Update on the Elder Stateman

My cat, Patches, is showing signs of improvement! He has been out and about more than he has been over the past couple of days. Giving him his medications has been getting easier and this morning he showed that he forgave me by snuggling with me on the sofa right afterward. When he settled down, and I could feel him purring, I admit it, I shed a couple of tears. A few days ago, I honestly thought I was about to lose him, and now I’m hoping to have more time with him. And I’m not going to take a moment of it for granted.

Trying to Pill a Cat

Pilling a cat by yourself

is a practice in

Patience.

Holding a cat

That is wrapped like

A toweled burrito

In one arm

Pill popper in

The other hand.

Trying to wrangle

Him into opening

His mouth.

This morning’s

Double pill dispensing

Took almost

An hour

And left us both

Exhausted.

But my stubbornness

Is greater than his

And I know the importance

Of these meds.

I also know that

Success will be

A victory for us both.

I Wish Cats Could Talk

I wish cats could talk. Saturday night, I went to bed with my cat Patches appearing to be acting normally. When I woke up on Sunday and came downstairs, I found him hiding behind the chair in my mom’s bedroom. Immediately I knew something was wrong. Throughout the day, my concern only grew when he refused any food or water. I put a folded rug in the corner where he was so he wouldn’t have to lie on the floor and slid dry food, wet food, and plain water under the chair, so he only had to come out to use the litter box. I did this on purpose so I could monitor his urinary output. He did come out, for that purpose, several times during the day and evening. The most disturbing symptom he displayed was a kind of a moan he made when he exhaled. I watched him as closely as I could, while leaving him alone as well, and felt like he wasn’t in respiratory distress and decided to wait until this morning to take him to the vet. It was a long day and night yesterday because, at almost 17 years of age, I realize he doesn’t have much time left. But the idea of losing him so soon after my mom died was unbearable to my heart.

When I woke up this morning, my anxiety level immediately pegged out at a 10, and I went downstairs not quite knowing what I’d find. Luckily, Patches was still breathing, although the sound was now gone, and his eyes appeared brighter. Calling the vet, I wasn’t sure when I’d be going in. Luckily they were able to squeeze me in at 10 AM. So, off we went. Long story short, and this is why I wish cats could talk, my poor cat has a severe urinary tract infection, hyperthyroidism, and he is borderline diabetic. I had no idea he was so sick, and I feel horrible that, if there were signs, I had missed them. He has to take medication several times a day, and the vet seemed to be hopeful we could turn it all around. When we got home, I looked up hyperthyroidism in cats and was blown away. Weight loss, check. Increased appetite, check. Excessive thirst, looking back on it, check. Unkempt appearance, check. Vomiting, check. Many of his symptoms I just chalked up to him being an older cat and didn’t really think about it. So, that’s what my last couple of days have been about. Cats are stoic by nature and hide any symptoms when they don’t feel good. Patches has proved to be a master of this ability because, like I said, I had no clue he was so ill and I can only hope that the medications he has been put on will provide the relief and recovery he needs. He’s the elder statesman of my little household, and I’m just not ready for his presence to be gone from my life.

My Brother

Hi all, I’m afraid I need to ask for your support in the form of prayers and good thoughts again. My brother, who had a kidney transplant in 2010, is back in the hospital again and not doing very well. They are seriously considering starting dialysis, and he is back on the transplant waiting list. He is only 55 years old and still has so much life ahead of him if only he can get through this. I think that our mother’s death put such a strain on his body that this is the result. I just can’t believe we are faced with this stress and emotion again so soon after my mom died and yet here we are. They say God never gives us more than we can handle, but I’m starting to question that at this point.

Surprise Visit

Yesterday my niece and nephew surprised me with a visit. They have been absolutely wonderful during this difficult time. They lost their dad in 2011 and their mom in 2016 and they keep telling me that I was there for them during those times so they are making sure they are there for me during this sorrowful time. The three of us have always been close ever since my sister and her husband adopted them from Russia. They are also close to my mom and losing her is hurting them deeply. To see them doing their best to set that aside to be there for me has moved me beyond words. I just feel so lucky and grateful to have them in my life. They are definitely one of the things that are bringing light to my life right now and pushing the encroaching darkness away.

