wednesday was the day before thanksgiving. i got to the hospital and mom was sleeping. like, really sleeping. i cornered a nurse and asked what was going on. she told me mom had been in some pain the night before and they gave her morphine.
huh. that was a first. stage IV lung cancer, in the brain and wherever the fuck else, and just NOW she was in pain. okay, well when did she get it? EIGHT hours ago? shouldn't she be up by now?
the nurse looked at me. like, really kind of looked at me, and said that the morphine would have worn off for most people, but you know, depending on their tolerance.
oh, haha, i said, mom can't even drink a second rum and coke. so she's probably just, like, REALLY out of it from the morphine, right?
the nurse smiled at me and walked away. not a laughy smile either, kind of sad.
okay, we can deal with this. i booked a plane ticket for awesome husband to come up because we knew it would be the last thanksgiving we'd have together as a family. i was hoping mom would wake up and be coherent enough that we could convince the doctors to let us take her out for the day.
i don't have any real memories of this day. i'm sure some aunts and uncles and cousins came to visit. i know my dad was there at some point. doctors and nurses and bedpans and needles and whatnot. i don't have any real memories of this day because NOTHING HAPPENED. mom slept. all day. she would kind of wake up and grunt if i poked at her enough, but that was it.
i asked the nurse how much morphine they had given her.
not that much, was the answer i received.
not enough to keep her out for twelve plus hours. not so much that she should be this unresponsive. not that much.
well, you know. she's sick. and tired. we'll just let her sleep.
i would say 'i love you mom'. and she'd smile a bit, not opening her eyes, and say 'you too'. i said 'i love you mom' more times in that week than i think i have my entire life. i needed her to know it. i didn't know how to else to tell her without upsetting us all. 'i love you mom' never meant as much as it did that week in ICU, or the following week in hospice.
thursday morning i picked up awesome husband from the airport. my dad, brother, awesome husband and i trekked to the hospital. mom was still asleep for all intents and purposes. there was another uneaten tray of breakfast next to her bed, unsipped water. did she get more morphine?
no, the nurses told me. she'd just been asleep.
i approached one of the nurses, pressing for information. i live in florida, i have a house and cats that need attention. when are they going to start radiation? when will she leave the hospital? what's going on?
thanksgiving morning i was told 'i wouldn't plan on going back to florida' by mom's nurse.
when i heard that, i lost it. DAYS???? that means days. we have days?? just days? what happened to another family trip? even a weekend getaway? mom seeing the cats again? one last holiday season with her? radiation therapy to keep the swelling down and make her comfortable, her vision coming back until the end?? what happened to all that? where did it go?
i had to leave the hospital and go to the house my mother grew up in, where her brother and sister and their families were gathered, and ask to speak to them all in one room. i had to tell them that they told me not to go back to florida and that there was nothing we could do. i was 30 years old, my brother 26, and we had to tell everyone that chemo wasn't even an option, radiation wouldn't help, it would just make her sicker. that there was no operation or medication or anything that would change the fact that we had days. so few days that i shouldn't bother booking a ticket home.
they wanted us to stay there, and i understood. but there was other family there, the other side you know? my mom's brother's wife's family. not that i don't know them and whatever, but it was awkward - hi, we're all here waiting for my mom to die, but you all go ahead with thanksgiving. i couldn't do it. i wanted to go to my dad's brother's house. the small side of the family: 10 of us all together, including significant others. the house i could drink at without feeling funny or ashamed. the house i could cry and curse and hug at without non-family looking in (not NON family, but you know - not immediate family).
we went to my aunt and uncle's house. it was somber, to be sure, but in a thoroughly 'our family' way. we mourned, of course, but we laughed. we remembered mom, we talked about her, told stories about her. it was good, it was sad - but it was good.
until i finally got in touch with that one hold out family member. thanksgiving was already turning out to be a shitty holiday, but it was about to get a whole lot worse. thank gods i was with the part of the family i love drinking around. we were all going to need it.