Well – where to begin? Briefly, I flew early to Ottawa and walked into my mother’s hospital room this morning expecting to say goodbye, and found her with good colour, chatting to my brother – not making sense, mind you, but chatting. I almost reeled backwards in shock. I’d been told this was it. My brother and her caregiver thought this was it. But as always, she had us fooled.
She was supposed to be operated on today, to put a pin in her fractured hip and maybe repair her broken elbow at the same time, surgery she might not come through, which is the main reason I came today. However, the hospital has decided to postpone the surgery until tomorrow. They don’t know when.
You can understand, perhaps, how I felt. I cancelled a big gathering at my house tonight. More importantly, my daughter is coping alone with a very sick baby who is staying at least one more night in hospital and won’t let her put him down. She had to spend last night trying to sleep in a chair with him on her chest. And by a fluke of bad timing, there’s no one to help her right now. Her roommate is working overnight, the baby’s father is working out of town, my son is volunteering on the other side of town, and I am in Ottawa sitting in my mother’s hospital room.
Talk about torn.
I thought of all the times we have rushed to Mum’s side in hospital – countless times, for her many surgeries, each time sure we wouldn’t see her again. My brother laughed as he remembered the time he flew back from Holland, where he had a job, to be there at the hospital. Patsy remembers me sobbing in Vancouver because Mum was having open heart surgery and I might not get there in time.
My mother is a force of nature and it ain’t over yet.
I know my daughter and her son will be fine; still, I would give anything to be with her now. But now, I am going back to the hospital to sit with Mum, knowing she’s going in tomorrow for surgery she may not survive. But then again, knowing her, she very well may. In any case, today I decided that my tears are over. She has had a fantastic run at life – considering her health problems, she could have died many years ago. And here she is, snapping at the nurses, those blue eyes still checking out the world.
At one point – it was garbled, but more or less clear – she said something like, “He wants me to die but I’m going to fight him. Fight him.” And she will.
9 p.m. I’ve just come back from the hospital and all I want to do is drink wine and be warm. And weep. No, the crying is not over, not by a long shot, nice try, girl. I think my mother is terrified of dying, hanging on, fighting literally for dear life, in a body that’s defeating her. I tried smoothing her hair, her brow, telling her how loved she is, what a wonderful life she has had, and now, “Let it go, Mum,” I said. “You can let it go.” But that is not my mother. A lioness, mortally wounded, struggling to get up.
Sorry, folks, I’m beyond it now. This day – will there ever be another like it? I hope not. My grandson in a steam tent in hospital, and when I talked to his mother, I could hear his rasping lungs, my gut aching to hold him, to help her. And here, holding my mother’s hand, her face twisting in pain, then she speaks but it’s incomprehensible, knowing that tomorrow is a nightmare either way – if she survives the operation, she will be in pain and incoherent for days; if she doesn’t – well, we’ll face that tomorrow.
Now I’m here in her silent condo. There is wine. I am profoundly sad and spent. But this is life, in all its glory, all of this, the beginning and the end.
PS It’s minus 13 with snow in Ottawa – bitter. I just turned on the CBC and had the only laugh of the day – a journalist asking earnestly, “Is this the only kind of salamander you can use in your work?” Thank god for the CBC.