Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mom's collapse nearly disrupts my day

I foresaw two ways Mom was going to die Sunday -- one natural/ the other violent -- in the parking lot of an Irwin convenience mart called Sheetz, a store that sells no sheets.

As previously noted, Mom is what I euphemistically say is “in decline.” In fact, she’s going to hell.
And I mean that purely in the physical sense. Spiritually, she’s heaven-bound, I’m sure. 
She deserves eternal bliss for 78-years of exuberance, warmth, innate love and an effervescent sense of humor that’s enriched so many lives.
I’ve been missing that woman for months.
She’d spent Saturday night with us in Latrobe. I was driving her home to Pittsburgh, an inconvience that would put a big dent in my Father’s Day.
Still, things always work out best for me. My buddy scored two free tickets to the Leon Russell show at the Pittsburgh Rib Fest.
He told me Russell would take the stage at 1 p.m. I figured I could drive Mom home and drop her off with a dear cousin. A true godsend, the 22-year-old is living with Mom while nannying a nearby family.
See, God’s always watching out for me.
My plan was to get her home and then stop by with my buddy for a few hours of ribs and blues and be home in time for dinner.
Mom rode along in stretches of silence looking nervous and hunted. She understands dementia is settling in and seems to think she’ll be able to duck it if she can just see it coming, like crossing the street to avoid a potential mugger.
But I can’t ride in silence and there’s stuff I’d still like to get on the record.
Do you believe in heaven, Mom?
“Yes. I don’t think it just ends with this. I think we’re together with family.”
Think you’ll see Dad in heaven?
“I think so. You know I can’t even remember him anymore. It was like another lifetime ago.”
He died in 2004. 
You don’t remember all the happy times you had together?
“I remember we used to socialize a lot.”
Where were you happiest?
“The house in Greentree.”
It was were my brother and I were born. We lived there five years.
Do you have happy memories from the house on Earlswood?
“I don’t remember that house.”
She lived there 30 years. It’s where she raised her sons. She doesn’t remember any of that.
I looked over at her and thought without any real emotion, Mom, it’s time for you to go.
She’s at a stage where many caretakers would be wondering if they’re doing enough.
I wonder if I do too much, which is next to nothing.
A front-line advocate of natural death, I don’t want to take her to see scores of specialists who’ll tinker with pharmaceuticals, neutralize her decline and add worthless months, maybe years, to a life that to me is looking spent.
It is time for Mom to go.
Well, from my lips to God’s ears.
She’d gone into the store to get a glass of ice while I pumped the gas. She came out staggering two minutes later.
She nearly collapsed atop a souped-up Impala with a skull decal on the rear window. It was in immaculate condition and looked like it was owned by a man who wouldn’t tolerate a dead bug on the fender, much less a dead granny.
I hustled over and gingerly pulled her off the car hood before the owner saw her offense and began tearing her apart. I sense motorists who put skull decals on their cars can be very picky about their vehicles.
She’d been struck by sudden light-headedness.
I put her in the car and reclined her seat. I asked if she wanted to go to the hospital. She said no.
At this point, many sons would have overruled mom and driven her straight to the emergency room.
Not me. I believe the only people who die in hospitals should be victims of multiple blunt force traumas. I’m very disdainful of providing excessive care to seniors who 50 years ago would have died quickly and peacefully at home.
Know what I did for her?
I reached out and with my right hand turned the radio station to the symphony channel.
This was not a trifling gesture.
Remember, Saturday was the day Clarence Clemons died. The Springsteen station on the satellite radio was rockin’ soulful tributes to a man I loved.
I think letting my Mom’s fragile condition dictate the music -- even as I checked to see if she was still breathing -- means I’m a good son. 
That’s just the way I think.
A lot of strange thoughts enter your head when you’re tooling down the Pennsylvania Turnpike with your mother who may or may not be dying in the passenger seat. 
She’s donating her body to science.
Days after she dies, hungover med students will be carving up her naked remains like a Thanksgiving turkey all in the name of pure anatomical research.
It creeps the hell out of me, but seems to eliminate any urgency about reporting her death, if she does, in fact, die around the Monroeville interchange.
I wonder if there’s a big night deposit box for bodies at one of the medical centers.
Or could I just leave her in the car for a few hours while I went and watched Leon Russell jam? Really, what would it matter?
Instead of dying that day, she snoozed and revived.
I never did see the old bluesman. My buddy had the time all wrong.
Russell didn’t come on until about 9 p.m. That means Mom would have had to stay in the car for more than eight hours.
Some busybody would have reported an elderly dead female in the parking lot. The cops would have been waiting for me.
A scandal would have ensued. I’d have taken a public opinion pounding.
A lot of people would have been outraged. They’d have said my decision making was criminal.
I staunchly disagree and am at peace with my actions. I’d testify I’d done all that could be expected from a son like me.
You see, Mom never really liked Springsteen all that much.

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