With suitcase in tow

In the short and cold days of January I drive to Hospice where spots of packed down and slippery snow coat the parking lot. I pull my loaded overnight case with wheels out of the trunk and settle my tote bag on top. It contains my iPad, a book to read, Werther’s original candy, some Dove chocolates, and important papers that include the Healthcare Power of Attorney documents for both my Mom and my Dad that I have been informed I need to have with me always. The tote bag also holds a small purse that I am never ever without. It contains my cell phone and a small notebook I created with all the information that I need at my fingertips including phone numbers, social security numbers, doctors numbers, medicine lists, insurance card numbers, and other pertinent information.

I turn around, pulling my bag through an inch or two of snow, and move towards the door with care not to slip and fall. The man with the silver hair in the enclosed golf cart pulls up beside me and offers me a ride. Although I accepted one the last time, today I decide it is just as easy to keep walking than to lug my suitcase into the cart and back out again for such a short distance.

I sign in at the Hospice front desk and make my way down the halls to my mom’s room with my suitcase in tow. My sister K. has packed her things back in her bag and is getting ready to go home. The air mattress she brought, after we determined the chair that pulled out into a hard bed was beyond hope even with the addition of a foam pad, is leaned on its end against the wall in the corner behind the recliner. K. was right that it fits on the floor between the two chairs in the room, but just barely.

I remove my wet boots and place them behind the door where they will make a small puddle that I will clean up later. Mom is awake and we all talk for a few minutes while I remove my hat and coat and get my slippers out of my suitcase. K. and I keep our spirits up for Mom and our tone has an element of celebration to it. We are all here together chatting. We are family and we need each other.

K. goes over the highlights of her 24 hours with Mom and hands me the stenographer’s notebook with green lined pages that we keep a running journal in. She puts her coat on and leaves, pulling her overnight bag behind her.

Mom dozes off.

I settle into the recliner and read K.’s notes from yesterday:

Lunch: 1/4 C of tea

3 small pieces of turkey

3 small bites of sweet potatoes

1 sip of milk

3 oz of vanilla milkshake

1/2 roll

Supper: 3 spoons of chicken and noodle soup with crackers

10:00 p.m. We had to wake her up for her meds. She was very groggy. We used applesauce to make it easier for her to swallow.

4:30 a.m. Mom woke up and went to the bathroom alone. She was in pain when she got back to bed. We got an I.V. for the pain.

8:30 a.m. Breakfast. Very groggy—couldn’t focus on eating. She took 1 bite of eggs by herself. I gave her a few sips of tea. I gave her one small bite of eggs, a tiny bite of bacon, and tiny bite of toast. I put the tray to the side—

*Meds are being given with vanilla pudding now (or apple sauce).

*She can have more pain medicine at 2:10

*Ask about the IV. How does it affect grogginess?

I try to rest with my feet elevated. If tonight goes like the previous ones, I will be up a lot helping Mom to the bathroom and trekking down the hall and through the sprawling building to the snack area where I can warm up Mom’s heating pads that seem to bring her comfort.

I go through the routine of watching Mom not eat, and recording it, watching the clock and asking for her medicines on time even if she is sleeping through it. We have learned from experience that we don’t want to delay the meds. I have a few short conversations with Mom when she rouses, primarily about the minutiae of her daily life here.

“I have busy days here,” she tells me from her hospital bed from which she only rises to use the bathroom.

I do the best I can to keep her comfortable and anticipate her needs. I sleep when I can. I talk to the doctor and nurses when they come and tell me again that Mom is on a steady decline. They don’t tell me anything I can’t see for myself.

I keep detailed notes for my sisters all the while.

Sometime before noon my sister comes to replace me. I have returned the air mattress, that I wrestled into place on the floor last night, back to its spot against the wall behind the chair. I have returned my things to my bags. I pull on my hat, coat, and boots; kiss Mom good-bye and leave with my suitcase in tow.

~~

Five months later I watch for my sister K. to arrive for an overnight visit. I’ll show her how I arranged Mom and Dad’s china in the cabinet, and the display I created with Dad’s flag and army badges and metals. I’ll show her the shadow box where I arranged my share of Mom’s costume jewelry pins that Dad always gave her. I’ll show her the scrapbooks I’ve finished and the photos I’ve still to scan.

She arrives, parks her car, pulls out her overnight bag and enters our house, suitcase in tow.

We are family.

We need each other.

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Author: CMSmith

I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, photography, genealogy and travel. I have opinions about many things, but am trying to age gracefully and not continually tick people off with them. Sometimes I can’t help myself.

15 thoughts on “With suitcase in tow”

      1. I watch the first 3 episodes on line and enjoyed them ~ it’s been fun to see how well dear old dad predicted their responses to the Goodwin Games.

        It’s on Monday nights, not sure about times.

      1. I’ve been feeling at times like it’s been months since I’ve done something- when I know it hasn’t. It feels like a gulf between now and before. And other times… it feels so fresh. It’s felt like time has become skewed. I think it’s a perception thing, part of the process.

      2. I understand. You describe it well. There is a gulf between then and now. Life has altered dramatically for us. I also have times of freshness. I never thought about it in terms of time. Perception is clearly part of the process. I am still having a very hard time believing it, even thought I know my parents are gone. I just deal with the emotions when they erupt and then move on the best that I can.

        Be patient with yourself.

  1. Great piece ~ vivid memories for me too.

    Funny I should read it just now as I sat down to write you. I was out on my balcony at sunset ~ after a very rainy day ~ the porch chairs had dried and I sat down ~ alternately gazing at the pond and clouds moving across the sky.

    Thoughts of Mom and Dad had been occupying my mind off and on all day ~ and now in this moment of pause, I again was thinking of them and missing their presence in my life. I looked down below to the gray wooden fence next door and suddenly a bright red cardinal landed.

    Of course I immediately thought about Mom (as you know ~ I had that experience before with the cardinals when I asked for a sign from Mom and Dad). It was a surprise to see one here in Florida ~ I haven’t noticed any before and I often sit and watch the birds throughout the day.
    This was the first cardinal I have seen. Since there was only one I decided that it might not really be a “sign” ~ but, within a few seconds of that thought the second cardinal landed. They only stayed for a moment or two… just long enough to remind me ~ that my beloved parents are never far away.

    1. I saw a pair of cardinals just this morning when I walked out on the deck. I probably won’t be able to see cardinals anymore now without wondering.

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