My mom is very ill with emphysema. She is slowly suffocating, has been for years. The pace though is quickening. Emphysema is an iniquitous, pernicious disease of the lungs and in Mom's case, the natural outgrowth of a lifetime of smoking. Even after she was tethered by tube to the oxygen concentrator with the thrum of its sibilance, she continued to smoke until we convinced her she might blow us all to kingdom come.
At least in my presence, she has neither bemoaned her fate nor laid blame at the feet of Big Tobacco. She has taken responsibility for her own actions, her free choice. That is an American ideal, assuming responsibility for what we seek and paths we take. Mom is in the hospital and may not leave. She is receiving any and all care she requires despite her advanced age and critical condition. Her mind is lucid mostly, but her body is frail and withered like old fruit. Her eyes have slowly gone dark and she only sees outlines and shades now. She is like a doppelganger of herself. She needs full-time care for the simplest things in life, things we take for granted each day. Mom has arrived at her personal gethsemane. Being with her is to be enveloped by memento mori. Dad is gentle, vigilant and constant in his efforts, but it has gone beyond his ability to go it alone.
As one of Mom's six kids, I can only try to find a way to negotiate this path for myself. Sadly, I already know well the tale of watching a loved one waste away. To call it 'painful' is giving it short shrift indeed. For everyone. This is of a different kind though, watching my mom. For the entirety of my life, in the labyrinth of the subconscious dwelled the notion that no matter how difficult the times, how far I might have fallen, Mom would always take me back. Always. I came from the mystery of her womb as she did from her mother's. Mothers are supposed to take us back. Despite Thomas Wolfe, you can go home again.
Mom regularly caps her praise of any of us with the deadpanned tagline, "But remember, even a baby skunk smells good to its mother." I know it's not personal, though many times in my life I have played the polecat and far worse. Even though grown and on fairly solid footing, I can't yet imagine what it might be like when that comforting subconscious thought is no more, that she won't be here to take me back. A feeling of emptiness I suppose, a soft cushion on which to land snatched away.
Mom is stubborn and more than once the studied members of the medical community have passed judgment and given her up. Each time she rallied, so as to spend more time with her kids and the two following generations. Health care debate? It won't play a role in my Mom's final journey. Will it for me? Time, as always, will tell.
Mom and Dad celebrated their 60th anniversary last November with a weekend celebration befitting a coronation. Here's to hopes of 61. Mawkish? Perhaps. But read the title of the blog--No Apolgia.