Sunday, June 5, 2011

"Remember how to forget. No more."

A kind-sounding woman from Heartland Health Services calls to say they will send two hospice nurses (one new, one experienced) to provide oxygen to mom later today. Am I familiar with hospice care? Have I known anyone in hospice care? "Considering your mother's age (93) and condition, the doctor has requested it." They'll be calling later this week with reports on her condition. "Condition" reminds me of "situation." My father always said "situation" for "condition," for something about which he felt uncomfortable. You get rags lidat.

"Heartland Health is an integrated health delivery system." Their "outcomes are second to none." They have a standard of care that ends: "To help you die at home or in a setting of comfort and peace." When I said mom's been in the Alzheimer's home since late 2006, the kind-sounding woman said, "so that's home for her."

Funny you should ask. I was just looking in my on-line dictionary.


When I was last at my mother's Alzheimer's home, I asked her old neighbors to come see her with me. They said that when they'd first visited, they'd taken photos of her. Other neighbors refused to look at the photos.

This morning the nurse tells me she is trying to get oxygen for mom, but the hospice nurse didn't leave a call-back number, and she can't reach the main office. It's Sunday, which makes planning difficult.

"What made you want to look up hospice? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible)."

When A puts me on hold, the usual musak starts up. "Be sure to come visit your family members," a voice-over tells me. Something about how important it is to visit. With strings.

I can't see mom, though I know she's in her room, pillows at her back, and she's not getting enough oxygen. "She's alert." There are numbers for breath, numbers for feeding, but I don't catch them as they fly in my ear.

The former neighbors say they'll pray for her.

The nurse says she'll call back when she reaches the hospice people.

": a facility or program designed to provide a caring environment for meeting the physical and emotional needs of the terminally ill" (Merriam-Webster). English-language learners get no euphemism: "a place that provides care for people who are dying." First known use, 1818.

"You're going away soon, aren't you?" someone asks me at a party yesterday. I bowled a spare. "Your daughter is strong," Kim tells me. "I like her," says Joy. Her ball halfway down the lane, Radhika turns and grins. Pins don't drop when she does. Earlier, she'd set up plastic water bottles in the living room and knocked them down with her soccer ball.

The central character in Embassytown is a simile. Her role is to liken one to another thing, render fact into fiction, truth into at least a partial lie. My mother is like a space traveler. She needs oxygen. Her narrow bed is like a rocket. Her level is at 20-something, not enough air. COPD makes it hard. There are pillows behind her. She smiled to Ellen & Steve when they stopped by. "She still understands something when I say your name," Ellen tells me on the phone. "At least that's what I choose to think."

The poet, Edwin Honig, died. A facebook friend posts a clip from a short film about him. When asked what he might say to millions of people, if he had such an audience, he says (twice): "Remember how to forget. No more."

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