Saturday, January 19, 2008

Just call me Earl Grey

"You never know how strong a woman is until you put her in hot water."

I wish I knew who to attribute this quote to, but I don't remember. I don't remember a lot of things lately. I look at the calendar and marvel at how time passes. And I know it does; I have signs. The gas tank empties and I fill it, my prescription bottles and the cupboards empty and I refill them, It doesn't seem real that just over two weeks ago, we were embroiled in this primary or that caucus, flipping back and forth between campaign poll results and football games. And now the insignificance of it all makes me laugh, except I don't have the energy to laugh, and it all comes out as this tiny, bird-like sigh.

Husband's mother is still in the hospital, still in Intensive Care, still on the ventilator. The fluid that keeps filling her lungs (technically pneumonia but really from the cancer) prevents her from breathing on her own without a choking gasp. She's being weaned off of the apparatus, slowly, to avoid too much distress, to avoid damage to her vocal cords. She's still in there, she wants to talk, she tries to spell words with her fingers, but she's so doped up it's hard to understand her. "Are you in pain?" we ask, and she shakes her head. "Are you just plain frustrated?" we ask, and she nods, her eyes open wide.

It's surreal. Someone who was once so chatty now reduced to sign language. Anyone in the same situation would be frustrated. Nurses in your face day and night, sticking your finger to check your blood sugar, pumping you full of yet another drug, talking about you like you're no longer in the room.

And that's where I've been, faithful readers who've probably gone on to other, more regularly published blogs. No secret mission this time. Still on deadline but in between interviews and Google searches and first and second drafts, I've been running to and from the hospital (fortunately only ten or so minutes away), packing healthy snacks, making sure we have enough food for when we come home, exhausted, to forage for dinner and give family members the daily update then collapse into the couch staring blankly at the television screen without really seeing. It's an odd kind of exhaustion. How much energy spent by a body for merely sitting in a chair! Or holding a hand, or massaging a foot, or fetching a nurse for a mug of hot water - to warm my chills away, to dip my psychic tea bag for yet another cup.