He bends toward Hilda and gives her a hug, one of those I don’t really hug I’m not a hugger person type of hugs; bodies don’t touch, the arms don’t really reach all the way around they stop at the upper back, atop the shoulders, and the hands take the full contact with their repetitive patting .
“How are you feeling? ” always the first question, he then sits next to the bed.
“I am doing ok, … thanks” or the painful answer, “better, I want to go to Texas”.
I don’t look, I can’t look. I have no poker face.
I know she isn’t ever going to make it to Texas. I can’t get her to the toilet anymore, never mind getting into clothing, getting out of bed, getting into the car, getting into the airport, and then there is the actual trip, getting on a plane, getting through security. I can’t even get my underwire bra through security without a full body cavity search.
“What can I do for you today?” always the second question.
She would shrug.
The stethoscope is retrieved from his bag, he listens to her heart, then her breathing, says, “Everything sounds great.”
Thats how it’s supposed to go.
Today he rounds the corner and sees me feeding Hilda her porridge, one small spoon full at a time. He watches, I turn and see him, pausing with the spoon, “What happens if you let her do it?” he queries.
I flush with anger, remain silent, bad girl desperately wants to scream,… what do you think happens you pompous asshole, she misses and doesn’t eat you stupid motherfucker do you think I am doing this for my health….
I don’t reply, instead I place the spoon in her hand.
Hilda puts the spoon down into the bowl and picks up the hairbrush that was on the bed and starts to put it in her mouth. I stop her.
Hospice Nurse says, ” No…. let her do it lets see what happens…”
This isn’t rocket science she’s going to put the nasty ass brush in her mouth you idiot…
The hair brush is placed in her mouth, her lips and mouth are like a childs, playing at tea party, no real food, going through the motions.
“Hows that taste?” he asks her.
The half closed eyes roll, she says, “It’s delicious…”
I could have fed her cardboard at this point I realize.
I take the brush off her, start to feed her again, tea party play time is over asshole.
The driveway, outside on the driveway is where the real communication takes place.
“She isn’t …here in the room with us, not all the time, and sometimes not at all.”
“It’s probably chemo brian.” he says. “Orient her to time and place when you see that happening.”
Ok let me get this straight, instead of letting her picnic in 1965 I am supposed to say something like, “Hilda its February 2010, you are in your trailer in Florida, in a hospital bed, in your family room, dying of cancer…”
I don’t think so.
I do not feel he is hearing me, I continue like a pit pull.
“She never had chemo, and she is just different…. something is changed.”
“I don’t think she is in decline.” he answers.
It is then the barrage of questions start to spill out of my head, pour through my mouth and onto the driveway.
“What do I do if she stops breathing,… what about the paramedics? what do I do about the DNR papers? what if I am not here when it happens because I am at the grocery store?”
Words I do not let escape… what do I do if I am the only one here….I don’t know what I am doing….I can’t do this.
“The paramedics don’t just randomly coming knocking on doors, asking if there is a coding woman inside…someone would have to call them. Do you understand what I am saying?”
I can and will wash and cook and clean, I will tend and wipe and apply creams, watch for bedsores, dispence medicines, but….. that…… that is …that is standing by, and not doing anything….
He continues, ” if the paramedics are called and don’t see the DNR papers, they will perform CPR, her ribs will break, she will be intubated, she will not regain consciousness. She didn’t want that, that’s why she signed the DNR papers. Post them on the refrigerator. I don’t think we are there yet, her vitals, her lungs and heart sounds are all good, call me if you need anything, and remember you have our phone number where anytime day or night there is someone ready to help, all you have to do is call.”
The DNR papers are taped to the refrigerator now. The bright yellow paper is so loud, and the pages stare at me every time I walk by, every time I cook, every time I wash dishes, every time I open and close the refrigerator.
I can not escape them. They scream at me, Do Not Resuscitate!
I don’t know if I can do this.
I bring her some water, her pills, and find her crying, eyes closed, gone away but tears are falling. She has only cried on other time, late at night a few weeks earlier.
That night she cried and said, “I don’t know what I am supposed to do!”
Griff and I each stayed awake, held a hand each, and slept next to her on matching recliners, one either side of her, bookends to her sorrow.
“Hilda?” she just cries. I do not know if she can hear me. I do the only thing I know to do. I climb into her bed, lay next to her, place my head on her shoulder, and cry.
I whisper, “I don’t know what I am supposed to do either Hilda, none of us do….”
After a few moments she sleeps.
I whisper to her, “I don’t know if I can, but I will try….I will try…..”