The 29th Day

“How long has she been breathing like that?”,  the hospice case worker asks me.

She is a smooth caring cloud, a smile wearing a black  knit wrap, soft hands and fierce with her iPhone.  Not our first case worker, she came to our rescue one afternoon via a routine phone call.

“I’m just calling to make sure you guys got the DNR papers back from the physicians office, and to see if there is anything else I can do for you while your regular worker is out of the office.”

Your regular worker. That one arrived nagging about everything from the traffic, the rules she must follow, mounds of paperwork,  Florida cold weather, and generally told us everything about HER and asked nothing about my mother-in- law.  I sat and knitted while  listening to the idiot and my father, “All she does is piss and moan, gutless wonder, … fucking clueless.”

Ok dad thanks for playing. I can’t help but smirk at his remarks they are spot on. Then I remember he is dead, and I am smiling about a conversation I am having with myself.  Wonderful, another news bulletin scrolls across my consciousness.

“Bob, the story began some 29 days ago when our victim arrived via super shuttle. By all reports she was a caring and loving individual, and I quote, “a nice girl who always took out the trash, washed the dishes and kept a clean trailer.”  Neighbors are stunned here at Sky Harbor Estates this afternoon. For some unknown reason  while a hospice case worker was visiting, this woman, identity still unconfirmed at this point,  seems to simply have imploded while knitting. Some suggest the heat of the needles may have sparked an explosion.” 

 When the first one  left Hilda looked at me and said, “I couldn’t wait to see the back of her, I thought she would never leave.”

OK good,  so it wasn’t just me…. and my dad.

The new one arrived like a fresh breeze across new cut grass, her smile and great black shawl entered our lives, and we were never the same.

“How long has her breathing been like this,?” she repeats the question.

 I grab my notebook flip the pages, find the entry, “It started just at night,  about four days ago, and for the past two days its been pretty much just like this, she is no longer swallowing, I give her liquid morphine and compazine only, and no more straws,”  I read my notes from the last nurse visit. They are my confirmation,  my affirmation that my care is correct, that I am doing it right.

We lock eyes. I knew it, she just confirmed it, we are nearing the end.

“You need continuous care, I’m going outside to make the call, hopefully we can have a nurse starting at 4pm today and around the clock from now on.”

My heart didn’t just leap, my soul soars.  Another being here to help with her care? Around the clock? It means sleep, it means help,  it means no more notebook,  as the nurse would take over her care her medication, it means room to breathe….it means I wont have to be the  only strong one when the time finally does come, and I will not be alone.

“I have to get out of bed, ….I have to get out of bed,… I need to get out of bed” I turn and see Hilda, eyes partially open, restless, pulling at her sheets, trying to kick and move and get out of bed.

I know instantly she has to go to the bathroom, “It’s ok,  just go,  Hilda,  there is a diaper on the bed, you are not strong enough to get out of bed.” It has been our mantra all morning.

“I have to get up,….  to get up,……   I have to get up….” , this has been hers. 

The case worker come back in, “All set,  you will have continuous care starting at 4pm.”

“I have to get up I have to get..up”,   Hilda whimpers from the bed.

It was the worst part, that restlessness before the end, the whimpering to get out of bed, the crying, I can not explain what it does to ones soul to be absolutely powerless to help, and to be clueless as to any sort of  a solution. For hours upon end we have sat and listened to her whimper, powerless. She was not resting, not comfortable despite pain medication and compazine cocktails. Nothing worked.

“She wont go,  you know, in the diaper… and she isn’t strong enough to get out of bed anymore, the bed pan can’t be used as she has shingles now…”,  I look at  the case worker.

” Well lets just get that nurse back out here and cath  Hilda shall we?”  Her black shawl swirls as she goes back outside to get a phone signal.

I told you I loved her, and I still do.

“Now you need to help me do this,”  the nurse explains after he arrives to give Hilda her catheter. “You will have to hold her leg up for me, and someone will have to be up by her head as well”.

We assume the positions, I try to think happy thoughts, I think of Pooh Bear, happy thoughts,… I’m just a little black rain cloud,  hovering over, the honey tree..crap wrong image wrong song head please stop shit!… despite what I may feel about doing this, it must be worse for Hilda. I gather my feelings, concentrate on making Hilda the priority, not my embarrassment.

” oh this one is too big, be right back, I have another in the car.”

Wonderful,  thank you universe for making this such a  simple process….what am I supposed to learn from this?

He is back, we assume the positions again, ” Wow, that’s unusual,  her urethra is in a strange place…,” he looks across my mother-in laws nether regions towards me,  …..expecting a comment?

 I have no fucking idea, dude get it done and let me for the love of god wipe this image from my memory forever…

“Looks like she was urinating after all in the diaper, so its up to you, shall we go ahead with this?”, he is looking at me.


Bad girl screams   you gotta be shitting me…motherfucker you weren’t here when she was begging to get up, you want to stop now?

” Yes, continue.” 

Finally it  is done. Hilda’s swollen belly smoothes, the bag fills,  and Hilda rests.

Its the 29th day, and although I don’t know it yet, Hilda has already seen her last sunrise.


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Filed under Bone Cancer, Death, Elder Care, Family, Griff, Hilda, Hospice, Life, Multiple System Atrophy, My Husband's Parents, Sandwich generation, Shy Drager Syndrome, Story Telling, True Life, Writing

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