Since her hospitalization last Saturday for congestive heart failure, and after three days of diuretics to remove excessive liquids from her lungs, she has been gaining strength and learning to use the low-level nose-fed oxygen assistance apparatus during the night. She has steadily gained more strength and confidence during the last three nights. Tomorrow morning we will probably let her bathe without the neighbor coming over, if she wishes to try alone--even though the neighbor has provided little assistance, just a steadying arm at the right time. There is a bit of risk going solo, and we hope for health care support to be available next week. I will stand at the bathroom door and listen, as will my brother, when I leave in two days--as a more distant "back-up."
Now I stand quietly at the door, watching Mom. She sits on the bed, fingering the light, flexible tubing, finding by touch the up and down of the gear so she can correctly put it on. She cannot see what she is doing because she is almost totally blind. She cannot hear me because she is almost totally deaf.
I do not step in to help because after one more night I will be gone, back to Iowa. I am amazed and proud and humbled by her practicality. She carries on, her despair from her weakness overcome by her natural self-sufficiency. Like a ghost I witness her success, feeling guilty for not helping, but steeling myself to not interfere, knowing I will soon be gone, knowing the more times she experiences independent success, the stronger she will be.
She sits for the longest time; I quietly watch and wait for the longest time. The nostril nose feed is inserted, feed tubes looped over her ears and secured "bolo-style" at the neck. She still sits. She's been sneezing, a side effect of one of her medications.
At the hospital, one male RN said he was amazed at how few meds she takes, at 91 (92 in three months).
"It's because I never smoked or drank," she says.
I do nothing now but stand and watch at the doorway--my 1 AM vigil. Mom switches off the light. I tiptoe back to the sofa, my bed. I've done my job of letting Mom take care of herself. She's done her job of taking care of herself.
My guilt fades, almost gone, replaced by a vague, 1 AM melancholy. But I am inspired and uplifted, knowing that when I leave, Mom will soldier on. She doesn't want to be a burden, and I've helped her find her strength.
For both she and I, for now, body and mind and soul are willing.
(photo: Mom resting during the afternoon, with a "What the heck are you doing?" expression as I take a photo.)
(written and posted with my iPhone)