?” I ask. “You were spoiled,” she says. “Spoiled, only child.” I laugh. “You spoiled me for ever sleeping by myself again, that’s for sure.” We talk for what seems like hours; about driving Alex to school and taking care of Allison and this time, staying married. When her voice gets blurry, I know the morphine is kicking in and I lie stiff and still so I don’t disturb her. But this spot next to her feels like home and finally, I relax into her warmth.