Saying Goodbye

Today I stayed home. Yesterday the nurse was talking about how my mom’s breathing would become more of a rattle when the end is near. When she said that I felt my heart twist and, at that moment, I knew I just don’t want to be there when mom passes. I think it will just destroy me. My mom and I have discussed it before and I told her that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there and she said that that was ok. So I feel at peace with my decision. Yesterday, I had a few minutes alone with her so I sat down and spoke to her from my heart. I told her what a good mom she had been and how much I will miss her. I also told her that I am going to be ok and for her not to worry. She was unconscious when I said all this but the doctor keeps telling us that she can hear us. I feel like she heard me, I swear she squeezed my hand three times when I was finished. That has been the family “thing” three squeezes means “I Love You.”

A couple of hours later when it came time for me to leave, the levee broke. I started crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. Just short hiccupping gasps every 20 seconds or so when I started feeling oxygen deprived. I leaned over her and kissed her forehead several times and choked out how much I love her. Walking out of that building and away from her knowing I’d never see her again was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. After I got home though, something surprising happened. I felt lighter then I have in weeks. It’s like a weight on my soul had been lifted.

Flash forward to today and I heard from my sister and nephew that she’s sitting up and talking and eating and drinking again. My nephew said that she was talking to him about robbing a bank (she’s mostly delusional these days) so my nephew told her the bank was closed. Ms. Sassy’s response? “That will only make it more fun.” That is how she has been since early last week. This sense of humor we never knew she had is coming out more and more. Friday night she had us all laughing over her antics. That’s what I want to remember. That’s the final image of her that I want in my head. Sitting up in her hospital bed, holding court over her family and making us all laugh.

Dreams of the Dying

Today I was alone in my mom’s hospital room holding her hand and watching her sleep. I noticed movement behind her eyelids and realized that she was dreaming and I started contemplating what she might be dreaming about. And this poem came into my head and there I was holding my mom’s hand in one of my hands while writing this poem on my phone with the other one.

What do the dying dream of?

Is it the lives they’ve lived and

Are leaving behind?

Or are they going to an orientation

In the life after this one?

Is that why they start speaking again of

Loved ones long gone?

Do they begin drawing near

In the land of dreams

And then break through to

The land of life

As the departure draws closer?

What is it like for them to step back

Through the veil

Only for a brief time?

To see the changes in loved ones

Still journeying among the living.

Or have they watched through

The curtain dividing the two worlds

And have seen everything?

Maybe that’s what the dying dream of

Do they cross over and peer back

At us

Whispering to others about

What is to come?

They’re Waiting for Her

Today my sisters and I met with mom’s doctors and realized that we are not talking about sending her to rehab. The brutal truth, that we finally faced today is that she is ready for hospice care. She is just so weak and in pain so much of the time that’s it’s not fair for her. I mean, we’re going to include her in discussions about what she wants but now it’s a matter of us telling her that it is okay to go and that we will be fine moving forward. The spiritual aspect of this experience is sweeping away the physical. The past couple of days she has been seeing her mom, brother, and childhood friends who have all passed away. Knowing they are here and waiting to help her crossover is very comforting for us. We know she won’t make the journey to the next world alone. She’s going to leave a world where she is loved and enter different kind of world where she will have open arms and eternal love waiting for her. I’m gutted by this turn of events but I’m really trying to focus on the reunion that she is so close to having with those she has lost. I’m glad she is going to see them all again, it’s just hard knowing that in order for that to happen her family is going to have to say good-bye.

Finite Tomorrows

No real news today. Everything is as stable as it can be with my mom right now. She’s had an increase in her pain medications so she is sleeping more and when she is awake she’s pretty loopy and incoherent. I was sitting there watching her today thinking if I will ever have a regular conversation with her again. Then I started thinking about everything I meant to say to her but kept putting it off until tomorrow.  I wish I hadn’t waited because, as I should have learned with my dad but obviously didn’t, as our parents grow older we only have so many tomorrows before they are gone. That may seem obvious to some but I think many of us put thoughts of losing them off to some vague future time in the distance. A future that we can almost see like a mirage and think, in some way, it’s never going to come. It’s just a shimmering image on the horizon. Until that shimmer becomes a wall of cold hard reality that you run into and bump your nose on. I don’t think I’ve bumped my nose yet but I can sense its cold stone surface looming up over me. That might be the most difficult thing with this whole experience, not knowing what is going to happen next. Or when it will happen. She might have months left and she may have days left, we simply don’t know. When I let my thoughts stray to the idea of losing her, I think about how her passing will be the hardest on me because I will, in a sense, be losing two lives. My mother’s and the life as a caregiver that I’ve known for the past 20 years. When my thoughts start going there I kick it down the road, towards that vague shimmering day. I keep telling myself you can deal with it then. There will be plenty of time for tears and grief later.