Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Baja sessions

There's a small tamper-proof plastic box under my mother's pillow containing a loaded syringe and a 9V battery-operated pump to infuse the mixture of morphine, a mind-altering sedative and an anti-nausea drug through a narrow white flexi-tube to a catheter port in her abdomen.

This is palliative care.  Or, 'comfort cares' as nurse B calls it as she fusses with the blankets and strokes my mother's forehead.

Hospital entrance at the Cashmere View Rest Home and  Retirement Village.

I like nurse B very much, and nurse G.  They are wonderfully caring and gentle even though I sometimes feel their ministrations leave me awkwardly outside the loop; like my mother is somehow theirs.

I find myself apologising for taking up the already cramped space around my mother's bed as they manoeuvre the 'slippery Sam' to help turn her two-hourly.

And whenever they tentatively knock, I always seem to be eating and reading magazines, or eating and playing solitaire on my phone.  I feel like a slack employee; jumping to my feet justifying my seeming inability to keep vigil by my mother's bed in a more productive, nurturing kind of way.

They're not around when I flounder with words and tears.  They weren't in the room when I vowed I would stop watching for every breath.  And they didn't see my face flush with guilt as I pondered which day this week she would die.

Tonight, we watched the Bee Gees 'One Night Only' on television.  At least, I hope she was aware of it.  She loves that particular concert and had the CD in her car, along with several others that are now rotated on the portable player by her bed.

She also has the Three Tenors, which I confiscated after arriving to find, "Time to say goodbye" playing during the weekend.  I am coping better with Chris Isaak's Baja Sessions.  It has a sameness that is easier to block than those tenors belting out "Nessun dorma" etc.

But then, it's not meant to be about me.

I have received several texts asking how long do I think?  I'm thinking: if that's your question, you probably already know the answer.

My brother sent a text from Sydney asking me to let him know when she was a day or two away.  What do you do with that?

Meanwhile, yesterday was the official start to the school holidays, with a two-week term break ahead.  The girls are desperate to get away to the snow - anywhere really, as long as it's not Christchurch.

But I can't leave.  We can't leave.  Not yet.

Miss 7 is diverted with retro fizz and an afghan biscuit - for now.  

Monday, July 4, 2011


It was my mother's 71st birthday today.  She is dying.  On June 13, I was told it was a matter of weeks.  She has survived precisely three weeks.

We gathered at her hospital for afternoon tea.

I choked on the "happy" of the birthday song and lip-synch'd the rest. No-one was up for 'hip-hoorays'.   I arranged a cake (among other savoury and sugary treats).  No-one appeared to notice the missing third 'e' of Beverley.  Mum was always a stickler for that. Her sisters too.  Its significance paled by the fragile retreat of the person we have loved in to and then out of a body given over to cancer.

My brother called from Sydney.  It didn't go well.  He spent the next half-hour dispatching distressed texts.  He couldn't understand a word she'd said (of which there were very few), except for, "Is that you, Kevin?"

Not his name.