The Artist Documents

May 22, 2006

When I lament here that I do not write daily, it isn’t because I think there is some particular merit in regularity.

My mother’s days are numbered, and I am afraid of regret. I am afraid of what might happen to my memory if I don’t mark down the moments. Any of them.

So today I am breaking some interior barriers, and will share some photos and moments from these last few weeks.

I drove down the hill for the first time last week, to another first – a therapist’s appointment. My aunt was with me, and as I pulled up to the curb after an uneventful twenty miles, I ground the hubcap thoroughly against the concrete, scraping it good. I told my aunt I’d tell my mother the same way I always give her bad news – convince her that I’d hit a pedestrian, then tell her about the hubcap when she was making up her mind whether to feel relieved or ticked off that I’d exaggerated.

The therapist’s appointment was fine, by the way. A preemptive strategy by me, to give myself the tools I need to effectively handle the circumstances of my mother’s illness. The diagnosis seems to be “life” and the prescription is exercise and meditation. Oh, and he gave me a reading list. I love this doctor. It is one more testament to the care and support of hospice, who I approached about counselling a few weeks ago.

Today I fell asleep.

I am giving that sentence a little space, for effect. It is not that I don’t sleep, just that sleep has been scarce in the last few months, and especially in the last week. Last week we brought home a recliner for Mom to sleep in – easier to get in and out of than her bed, and she didn’t want a hospital bed. I moved to the loveseat in the living room for sleeping, but quickly discovered that sleep wouldn’t come easily. When my mother stirs, I get up. When she doesn’t, I hold my breath waiting for her to release hers. I watch her for hours, listening as every night this week her breath has been more and more irregular. I read late into the night, or text Josh during my vigils. I’ve read six Nora Roberts novels this week alone and nearly cried when the Amazon order I’d made last Sunday arrived this morning – a fresh dose of Anne Carson to keep me sustained (and away from the awful category romance).

The Hospital Bed

These last two nights, Mom’s sleep has grown restless. She has started talking in her sleep, smiling occasionally. Sometimes her limbs flinch during these moments, but the movement doesn’t wake her. I have slept less these last two nights, and my real sleep comes after my aunt gets up at six or six thirty in the morning and I know she’s with Mom. Then I sleep deeply until eight thirty or so.

But today, I slept. I fell asleep in the chair, and dreamed that I woke up in my bedroom, on my bed which is full of clothes and mail at the moment. I got up from the bed and went to the window, noticing that the view was wrong -the road curved away in the wrong direction.

When I took a step closer, the curve of the road became the curve of the bay of the island, and as I got closer I could see the white houses toppling over each other like grains of salt and cars moving insectlike on the Peripheriokos. I took a step back, and the reflection disappeared, there were only pines and oaks and that odd road. Another step forward, and the island reappeared, and I stepped closer and closer again until the view was clouded over by my breath on the glass.

Then I woke up.

I started this entry a few days ago with the intention of posting as much of a real account of some of our days together as I could, but it languished while life happened. Family came over and we celebrated together, I took pictures, I worked a little, Mom read books and took care of loose ends. Things that she wants done before she can’t do them anymore. On Saturday, we sat outside, my mother, aunt Michelle and I, and we listened while Mom talked about her fears, and the pain, and how she’s ready.

Mom and Betty

Every day is new, and every day is precious. And at night, it is just Mom and me, and the hum of the hospital bed and the occasional wheeze of the PCA pump as it delivers its next dose of relief while Mom sleeps.

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