I have spent the last few days in Ohio. My mother had emergency surgery and my brother, sister, and I are here to give her support. It’s not clear whether she will make it or not and if she does what kind of care she will require.
She hasn’t really surfaced since the surgery, still under effects of the anesthetic and of the pain medication she has been taking. She periodically will float to the surface, recognizing our voices, then sink back into the waters of oblivion.
Today I played Ella Fitzgerald on my iphone and put it close to my mother’s ear. I kept wondering what she was thinking as she was listening to her mellow and jazzy spirit. Did my mother even recognize these songs? Did they remind her of her youth, of her relationship with my father, or did Ella’s voice simply wash over her as just another abstract, busy, surreal noise? Nurses came in taking blood, checking vitals, replacing the IV drip and Ella just kept singing. I asked my mother if she liked the music. I think I detected a small nod.
This is all pretty hard. Watching my mother I am struck by her vulnerability and her beauty, particularly her beautiful skin. This is all very odd because I don’t remember her skin ever being so smooth and clear (a positive side effect of Parkinson’s). As her health has become increasingly compromised, her vulnerability has grown exponentially. I see her and I don’t see her. I know her and yet she is someone so very different from my mother. She is utterly close and still so very very far away. She is intimately connected to me and yet she is a stranger. I have become her mother. She has become my child.
We will go back to the hospital tomorrow and the day after and over the weekend. We will continue to moisten her mouth with a small pink sponge on a stick. We will continue to wipe her forehead and hold her hand and call for the nurse and talk with the doctors. We will continue to share stories and laugh and cry and keep her from pulling out the oxygen tubes from her nose and the heart monitor from her finger. We will continue to communicate with her as she surfaces and even when she sinks. While Ella just keeps singing.