Sunday, June 29, 2008

Inhibited Productivity

I was able to get some writing done today while sitting next to my mom at the rehab center, but not as much as I'd like. It was a helpful distraction from what was going on in the bed next to Mom's.

We've had some problems with dementia stricken roommates. Martha, her first, is completely unaware of what is going on around her and calls for help nonstop in a broken voice that sears my heart. Eventually, I had to ask for her to be transferred so my mom, two weeks post op and still very sick, could get some much needed rest. Dottie, Mom's more recent roommate, also suffers from dementia, but she is still aware of things and people around her as the madness - and it definitely is a sort of madness - ebbs and flows. Problem is, Dottie's dementia makes her nasty and vulgar and she has begun to behave violently towards the nurses, throwing things at them and cursing them. I'd had enough when she became threatening to my mom, at one point coming up to Mom's bedside and getting right into her face. That was it for me and I burned up the phones at 9pm on a Sunday night to make sure that wouldn't happen again. Transfer number two.

She's been without a roommate since early in the week through no effort of ours, but that changed on Friday when a new resident, Rosa, was moved in. Rosa is 89 years old and was just in the hospital for bleeding in her brain. She's receiving hospice care and is dying. Her family, particularly her daughter Nellie who is of an age with my mother, is standing vigil at her bedside with fair consistency and they have been very pleasant and conversational with my mother and I. They are Russian and as the family speaks amongst themselves, I overhear amazing stories of things that have occurred in their lives as émigrés and in their mother/grandmother's life. When they are using English. Otherwise I just listen to the cadence of the Russian flying about the room. I'm touched that even the youngest generations, teenagers, fluently speak Russian. It shows the sort of thing that's important to this family.

Initially, my mother was disturbed to be given a long-term care roommate in her rehab ward, but as the days have progressed, she has been there to answer some questions posed by Nellie as she begins to read the bible for the first time. Nellie has shared some of the things that Rosa has said or asked for as she's been declining and these experiences seem to have opened Nellie up to the gospel. This has shifted my mother's focus and has, I think, eased her misgivings as it appears that she has been deliberately put into this woman's life for a reason. Nellie herself told me that they have had some good conversations this weekend and that my mother is a wonderful woman. It's good to be reminded of that.

But it's been difficult for me to witness. Not Nellie herself or even Rosa. My own medical experiences and caring for my mother through her medical crisis these past months has inured me to the realities and unpleasantness of basic care. Still, the distance from my grandmother's declining health and eventual death last year is faint and those events echo in the tableau unfolding before me. The cell phone calls to family, the numerous chairs clustered around the bed, the hush tones of conversation, the cardboard trappings of hasty meals, the strong caregiver at the center of the circle of grief. The pressing weight of inevitability.

I know these movements, I recognize these scenes. I reenacted them myself all too recently as I battled to keep my mother alive, to keep her fighting. My mother would lie there, disoriented from fever and pain, and her lost expression in a face that so mirrors my grandmother's, a face that reverberates in my own, was a painful deja vu. And as this family walks a path I've now trod twice, both times successfully in very different ways, it's difficult to sit typing away about romantic drama when an all too real drama is right before my eyes.

Reason enough for inhibited productivity.

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