Monday, February 28, 2005


Oops. Looks like I'll have to start blogging more often now that frog has linked to me. THANKS FROG! I mean that. I do!

Mother fell down recently. She had another "fainting spell" which her doctors call vasovagal syncope:

Fainting may occur if the vagus nerve, which supplies the neck, chest, and intestine, is stimulated. When stimulated, the vagus nerve slows the heart. Such stimulation also causes nausea and cool, clammy skin. This type of fainting is called vasovagal (vasomotor) syncope. The vagus nerve is stimulated by pain (such as intestinal cramps), fear, other distress (such as that due to the sight of blood), vomiting, a large bowel movement, and urination.

Mom's episodes have almost always happened after a bowel movement (and if you have trouble reading about old people's poop, this may not be the blog for you). This time, for the first time, it happened after she peed. She hasn't had one of these fainting spells for 10 months, which we all view as a huge victory. Before that, they happened pretty regularly.

So what happened is this: Mom was just sitting on the toilet, peeing, and then woke up (we don't know how much later) in the shower. In the shower! Her shower is right next to the toilet. Imagine if every time you sat down to do your business, you knew there was a chance you'd wake up in the shower. Or wedged between the sink and toilet, with your ribs bruised. Maybe unable to get up. Afraid.

She says she felt okay afterwards, but "a little sore." She didn't call anybody, didn't buzz the attendants at her assisted living facility (okay, the in-room buzzer wasn't working, but maybe I'll blog a rant about that another day), nothing. She just went back to the living room and continued watching TV. Went to bed at her usual time.

The next day was Sunday. When my sister called her, Mom said, "I don't think I'll be going to church today." When my sister asked why not, Mom said, "I don't want to tell you."

This is how it goes every time. She is ashamed to tell us she's fallen. We have to press for details. And you can bet we don't get them all.

After my sister squeezed the story out, she took Mom to the E.R., where Mom was given a lot of tests, including a head CT (?) and x-rays of her foot. She had fractured her foot. She didn't need a cast. They gave her crutches. CRUTCHES. She is practically blind, she's fairly unstable even using her cane, and they gave my mommy CRUTCHES. Hospital revenue must be down. Maybe they figured she'd use the crutches, fall on her ass and come back for another round of tests later in the day. Maybe she'd even be admitted! Ka-ching!

Anyway, this was a couple of weeks ago. Mom seemed to love the extra attention, honestly. She had her meals delivered to her room rather than joining her pals at the dining hall for lunch and supper. She's well enough this week to go back to the dining room again. She's pleased. She also went back to church last week. For now, everything's pretty much back to normal. Except Mom's still a little scared to use the bathroom.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Be Prepared

My mother's death is already planned and paid for. Well, the part that comes after her death anyway. She made arrangements with a funeral home and also bought a plot next to my father's. Her name and birth year are already engraved on the headstone. I asked her once if it felt creepy to see that when she went out to the cemetery to put flowers on Dad's grave. With one eyebrow up, she said, "Why NO!" The thought had clearly never occurred to her.

The cemetery plot is right near a giant Elk statue. My dad joined the Elk's Club when I was a teenager. It housed one of the very few "good" restaurants in town and Dad worked with a couple of Elks members who recommended him. He went to a few meetings and then lost interest. He always paid his dues, though. And we went to their seafood buffet every month or two. When it came time to buy his plot, Mom learned that Elks members could buy discounted plots through the organization. Never one to turn down a bargain, she bought both plots from the Elks. This is why there's a giant Elk standing watch over my father's grave.

My mom -- usually pretty disorganized and unconcerned about others -- decided to pre-pay her funeral expenses right after she organized her own mother's funeral. It was a terrible experience for her. She's the oldest of my grandparents' children still living. Her younger siblings laid responsibilities on her and then criticized her for the way she carried them out. My dad was already dead by then, so she handled things pretty much alone. Out of that awful experience grew Mom's determination to help her own children avoid such pain.

She and Dad completed their wills many years ago and she has kept it updated. I think she's changed the executor once or twice. I'm sure it's never been me. I'm the youngest! It's currently my oldest sister. She was purposely not made executor when the will was initially drawn up. She'd made some choices -- including the choice of her first husband -- that my parents thought made her a bad risk as executor. Now she's more deserving of the honor, I guess. And, she lives closest to Mom.

Mom's careful planning of her passing is probably the most selfless, thoughtful thing she's ever done for us. And I truly appreciate it. I know I'll appreciate it even more when the time comes to carry out her wishes.

PSA: Please make sure your loved ones know what you want after you die. Make out a will. State your preferences as to funeral and what to do with your body. Please consider organ donation. But may you live to be 100. May we all.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Reliving and Rethinking

Every few nights I dream I'm back at Mom's house with Mom, my sisters and cousin, getting the house ready to sell. Clearly, I am not over it. That was July; this is February. Still dreaming. The dreams always revolve around some kind of conflict. In one, my sisters and I were all arguing and they were behaving badly. My dad (dead now almost 25 years) showed up to help me. I threw my arms around his neck. "You came back!" I spent a day with a bad case of the blues after waking up and realizing he was really still dead.

A few nights ago I dreamed that Dad was the one living in the house and Mom had died years earlier. We were getting Dad's house ready to sell. Only he wasn't budging. It wasn't an unhappy dream. There was no drama like the other dreams I've been having. For that matter, none of the drama of the actual event.

I'm not sure what happened, back there. I suppose I've thought about it at least once a day every day since July. My sisters and I have talked about it by phone and by e-mail. One of my sisters isn't speaking to me.

The other night my husband asked me what I wanted for supper. I said "I don't care, I'm flexible." Then I told him, "What I really mean is, I don't feel like making a decision. Sometimes decisions are hard. Everybody in my family has trouble with decisions."

He said, "So I noticed. And those that make them get punished."

He was talking about me. Somehow, I overcame my family's taboo against decision-making. Mostly. My cousin (also immune) and I took over the hard jobs at Mother's. We talked to the realtor and inspector. We handled the food. We put on the garage sale. My oldest sister had asked me to be in charge many months earlier. "It's just too much for me to handle right now." I reluctantly agreed, knowing even back in April of last year that there would be serious consequences for any sign of competence come July. But, the work had to be done; the house had to be sold. I made decisions. I think that's one of the reasons people are angry. But honestly, if I had waited around for them to do it, we'd still be there. It once took them three hours to decide where to eat supper. Even then nobody decided, really. They chose an area of town: "Let's just go over there and see if there's anything good." THREE HOURS.

In some ways, they're like crabs in a pot of boiling water. When one of us tries to escape, the others try to claw her back down. If I get back into the boiling water, maybe they'll speak to me again.