Seventeen days ago we watched Mom take her last breath.
Thirteen days ago we welcomed folks to participate in a service everyone dreads. Afterwards, we reminisced over ham and chicken salad sandwiches.
And every night since then, Mom - or more specifically planning her funeral - has been the subject of my dreams. Every morning I wake up and wonder why. I wonder if others have experienced this phenomenon. I wonder if it is what the last 4 years have been like for her. Because it was four years ago this week, that we actually lost our mom.
She had a fairly routine surgery, but, as she said thousands of times since that day, “I just don’t feel like I ever woke up.” Which changed slightly as more memories were lost to, “I just need to wake up.”
But she was as awake as she was capable of being. Somehow her dream world seemed to combine with her waking world, and decades old memories would collide with the current. New information was incomprehensible and old information fractured into a thousand disconnected pieces. With no short term memory she was left living with mostly now. Able to hold onto a thought train for maybe 30 seconds. Sometimes longer. Sometimes less.
For the past fifteen months she went to dialysis at least three days a week, maybe four. And after nearly every run she’d want to get tacos. She could remember that it was going to cost $5.38. But couldn’t remember that 30 seconds ago she’d asked, “what’d we do before tacos?” If that was the train her thoughts were on, this question would be asked and answered countless times before getting home; where we would then have to convince her that the taco wrapper on the counter was, in fact, hers and Dad had not gone out to eat without her.
Looking back, we realize she was having trouble years before the general anesthesia finished the job. Becoming forgetful is normal right? Besides, what could we do about it? I’ve since learned that “post operative cognitive dysfunction” is prevalent in the elderly, and most often seen when cognition is impaired prior to the surgical procedure. That a significant percentage of those experiencing it never recover. And that cardiac patients aren’t the only at-risk demographic.
I’ve spent the last four years saying goodbye, to the lady who brought me into this world and played a major role in the person I am today, and working toward the goal of no regrets. I didn’t want our parting stained with my having said things I shouldn’t or leaving things unsaid that needed to be spoken. Tying up lose ends and giving credit where it’s due. Honoring her life and wishes by making the decisions I was entrusted to make. The last four years afforded that opportunity.
But I do have one regret. Not having spoken up in the oncologists office that October day in 2014.
If I could do it again I would say, “Let’s wait on that lumpectomy. How about we schedule a mammogram in a couple months instead?” “At 78 years old, just how much estrogen is this smaller than bb sized neoplasm going to have to feed on?” I’m sure I would have made a few people mad, and been labeled an idiot… but those would have been small prices to pay to have had a different hand to play than the one POCD dealt her. Dealt us.
Maybe my dreams are pushing me to tell a story I never wanted to tell, in the hopes that others might avoid having one of there own.