Almost Had to Say Goodbye
By J. L. Thurston
December 21st, OSF St. Joseph
Talking to Mom through a visage of IV tubes as I sit next to her bed. I’m still getting used to seeing her without her teeth. She’s tired. A week in the hospital will do that to a person. A week without the comforts of home, the freedoms, the cats. She’s been nearly bed ridden, which is good for the diabetic issues of her feet. This time last week she was preparing to get her teeth pulled for dentures. Then she couldn’t stop bleeding.
Monday morning my dad called me. Five in the morning, but I was awake. Yoga before the kiddos get out of bed.
“Jen,” he said, trying to sound normal but I can hear the strain. “Can you come over for your mom?”
I was there in twenty minutes. Mom sat in the recliner, talking like normal, but she was only in a robe, blood splattered on the floor from her gums. She complained about the blood in her hair until the chest pains began.
We couldn’t get her out of the chair, she was so weak. I called 911. The ambulance took her to the tiny ER ten minutes away. It was then discovered that she had lost half the blood in her body. Once she was shipped to St. Joe’s, it was discovered that the stress on her body had caused her to suffer two heart attacks.
It’s Friday, and she’s in surgery. Open heart, quadruple bypass. Dad and I are sitting in the surgical waiting room. It’s nice here, wide open but still cozy. There’s coffee and tea. Dad keeps embibing caffeine, and his legs haven’t stopped bouncing. He’s paced between our seats and the update screen close to thirty times. I can hardly write because we can’t stop chattering. Time is moving far too slowly.
I’m tired from the week of seeing mom in the hospital. But Dad is so far beyond tired he’s somewhere on the other side. He’s been scared shitless since Monday. Doing nothing but working and driving to and from the hospital. I think he’s had a collective five hours of sleep this week. His eyes are round, nervous, picturing life without Mom.
I can’t lie, I’ve been doing the same. We were told on Wednesday that she’d need a quadruple bypass. I work in a hospital, and very little ruffles me. But when it’s your mom stuck in that bed, connected to four IVs, monitored every hour, preparing for open heart surgery, I gotta say. I’m ruffled.
I remember the people I know who have lost someone around the Holidays. It makes things much worse, for some reason. I think about how I would handle opening presents from her if she was gone. The gifts I got her, where would they go? Are funeral homes open on Christmas? How would I explain to my three year old that her Grams is never coming home from the hospital?
I’m being quite melodramatic, I know. Many people go through quadruple bypass and are all the better for it. But they aren’t my Mom. She has weird reactions to medications, she has a complicated medical history, she’s not as strong as she used to be.
And she’s my mom.
She’s more than that, too. She’s my truest friend. Through it all, from day one, she’s supported me. She’s there for me when I don’t want to be alone, she stays away when I need her to. Her door is always open to everyone in need, even if they don’t know it. She feeds all mouths who are hungry, even if it means she has to go without. I’ve never seen her turn away a single problem, and helping down-and-outs gives her unending joy.
I simply cannot picture a world where my mom doesn’t exist. Will I enter 2019 without her?
I had been writing a piece for Literate Ape about how New Years resolutions are complete bullshit and my utter disdain for making promises to oneself that one will just forget in a month or so. But I tossed it. In the light of recent events, the piece is tacky and negative. I don’t care about much right now except my mom making it through surgery and my dad keeping it together.
Worrying does nothing. Instead of wringing my hands while I sit here with Dad, I put my computer in my lap and started typing. Dad is playing on his iPad, laughing at 9Gag, shrugging his shoulders at all the well-wishers blowing up our phones.
We have no news yet. This is what Limbo feels like.
December 26th, my writing room
I can’t believe all that has transpired since last weekend. Watching my mother brush shoulders with Death and then turn around and be discharged home three days after open heart surgery. I’m exhausted and exhilarated.
I haven’t seen her since Sunday night. It was the first night she could actually carry a conversation with me. I washed her hair, braided it, and helped her feel less rough around the edges.
We were prepared to spend Christmas in the ICU, to bring in gifts, make the best of it. But she wasn’t having it. “It just won’t feel like Christmas,” she said.
Besides extra scars on her thighs where the doctor borrowed some veins, and a new scar down her sternum, she’s as good as new. Probably even better. It’s not the Christmas wish I thought I’d ask for, but I’m eternally grateful I got it.
I almost spent this Christmas without my mother. I almost had to explain a terrible loss to my child. I don’t know what I’d do without Mom, and I’m thanking God and all my lucky stars I don’t have to find out yet.