Bad Romance my private concert as I matched my stride to the strong pulse of the music. Plastic plaque sentiments, permanently anchored sea captains, neon flamingos, toads holding welcome signs, earth-bound angels, flightless pelicans, mini wind chimes, are passed by. Each plot of land each lot clearly marked, clearly staked out with the personal items that declared to all who pass WE ARE STILL HERE. Names of each inhabitant are displayed, Pat and Tom, The Smiths, Cornhuskers Rule, Maple Leaf Flags, Snow Birds Here! Life is better with Beer Come In and Have a Cold One!
Personalities are exhibited on each clearly defined lot, complete with different brick, wooden or cement borders. Neat orderly, colored gravel for ease of maintenance, and if at all possible plastic is the preferred medium for ever colorful none changing plants on the window boxes.
I run up and down the small streets, around the entire “Park”, my route and the scenery static. Bay ahead, frogs, Spanish moss, plastic roses, turn, bay to my back, uphill climb, sea captains pelican, stop and look in the window to see if all is safe to continue on.
I peek in the window at my in-laws. They haven’t moved, she still safe in her hospital bed in the family room, he still next to the bed on the couch. Its 7Pm “Charley” is on, as my in-laws know it, Two and a Half Men to the rest of the country. A free hour of reruns while I repeat myself around and around like a hamster on its wheel. I haven’t figured out yet if I am running to or away, I welcome the sweat, I only know I want to run until I can’t anymore, I want to be too tired to think, I want to get out of my head. It’s been two weeks since my arrival and much has happened, and yet time as stopped here.
Within 24 hours of the oncologist office visit the cavalry had arrived. Hospice admissions, a nurse, medicines, a walker, a shower stool, a bedside toilet, and the mother- lode of hospital supplies, the electric bed, were delivered.
I start the day, everyday the same. Open windows, curtains, and light the lavender candles. Ms contin and compazine cocktails are dispensed upon waking, along with senna s tabs, prilosec, coumadin and metroprolol. Sorbitol at the ready for the burden of the bedridden, constipation. Each tab I take out of the bottle and line up on the note-book where I write everything down. I line each med next to its matching word, double reassurance that I am not fucking this up. I don’t even want to touch the ms contin…known for its strong addictive nature, I have seen what it does to people first hand. The pills stay lined up until I line them up again and count them, again. Now checked and rechecked, I place them into a little plastic cup, the top of a milk of magnesia bottle repurposed. Ready. Almost. First breakfast, porridge, hot tea for her, coffee for him- his meds must be dispensed as well, levothyroxin and carb/levo before breakfast. Then lisinopril, Potassium, midodriine, fludrocort and amlodipine after. His I don’t write down, I check off instead on the list in the plastic bucket that holds the bottles and directions.
My notebook proof of my obsessive nature fills with lines of medicines, food eaten, drinks consumed, and the ever embarrassing bowel movement watch.I begin to write everything down. There is not a crumb or sip that is not written down before given. I become prideful in my quality of care.
The nurse visits at the end of the first week, I show him my book, and he says,
” This does me no good, how many times do you have to give her breakthrough morphine a day?” I show him my lines in the book, show him where it was given.
“Well its a nice care journal but I know what you normally give her, the only thing I really need is how many times you had to give her her breakthrough meds, we use that to determine if her baseline meds need to be increased.” I nod, and he shows me how to write it the way he needs it to be written, like a chart.
Good girl continues to nod, he turns to take Hilda’s vitals, and I escape to the bathroom. I run the facet, yes I wasted water, grab a towel shove my face into it and let the sobs come. I feel like a total failure for not doing it right. My biggest fear is realized. I fucked it up.
Washing your face does nothing to hide the fact that you were just crying. I dont know why we think it does but it doesn’t. I notice that my nose is the color of a tomato which really makes my green eyes pop as I exit the bathroom. I shake the nurses hand, he leaves, and I immediately get a ruler out and start making chart lines on the end page of my notebook. I will show this fucker, next time he come I am going to have the best fucking chart he has ever seen.
I go from moment to moment, sips of water, pain medicine dispensed every eight hours, watching the pain, she never complains, never lets me know, I have to watch her face, the grimace is the only giveaway to how much she hides. I rub her arm, she holds my hand, she says my hands are cold, she likes them. I just wish I had pretty hands, my hands hold no secrets, strong bottle opening strong, a sailor, a gardeners, a mothers hands, baby swaddler, dishwasher and nail biter; Nothing pretty to look at, no decorations, just a wedding band. But this I have learned from my mother in law, this among other things, they are also the hands that serve, that comfort, hold and help, I have discovered I have hands that must have purpose.