Part two: I flew to Manitoba to visit my mom in the hospital.
Reader's review: Heartfelt description.
I'll be waiting for 4/6!
Great storytelling and so vivid. Eager to read more.
Friday, Saturday, Sunday...Monday comes too soon and Byron flies away with my kiss on his lips.
I walk into Mom's room and she's sitting in a chair...in...a...chair.
"Hello, Kid," Dad says and gives me a huge smile.
"Hi, Dad. This is good news." I nod at Mom in the chair.
"Your mother is very strong. She'll be able to go home soon."
I walk over to Mom. "You must be so happy that you're feeling be--." Jaw locked, hands tightly wrapped around the arms of the chair, knuckles white and--. "Dad, how long has Mom been sitting in that chair?"
"Not long. She was there when I arrived--shortly after nine. Why?"
"It's almost ten. She has been sitting there in agony for an hour." I head to the door.
"Leanne, the nurses know what they're doing."
I leave Dad's words in the room.
"Excuse me." That nurse sails right past but the next one won't. "My mom needs your help."
That nurse is five foot nothing and, I estimate all of one hundred pounds. "Where is your mother?" But she has a huge presence--like a six-foot, two hundred pound linebacker.
She follows me into Mom's room.
Dad gives me a look I recognize from my childhood--like when I lipped off or something. I know he isn't pleased but that isn't my biggest concern right now.
"How are you today, Mrs. Willetts?"
"She's just fine," Dad says.
"She's not fine," I say, "Look at her."
"Would you like to get back into bed, Mrs. Willetts?"
Mom nods. "I'd like to--." She looks at Dad. "I'm fine."
"We're going to move you back into your bed, Mrs. Willetts." The nurse looks at me. "If you'll support her other--."
"Me? But--I might hurt--I'm not a nurse."
"I could call for another nurse but it will take her some time to get here if one is free."
I do what I can to help.
When Mom is resting comfortably, the nurse removes the chart from the end of the bed. "Sitting is recommended, but only for short periods of time--not exceeding fifteen minutes. I'd like to apologize to you, Mrs. Willetts, and to your family." She looks from Dad to me. "I assure you this won't happen again."
The nurse is gone and Mom is sleeping, so I take the opportunity to try to apologize, but Dad cuts me off. "No, Kid. You were right. Your mom needed help and you were there for her. I'm proud of you."
Dad and I take turns going for lunch. He goes first.
A nurse brings a tray with a plastic glass of brown liquid and unwraps a bendy straw.
"No, thanks," Mom is quick to say.
"Now, Mrs. Willetts, if you won't eat, you have to drink the meal replacement."
"I said. I don't want. Any."
The nurse looks so frustrated so I say, "I can help my mom."
"That would be very helpful," the nurse hands me the straw and puts the wrapper in the garage. "It's very important that she drinks all of it." She looks at me first and then Mom and then she leaves the room.
I pull the aluminum lid off the glass, add the straw, and bring the glass to Mom, but she tells me. "Leanne, put that back on the table."
I'm on my own--with only one title daughter. "But the nurses said that you need to drink all of it."
Mom sighs. "It's just so bland."
"I know it's awful but--."
"Really? How do you know? Why don't you taste it."
So I do and... "Oh. Oh, that's gross."
"But what are we going to do? You have to drink it." I stare at the gray carpeted wall. Thumbtacked cards are here and here. Other thumb tacks wait their turn to be useful. And just like that, an idea is born. "How about this. Each time you finish drinking one of these gross things." I hold up the glass so we can glare at it. "I'll pin the aluminum lid to the wall. They'll be your gold stars for consistently good behaviour. They'll help us see your progress. What do you think?"
"I think my daughter is a genius. But don't forget to rinse and dry the lids before you pin them to the wall."
I promise Mom I will and we set to work earning her first gold star.
Day after day, we add lids to the wall. Until we add so many that Mom earns her ticket home.
Eriksdale's ambulance may not be the newest or the best, but the attendants know exactly what to say. "Hey, Oli. You ready to come home to the haystack? Say goodbye to this big smoke? We sure have missed you." They share news from Eriksdale--all the changes that have happened since she has been away. On and on through their words, they bring her closer and closer to Eriksdale.
In the back of the ambulance, I sit beside Mom all the way home.
Eriksdale's Palliative Care two-room suite is newly built and carefully designed. The first room contains a chesterfield with a pull-out bed, a kitchenette, and a cordless phone. This family room is L-shaped and surrounds the bedroom. Mom's bed faces a framed finely painted landscape--a green meadow with wildflowers. A large window is to the left of her bed offering her a view of Eriksdale in winter--snowbanks and icicles dangling from trees. Exhausted from the journey, Mom sleeps under a handmade quilt in shades of green, her favourite colour.
That night she sleeps alone for the first time in her life. Growing up, she'd shared a bedroom with three sisters. She'd moved from that room to her marriage bed. Even in the hospital in Winnipeg, she'd had a roommate. I worry and stew all night long until I find a solution. The next day, at the breakfast table, I tell Dad, "Do you remember, yesterday, when the nurse told us that sometimes a family member would sleep on the pull-out bed? Well, that's where I'm going to sleep."
Are you following me?