If Thursday night’s visit at Jacobi Hospital conjured Edgar Allan Poe, yesterday’s was modern day Frank Capra, with a twist. It was Party Central on 5 South, Room number 6. Balloons, bouquets of flowers in baskets, water pitchers and vases covered almost every surface. Only one patient didn’t have a visitor on Mother’s Day. The entire time I was there she sat on her bed facing out the window; an aide sat facing her. Neither spoke a word.
When mom saw me, a huge smile brightened her face and one of the aides said, “There she is.”
Mom said, “I didn't know it was Mother’s Day. I didn’t think you were coming.”
I set a vase of white roses on her night stand, and Lorin presented her with a quarter pounder with cheese and a vanilla milkshake.
“How wonderful,” she said, and started right in on the shake.
She loves hamburgers, and since Lorin and I have been subsisting mainly on junk food the past few weeks, it was convenient too.
Antoinette, the aide who announced my arrival, told me that mom loosened the straps around her waist and tried to escape earlier in the day.
Mom said, “I didn’t get far, I was crawling alongside the bed. I wanted to walk around.” That’s an image that I will never forget.
Her straps were tightened as a precautionary message. Until she gets “clearance” to use a wheelchair by the physical therapist, she must stay in bed.
I put Mother’s Day cards from me and Rick on the meal table, handed her her stuffed animal and covered her with a quilt from home.
Lorin and I left for a few minutes to get cash at the ATM and purchase a new TV card so she could watch Channel 13.
We stopped at the nurse’s station and spoke to Carolyn, a nurse’s aide or nurse—we weren’t sure which—and asked if she could put in mom’s top dentures. She said she had never done that and, like us, didn’t want to hurt her. She also said mom was eating fine with just the bottom dentures and they cleaned them at night with a brush.
Carolyn said, "Her meds are stable; I’m surprised she’s still here.”
“We’re waiting for her to be transferred to a nursing home,” I said.
“Right, Jessica said that.” Jessica is the social worker on mom’s case.
“You know, I felt so bad for her yesterday. She kept asking ‘where’s my daughter?’ I tried to calm her down, but she was very upset."
I explained that she forgot what day it was, that I said I’d be in on Sunday.
“I wish I could be here every day,” I said, “but I have to work.”
“I understand,” she said. “You do the best you can. I’m so glad you’re here today.” Carolyn had a kind face and smile, and I felt better knowing she was looking after mom.
“Thanks,” I said and returned to mom’s room. Lorin went back to the car.
Mom had finished off her vanilla shake and burger and then dinner came. I cut her roast beef into small pieces.
“It hurts the gums with dentures,” she said.
“I know, but we have to wait to see the dentist; the girls don’t know how to put them in either.”
After eating, mom looked at her cards and I asked if I could wash her hair. Carolyn said someone came around on Monday mornings with a basin to wash hair, and she’d put her on the list.
I brought a package of no-rinse, shampoo-in-a-shower-cap and stuck her hair under it, giving it a good massage. Then I towel-dried and combed it through. Mom was in a kind of trance as I combed her hair, serene, not quite there.
I asked if she wanted to read the Emily Dickinson poem, “It’s All I Have to Bring Today,” and she said alright. She started to read it, but looked drowsy and said, “you read it,” handing the paper to me. Then I read “If” by Rudyard Kipling as a new patient was being wheeled in to fill the bed opposite her. The woman was in a fetal position completely covered by a white blanket, only her feet stuck out, in yellow hospital socks.
I told her Obama was on 60 Minutes so we watched that for a while, and mom said, “I didn't know Osama was dead.”
“Oh, yeah, that happened about a week ago.”
“It’s about time,” she said.
After a few minutes she said, “Can we go back to Channel 13?”
Within minutes she was fast asleep, holding the stuffed kitty she calls “Mouse” after her cat who died in March. I considered waking her to say goodbye. I thought better of it and kissed her on the forehead and tucked her in.