My sister calls me at three o’clock in the morning. She’s telling me that she just got a call from father, and how worried he is about my mom, who’s been having trouble getting to sleep. My mom has been in pain, and has moments when she doesn’t know what day it is, or even the year. It’s been like that for 5 months, despite the visits to the doctor, and the more meds she’s assigned. Right now, though, none of that is working. All my father can do is watch as his one, his life, is sitting in bed, unable to sleep.
I tell my sister to stay where she is, because she lives in the valley. There is nothing she can do from where she is, an hour away. She wants to drive over, but I tell her to just stay where she is. I let her know that I’ll take care of watching over my folks, and for her to just get some rest. I say that if she wants to come over, just get some rest and do so in the morning if she still feels she needs to be here. She calms down a bit, and is able to just hang up after a weak argument about having to be there. I tell her she won’t be much good to anyone if she comes over now, tired, stressing, and just plain overly worried. I get it. Mom has been like this for months. It’s like just waiting for something to happen. How much I wish they would tell us that my mom can get an operation, the liver transplant she so desperately needs. Instead, we get a constant stream of excuses as to why it’s not a good idea, yet. They tell us that they have to wait until the last possible moment, when her liver stops functioning, so they can put in the new one. How it feels to me like something that’s so absurd, and impractical, but we all try to wait for that day when the moment comes. It seems so far off, right now, as I go down the stairs and go to my parents’ house, using my key to get in, and check on father and mother. Father tells me that mother can’t fall asleep because she is in so much pain. I ask if there’s anything I can do then and there, and he tells me to get the pain medication. Mom sleeps that night, however tentatively, and I go back to my apartment.
When I get back up, my younger brother asks me how it’s going. I tell him that mom was able to get some sleep, but even he knows it is a temporary situation. He worries a lot, as much as I do. There’s not much that can be done for now, save for getting some sleep, and it’s already four thirty in the morning. We both go to our rooms, and get the rest we need, but even for us, it’s a temp solution. It’s just a ritual to get us from one day to the next.
The next day, my sister arrives, and she’s got a whole list of to-dos. My bro and I hop to it, though not right away. I can only feign obedience, and we’re just going through the motions for now. In reality, we’re worried about my mom, all of us. My father is telling us about how hard it is to get her to sleep, as my mom walks around, and sometimes she trips up. He’s worried that if falls into deep sleep, my mom might just walk out the door. After a while, my bro and I agree to sleep in the living room, since our old room just has a bunch of stuff in it, like a storage space.
We find ourselves trying to figure out what to do about any of this until mom gets her operation. The constant talk back and forth between us and the doctors is how soon can she get the operation, but they give us the same answer and father is less than satisfied with what they tell him. How can he not be?
The rest of us take it just as hard. A part of me, naively wonders when we’ll get mom back. It’s a fleeting thought that haunts me even now, because well I guess that’s natural, right?
The point is, that right now, we’re all sitting in the dining room while my mom is actually sleeping, tired from wandering around the house for most of the night. My father looks so worn that his eyes are dark and drawn. My older brother is over, too. There’s a lot to talk about, and there’s a lot to ask the doctor.
I remember that a few years back, when everything started, and my mom was having moments of memory lapses. The doctors said something vague, and I decided to just ask as many questions as possible, and wrote down everything they said, hoping I could figure out what the hell was going on. I would listen to the doctors and write down every word, and asked them if I could quote them on it. They are not so pleased with me, but I don’t care. My mom wasn’t herself, and it was really worrying my father at the time, and even moreso now. So, we sit at the dining room table, which seats six. Only right now, there are seven of us. My younger brother came along when I was nine. He looks to me, really worried, and at this point, I can only muss his hair and tell him we’ll see what’s up.
He was upset with me a month before because I didn’t quite tell him what was wrong with mom. I explained to him that I was hoping I could tell him when the doctors had better news. Like mom has this condition, but the doctors are thinking optimistically because of such and such. I tell him I didn’t want to just present the problem.
I wanted to be able to present the problem, but also have a few solutions on hand so he wouldn’t feel like I was feeling at that moment, when the pit of your stomach is so empty, and your throat feels so dry. It’s not so much from hunger or not having breakfast, but from that feeling of hanging out in the ocean without a life preserver. At this point, I realized there were no solutions. There weren’t going to be. It was just a matter of being able to get from one moment to the next. I felt like there was so much space to fill those hours when we all hung in limbo, but at the same time, it was mom who filled those moments because she was in all our thoughts and feelings. Part of me wished for our mom, as she was.