I had received this phone call three times before.
At about one in the afternoon my phone rang. I wasn’t expecting anyone to call and I thought it might be just another telemarketer or maybe a wrong number. Looking back, I wish it had been one or the other.
The caller was my sister Mary informing me that our mother had been rushed to the emergency room, once again. As with the last three calls like this, my heart sunk at the news. Was this time worse than the other three times?
Was my mother’s condition the result of a sudden drop in blood sugar, as twice before, or was it another one of those mysterious neurological episodes, as once before, described in medical shorthand, as a TIA, short for Transient Ischemic Attack? Such an attack results in light seizures and a total inability to put words together that describe the sufferer’s plight. TIAs can be a frightening thing, for the victim and their loved ones. Fortunately, they usually pass after about 45 minutes, but those are very long minutes.
My first question, of course was, “how is she?” Mary told me that she was OK, but was hospitalized for observation. The other two times before, she was in the ER for a few hours and allowed to be taken home. This third time, they wanted to keep her for a few days.
My mother lives alone and has been very fortunate that her good friend and neighbor just happened by at the right time to find her. This third time, and, with the good graces of fortune, her case worker had come by for an appointment. She was from the Mass Society for the Blind. My mother was declared legally blind a few months earlier, by her eye doctor. My mom is also diabetic and has to have insulin injections, at least three times a day, sometimes four.
I didn’t immediately know what to do because I live in Ohio and my mom lives in Mass. Mary told me she was going to get on a plane the next day to be by our mother’s side. That was good to hear, for sure.
Since that last dreaded phone call, I began to feel a little selfish. I too live alone and don’t have any pressing business, from day to day. I grappled with my conscience for about a week or so and finally decided to fly to Mass after my sister had to come back to Ohio. She’s married and has her own family to care for.
Before my sister came home, my mother had been discharged from the hospital and the two of them went back to my mom’s house and things were looking much better for mom. In the meantime, I called mom and told her that I would be coming to Mass to spend some time with her. She really shouldn’t live alone any longer. Her eyesight is very bad and she sometimes has great difficulty filling insulin syringes and checking her blood sugar. She was very happy to hear that I was soon coming to stay a while.
My flight date arrived and I boarded the plane and after a brief layover in New Jersey, I landed safely in Boston. I called mom and got only a voice mail. I didn’t even know she had gotten voice mail, and the message I got was unclear. I didn’t recognize my mom’s voice and thought I may have dialed the wrong number. I had to get on a bus from Logan airport down to Cape Cod where my mother lives. I tried calling again and got that same general voice mail message.
By the time I reached my destination, it was dark, and there were no cabs at the bus station, so I called a cab and waited in freezing temps and snowfall, for the cab to arrive. I wasn’t too happy about not getting through on the phone.
When the cab arrived at my mom’s house, her porch light was on, but the house was dim with only one little kitchen light on. I thought this was odd, but then thought maybe she had gone to bed early. As I got to the front porch, I saw something that really alarmed me. There was police tape wrapped around the door frame and the door was ajar. Holy shit!
I pushed the door open and immediately saw that the door had been battered in and the inside door frame was lying, in pieces, on the living room floor. OK, now I was really alarmed and started going from room to room, calling for my mom. She wasn’t there. Very fortunately a good neighbor left a note for me informing me that my mom had another episode and was taken to the hospital and admitted. I called her and she said she was OK, but they were once again keeping her for a few days. My heart slowed down and my breathing returned to normal.
The next day I took some of her clothes and went to the hospital. The paramedics had cut her clothes off of her and she was only dressed in her bra and underpants.
When I got to her room, she was champing at the bit to be discharged. After about two hours, they released her and I took her home. When we got there, my mom went all around the house, from room to room, making sure she wasn’t just imagining being back home. If she could have hugged the entire house, she would have.
She got better and better each day and soon she was her strong self again. I stayed for three months, helping her in any way I could. I drove her to doctor’s appointments, the supermarket, and the beach, which she dearly loves. I did yard work and cooked and did laundry. I actually had a great time. My sister came back in June and I’m now back in Ohio. I will probably go back sometime in August.
I figure things this way. My mom spent many years caring for me as a child. I thought and still do, that the least I could do now is return the love.