As promised the continuous care nurse arrived shortly before 4 pm, promptly asked for the care plan, where she could sit, and where the best place to receive a signal for her laptop was, and not in that particular order. She would be working until midnight, she explained then another would arrive for the graveyard shift.
Nice choice of words….
Take a breath… you wanted help, here it is.
Let it go…. put the bad girl on a leash, shut up and stop worrying about the small stuff.. Not my strong suit…. dad….are you still here?
Always…. piece of cake. Don’t you remember who you are? Tell this bitch you’re Scotty’s daughter .. fucking fearless.
Not true, but thanks dad.
It wasn’t going to be as easy as I had thought, this letting go, relinquishing first chair in Hilda’s care.
“Hilda needs her pain meds at 4pm.”
“Ok, let me take a quick look at the care plan.”
“The urine needs to be emptied too, I didn’t know if I should write the amount down before I did it so I left it ….”
“Ok, I’ll look at that in a minute.”
Jackie is here now.
She arrived the day before, Hilda looked up, through half open eyes….
“Hilda, who is this? I asked.
“Jackie” she replied.
“Yes, it is Jackie, and Gary and the girls will be here on Friday,” I add.
Jackie is the last person Hilda recognized, she really saw her, she said her name out loud.
Jackie’s name was Hilda’s last clear spoken word … a gift.
Jackie and I are looking at this nurse and then back to each other as time continues to tick away and Hilda’s medicine remains ungiven. Paralyzed, don’t know whether to go ahead and give it to her myself, or ? Exactly what is the etiquette with nurses, the dying patient and the previous caregiver?
Does anyone have the cliff notes for this situation?
Good girl is standing by, not wanting to offend, but the other one is at the end of her leash barking…..tick tick toc.
I think of Captain Hook, and the croc.
Tick- Tick, Tick- Tick- Toc, Captain Hook and the croc-
Great… rhyming madness has beset upon me.. Crap… beset upon me..I am seriously loosing it now. Surely thinking in 19th century colloquialisms is not normal. I make a secret pack with my remaining sanity… On my honor I will try to lay off Emily and Jane for at least a little while….Please just let this woman give Hilda her meds…NOW.
I watch as she brings out her laptop looks throughout the entire 800 square foot tin can for a signal.
“There is no signal in here, you’ll have to go outside, ” it’s all I can do to sound civil.
” Well, …. I like to enter my notes straight onto the website so the next nurse will have them, I need a signal for that…”
What notes, you haven’t done anything yet…Down girl!
She finds her spot, close to the front door, I watch as she starts typing after reading the care plan.
I stand and stare hovering like a red-faced balloon.
At five pm, ….”excuse me but Hilda is an hour past due for her pain meds…”
“Oh! Yes, let me do that right now…”
Mirrors, that’s what these moments are. It is like holding up a giant pore enlarging, get every last black head, every last stray eyebrow hair magnifying mirror. All your flaws, straight up, time for my close up Mr. DeMille….no hiding it…an HD mirror showing you exactly who you are.
I realize I am an advocate, and polite but sometimes not both. Now one can be polite and be an advocate, but sometimes both can not share the exact same space at the exact same time.
The meds given, my hackles down, the growl quieted and on stand-by, I stand relieved of my duties. I don’t however leave the room, nor stop my watch.
Hilda’s breathing is open-mouthed loud and wet, chest rising ever so slightly and labored. Jackie and I look between her and ourselves. We know the last watch has begun.
We called it. Weeks ago, Jackie and I during on our driveway conversations.
“She is in charge, all the way you know. She knows exactly what is going on…”
“I know”, Jackie says. “She is going to wait until everyone she knows has come and then leave. Just you wait and see”
She as right, the past weeks more people have passed through this trailer than I would have thought humanly possible. Neighbors, friends, grown grandchildren have come and gone. There was only one left to arrive her son, and her granddaughters, my family.
Jackie says, “Just you watch she is going to protect Gary all the way to the end, just you wait and see,”
Sibling rivalry does it ever really go away I wonder? Not between these two…..Each is so aware of the gifts the other has been given but not in their own….it is exhausting…..
I nod. Hilda is in charge, I start each day with a count down, Jackie comes in three days Gary in four and so on. I narrate like some NFL color commentator… On some level I know that she is listening, and choosing her moment, choosing her time to let go.
The Midnight nurse arrives before her shift. We are all still awake, not wanting to leave Hilda with someone we don’t think is up to snuff. We need not have worried. A Mrs. Doubtfire, she almost hums with contentment as she comes in, meets with the other nurse, and gets settled in. Around 1245 I am comfortable enough to go to bed.
“Hilda, I am going to bed, Gary and the girls will be here in about 12 hours….” I hit the bed already asleep.
Two hours later, I am suddenly wide awake. No one woke me, I heard nothing, I was just awake. I know it is time. Hilda has begun to let go.
Death rattle does not describe it . The sound. It is unimaginable, it is a wet train through water, loud, waterfall liquid loud, and unsteady, no rhythm, no cadence, full of pause and gasping. It is work. It is labor. This is the almost death, the almost, the have not let go… yet.
Mrs. Doubtfire sees me, ” Yes, I think it is very close now, I have given her more morphine, I want to assure you she is not in pain.”
I look for Jackie, she is not here. She could not stand the sound and has fled to our retreat on the driveway. Griff still asleep, Mrs. Doubt Fire continues, ” I don’t know if her husband should see this,”
Are you shitt’n me,
“I don’t think I would like to tell him he missed the last moments of his wife’s life,” I offer her….
It’s just after three am, we decide to wait just a bit.
Jackie is in tears, it’s now I realize I must be strong for her, although I have tended and nurtured through the last 30 days, Hilda is not my mother. I am removed from the intensity only slightly, but just enough to hold it together. Tears fall, but not uncontrollably. We stand witnessing the labor for a while, Jackie wakes her father, twice, as he thought he was dreaming the first time.
I think the hardest part was not her going, it was the watching. I witnessed the good byes, the saying goodbyes, the last moments of a married couple, after this he would be forever alone and never whole. I knew this watching it, felt it swell in me sharp and pointed.
Griff rubs her cheek, and whispers.
Nurse says, “Oh sometimes it is not good to touch them as they are making their journey they might find it distracting…”
“She likes her cheek rubbed”, Griff retorts.
Good for you Griffy!
He talks to her, and for a while I can not decipher what he is saying.
Then I do.
” Go to John,” he whispers holding her hand. “Go see John”.
John the child they lost at age five, 45 years ago, he was telling her to go see him, go find him.
And just after 5 am on February 19th, a Friday, just before morning light, Hilda did. She stopped her battle, she let go.
Griff turned and without skipping a beat said, “That is the weight of the world off my shoulders, she isn’t in pain anymore.”
I still had a weight, I had a call to make. How does one tell a spouse their mother did not choose to wait for them to arrive?
Cliff notes? Anyone?
In the end, it went something like this…She had other plans, she did not wait, she knew you didn’t need to be here, just knowing you were on the way was enough.
What comes after, counting of pills, witnessing the disposal of medications, and the choosing of what to send her out in, a purple sparkly dress if you must know, much like what I put my own mother in….the clearing up, and we too begin our journey of letting go.