I have a friend who is such a hysteric that I hardly know how she can live in her own skin. Even mundane occurences in her life are sources for extreme emotion. Her reactions are extreme to the smallest provocation. I can't help but wonder how she would have handled the highs and lows I went through in the past three days.
Three days ago I learned that my mother had had a small stroke as she tried to throw off a big cold. We have known that having a stroke in the first place made her a candidate for more. We also know that her body clock is slow and steady. Where someone else might have three strokes in a day, hers might be years apart. This little episode, called a t.i.a., came about two years after the first one.
At her age a cold is debilitating, and she is already debilitated by the stroke that has left one side paralyzed. When we visited in the nursing home she looked, as they say, like death warmed over . But we in the family have seen her rebound before -- and somewhere in the back of our minds was the reality that she might well come back from this, if she could throw off the cold and its accompanying infections.
My reaction when I learned yesterday that she wasn't eating because she couldn't swallow was rather like my drama queen friend's would have been. She is all but gone. It will soon be over. I even posted a blog that was rather like an obituary, and was mentally preparing myself for writing a real one.
When I visited her last night she was sitting up in her wheelchair, awaiting a dinner tray. Her speech is very poor, and she struggled to be understood. One thing that was clear was that she was saying, "Take me home!" -- a request I had not heard her make before. I stayed for an hour, trying to explain to her why we couldn't do so, and why we couldn't understand everything that she was saying. She drank some Coca-Cola (the Southern cure for everything), and when the meal came, she ate some soup and canned peaches. When I steadfastly refused to consider the notion of taking her home she said one thing quite clearly. "You mind me!" and when I got it and laughed a little she said, "Mind your Mama!"
I want to be sympathetic, but it is very difficult to sit in that room with her. She says my brother's name, and asks for him, and she is able to say that my sister will take her home with her, and she clearly does not take my attitude as sympathetic. When she says she wants to go home, she is talking about the home she lived in over 80 years ago. Before this stroke she would often talk of that, and ask where her mother was, and tell us about the old neighborhood. She can be distracted by more present things -- I told her about the phone call from our friend in Birmingham, and she said in her slurred way, "I would love to see her."
I overreacted when I thought the end was near. I had her buried, and was ready to get on with my life, having that two hours I spend with her every evening to do things of my choosing. But not that reality has finally gotten through to me, there is nothing to be gained by being a drama queen. Much time in life is spent in waiting, and attending those who are.