Tuesday, February 01, 2005
A Turn in the Road
It's been, I realized today, when the sun observed obviously post-solstice behavior, much like A Change of Angle Brought About By a Force of Nature, the way I've been feeling since meeting with the FNP in Mesa and having my mother described to me as though this woman, who was a stranger, knew her intimately. She told me that the reason she could describe her so well is that all these 'lifestyle changes' are brought about by what she was able to clearly see from my mother's medical history (the latest piece of which I had handed her as we entered the office): Old age systems failure; in my mother's case, Anemia Due to Chronic Disease, the Disease being Chronic Renal Failure. Astonishing how a simple, accurate diagnosis and prognosis [Why hadn't I previously received this from doctors?!?] can bring so much sense and relief.
My take, after living with these definitions-as-labels for several days, is that I think my mother has somewhat more than 3 years in her, even though the FNP did not divulge how far along her mother was when diagnosed with these two illnesses at 78, subsequently dying of CRF at 81.
I think that not much is known about Anemia Due to Chronic Disease. I think this is the category which, for instance, my mother shares with our Mesa yardman, with whom she also shares a birth year, a blood transfusion and, previously, a smoking habit, but almost nothing else, including food preferences and activity profile. Our Mesa yardman was, in fact, scandalized by my mother's eating and sedentary habits. I think he is further scandalized that she remains alive.
I think my mother could have been battling cardio-pulmonary 'issues' if she was still smoking. I think we have already witnessed a dramatic rise in overall sturdiness since she quit.
FNP: "This is how her life will progress: She'll take more naps. Her days will begin later and end earlier. Her spirit will remain strong when she is awake. Her diabetes will go on vacation..."
She trailed off and I prompted her: She will "drift away", it will be "pleasant". I interpret that this could go on for years. It is my own sense that considers five years at the outset. The FNP insinuated that she sees at least one more blood transfusion.
I'm not going to worry about the iron supplements and the possibility of systemic "rust" unless Mom is beset by uncomfortable symptoms. She is on a high antioxidant diet, including several antioxidant supplements. I remember once remarking in this journal that she could probably survive a good year on her supplements alone.
Now, suddenly, it is easier to enjoy her, even though I thought I enjoyed her plenty. I used to resist detecting those minutely indicative movements that meant she was ready for "a nap". Now, well, it's not that I welcome them so much as, hmmm...treasure them, I guess. This is my mother as her Ancient body gets ready to pull its physical plug. My mother is not an 86 year old Australian surfer. She may be a bit like Methuselah, she may never really die, just progressively fade as people weave stories about what may be happening to her, what may have happened to her. I think she stays on, now, no longer because she feels she still has something she needs to do, as she voiced to me several years ago when I first came to live with her, but because she can't bear to leave, it is such a trip, being alive. It is especially trippy just to sit here, surrounded by this life, in this life, and experience the passage of time from a timeless perspective. Who wouldn't want to linger, to extend that experience a bit, who wouldn't want to take some years, before moving on, to sit in a rocking chair and let the wave of life wash over you and rock you back to sleep?
I think this is what she's doing now. She is the focus of this house, of the lives in this house, and we, all of us, including her, are glad to be managing these years this way. Thank you. Thank you.
The FNP was very clear that protection would be the most important goal in this phase of my mother's life. Instead of cringing, I felt my chest expand, my arms drop to my sides and swing a bit, extending their reach. Wow, I remember thinking, I'm here, I can do this; in fact, I am looking forward to doing this. I nurse a fantasy, now, that is so strong and so vivid it has the power of a sexual fantasy: I imagine her dying in my arms. I receive enormous pleasure and satisfaction from this fantasy...as though I was nursing a fetish. It's interesting, I have not yet made it to the end of the fantasy; I have not yet imagined her dead in my arms. Perhaps, when I am able to imagine this I will somehow communicate this to my mother, she will know I'm ready and that is when she'll leave.
It seems to me, from this angle, that she is immensely blessed, or very lucky, or both, to be able to relax into her Chronic Terminal life during her Ancient Days.
As for me, I can hardly believe that I am allowed to be here. It is as though I was, without expectation, approached by a Master of the Craft and told, "Yes, you have done well with this loving, you are ready to advance to the next level, one of the highest. You have located the tools, you have developed your skill with them, you are ready. She is yours for the rest of her time here. We know you will do well with and by her."
And I'm stammering, "Thank you, thank you," as though I had aspired to this...when, in fact, I had barely aspired to traditional definitions of "being human".
All material copyright at time of posting by Gail Rae Hudson