Standing at the door to Mother’s bedroom, the biggest thing I see is her hospital bed. It seems to suck up all the floor and air and wall space leaving only a tiny fringe for walking around her. This is not really true if you measure it out, but it feels that way to me. Never has that room felt so small.
Such a big bed – such a tiny Mother. She was never a large woman, standing only 5’ 2” at her tallest, and weighing at most 135 lbs. But she has lost four inches in height and many more pounds. Holding her hand or touching her face, I feel only skin and bones, not much flesh. Her skin is dry and cool, but smooth. The bones feel hard and strong, yet insubstantial, almost weightless.
This is the ending that she did not want – lying in bed, barely aware of her surroundings, unable to do anything for herself and spending the most money ever in her life for personal care and medicines. She would be horrified if she comprehended what is happening! She would have chosen quick and cheap, not wasting money on palliatives that comfort, but change nothing. She is a child of the Depression and hated waste as much as excess and unproductive expenditures. Her diminishing bank balances would make her crazy!
She is so tiny. The woman who could make my blood run cold with a mere glance now barely sees me. The voice that could stop me in my tracks just by calling my name now sounds small and hoarse. Her way was always the only way no matter the task – and usually she was right. She was competent and efficient in her career and precise in all the beautiful garments she made for me as I grew up. I wore one suit jacket that she made from junior high all the way through college – and it would still be in style if I had not worn it out. Her hands were always busy, her mind was always sharp. Now her hands pluck at the bed covers in anxiety and futility, and her mind only occasionally focuses on what is going on around her.
My formidable mother is now tiny. Tiny and helpless, dependent on a revolving cast of very kind caretakers. Her companions leave nothing to chance and try every day to interest her in conversation or going outside – and rarely now do they succeed. But gone is the rapid click – click of her heels on the floor, the power of her presence to compel my behaviors, the sureness of those eyes in the back of her head in seeing everything I did, especially when I did not want her to! Now she is tiny and I have to be the strong one, asking the questions and paying the bills. It just does not feel right. It feels very sad and lonely.
Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother… Sometimes that means just showing up. Holding a cool, restless hand. Reminding her who I am simply because I know who she is even as she is so changed. The waiting is hard for her and for me. She is just so tiny lying there. I must show up so that we can wait together – she so tiny in that big bed.