I wanted to post something happy today. Some bit of light. And so I stared at the blank page. Nothing came. Then, out of honesty, this flowed from my heart. There’s a bit of happy if you look.
My mom improved enough to qualify leaving the hospital cardiac monitoring unit. She does not qualify enough to eat more than baby food. She cannot drink water. She does not qualify to have her PICC line removed. She does not qualify to walk, to toilet herself, to go home.
And so there is fear. Fear of the “n” word. We don’t say “nursing” home in front of my dad. Her choices, per dad, were “acute rehab” with intense physical therapy or home.
When you see that fear in the face of your parents, you have to come to grips with the reality that you are on your own. You cannot even think of leaning back any longer. Because, even though I haven’t leaned on them in many years, in the back of my mind, there was always that availability. Now, I stand alone and own it.
Instead of dependence, you provide support. You are their strength. You have no right to show your own fear or pain. You cannot share your own problems. Even though, they are there inside you. You cannot show them. So you push it all down and give praise and compliments and hugs and kisses.
You provide encouragement about how this is just a stepping stone to home. “You must work hard to get home and grow tomatoes in your garden. You must come home and pick the oranges off the tree. Watch the persimmons grow. Plant zucchini and cucumbers.” My mom loves her garden. She is working to go home to this.
Together forever, my dad stays with her at the new acute care facility on the hospital campus now. The plan is to strengthen her enough to send her home. They transferred her during the worst storm of the year. Wild winds in excess of 55 miles per hour in a driving rain. No breaks of sun. And I walk through it all carrying bags of blankets and supplies and clothes, going here and there.
Early in the morning, before the transfer, the dam broke for me. The virus, the fear, the exhaustion, the tugging and pulling in all directions tore down my wall. There had been no sleep because I could not breathe. I was shaking. My hands were no longer in my control.
There were tears. They happened silently with no sobbing. In utter defeat, I gave in. Unfortunately, the tears happened in my son’s presence. He watched his dad comfort me. He showed no emotion, at first. Then, he walked over to me, hugged my back and said, “Mommy, be happy.” It was the sweetest thing in the world. I turned around and hugged him tight. That hug gave me the strength that I did not know I had left inside me.
Then, it was his turn. Some two hours later, in the middle of the storm, he began to yell. He scripted and bluffed, counted, cried and screamed. In the rain. Wind howling all day long. The kind of cries that send shock waves through your nervous system.
His routines were disrupted and tossed aside today. No rest for either of us. Stress filled the air. Worry was in our hearts. For different reasons, but the same emotion overcame us both. He was in meltdown off and on all day long.
The bath at night finally calmed him.
Sometimes, most times, I can put it all away. When there is a sunny day. There can be laughter. Happy chatter. Times when slight changes don’t matter.
I want to get out of this dark hole. I want to see the light again. I want to hold hope in my heart and dance with my son. Play on the swings. Run in the park. Try to fly a kite with no wind. I want to laugh and tickle and love my life again. Because, in spite of everything that’s happened, in spite of the daily interference of the disability that tries to come between us, my son provides me with a very special kind of love. A love like no other.
As I finish this post, he loudly proclaims, “I love you, mommy!” from across the room. He’s switching the lights off and on at the same time and playing his Elmo that sings the same pizza song for the 20th time, busting out my stuffed up eardrums. He’s laughing and asking me to repeat phrases and sounds.
I’m not teaching him anything or correcting him right this minute. I’m letting him be. Because, in this moment, it’s like the meltdowns never happened. One small, winning smile from him with an “I love you”, is enough to give me a moment of sweet peace that will carry me through to the next day when we start fresh again.