Sunday, June 03, 2007

Seeing--the gloves are off

She mouthed words at us. We'd just arrived and were saying hello, Justin on the bedside with the medical equipment, me opposite him near the medications.

"What?" It's a trade off to lean in and try to hear her by putting your ear to her mouth, or keep watching and read her lips instead.

"I can't see," she said.

I looked at her. She was wearing her glasses already. "Honey, open your eyes." She did. "Is that better?"


"Cool. I like it when the answers are that simple and I can actually do something helpful."


Maybe I should say the gloves are on. I am now a member of the changing team. Diapers, sheets, gowns. It was just a matter of time, after all, one of the first times we all went out to eat at a restaurant, Mark asked me to help his mom take Toni to the bathroom. I didn't say it, but I must have had a look like, "Who? Me? Why not my mom? She's the one who is a nurse." Fortunately, that never happened again. I've been making it a point to leave the room when
it's time to change her--trying to give the woman what dignity she has left. But today they needed my help, Mark and Justin, so I helped. It's gotten to a point where I can do almost anything (with gloves on)--maybe it's partly because of my job, maybe it's partly because this situation has just become so dire that people hardly have any defenses left.


Oakley and Brandon had me over for dinner. I was watching her cook and as she took a small plastic container of salt and sprinkled small pinches of it into the pot of chicken I said, "Wow, you look like such a confident cook. I actually have a measurement scoop for a pinch, a dash, a..."

"Nah, I just ...what's that word?... freeball? Brandon, I always want to say freeball, but that's not it..."

"No, freeballing is when you're not wearing any underwear," I said. "You mean eyeballing?"

"Eyeball! Yeah! I just eyeball it."


Today Mark let us clean some of the office out and get into a closet that has been blocked by Mary Lorraine's boxes of trash, coins, photos, T-shirts, random articles of clothing and craft supplies, a suitcase, and a box of framed photographs we think belong to Toni. Mary Lorraine was complaining about it, "That's what happens when you have to live in someone else's house..." I was so fed up I just said, "Oh, stop complaining and just do something."

So much for my repentance. The gloves are off.

Later, Justin said she was whispering into Dorothy's hearing amplifier. Like I care what she has to say. She whispers for her own defense; she knows I could take her.

I need to just write her a letter telling her that I know she's done a lot to help Toni and Mark and we appreciate it, but that it is really frustrating to watch someone A) mooch off the state, the nation and the family, B) not even attempt to use their potential to accomplish anything of significance. Also, my husband's mother is dying and if she could please be a little respectful that would be decent. I'll save the details for paper. For now, I'll just try to keep my blood pressure down by breathing deeply and slowly.


In the closet, we found photos of Justin as a baby--with his biological dad Jim and then growing up with a few of her friends... We haven't quite made it to the more current photos, but Mark is letting us have these old albums of her with other people. We also found a wedding photo of theirs. She looks happy there, and she looks happy when she is pregnant with Justin.

I would not recognize that woman if I saw her on the street. I wish I got to know that vibrant woman, but all I ever met was a small woman in a wheelchair.

Oakley's mom is sick too. Yesterday at dinner I asked Oaks if her mom had any new tricks yet, like eating or talking or something. "Nope. She's got cancer in some new places and they're going to do some tests to see if the other ones are growing. She's still not eating or talking. I don't know what's going to kill her first, the cancer, the not talking, or the not eating."

Justin, Brandon and I let the idea of dying from not talking slide by as if it made perfect sense, but the other guy there said, "Not talking? I've never heard of anyone die from not talking!?!"Of course we all burst out laughing, while Oakley defended herself.

"In my family you probably could die from not talking! Brandon, doesn't my mom talk more than even I do?"

"Yes," he nodded. You could see love and truth in his compassionate look. He had visited Toni earlier that day. He still asks why I thought he had any emotional reserves left for that after the week before watching the FBI talk about baby killers and other homicides.

That morning, Toni had been talking in her whisper-voice with Justin and me. She said, "I wish I could make sound."

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