St. Patrick’s Day: Morning Joy, Afternoon Panic
Even though I am partly Irish, St. Patrick’s Day is usually low-key for me. I don’t frequent bars or drink, although I do love Irish music. My plan was to watch some Sunday morning television and then visit my mother at the nursing home.
My favorite show to watch is CBS Sunday Morning, mainly just the last five minutes, however, when a nature video is shown. It is always a secret shot of nature, like someone spying on the wonders of the lives of birds or buffalo or deer. There is quiet except for the natural sounds of the animals or rushing water or the cries of gulls. Yesterday the video was of porcupines. I never thought of porcupines as particularly cute, but in their natural environment as they munched on hickory berries, they were adorable. Close ups showed the mouths, with their protruding front teeth, munching on berries while emitting soft moaning sounds of pleasure. One porcupine snuffled around in the snow, pulling up berries from underneath and placidly munching while seemingly talking to the berries. Another porcupine was up in a tree, pulling the berries off the branches. These few moments that connect me to scenes in nature I would never experience by myself always bring me a sense of peace.
After lunch, I went up to the nursing home as usual. My husband, who sometimes goes with me, stayed home to cook corned beef and cabbage. When I walked onto the floor where my mother’s room is, the nurse stopped me. She told me they had just called in the rapid response team for my mother who appeared to have had a seizure, her second one in a few weeks. She told me she had a pulse but was unresponsive. I couldn’t process the words. Another nurse escorted me to a small room off the dining room to wait for the response team to continue to work on my mother. At that point I was convinced my mother would not live. Then she was whisked off to the emergency room in the hospital. (The nursing home is attached to the hospital.) Once again she went through a series of tests. As the minutes went by, my mother returned to the living. Oxygen restored her breathing and her blood pressure began to go down. She could move and speak and seemed to have strength in her arms and legs. Over the course of the next four hours, she gradually returned to her normal self. The tests did not show what had happened and she was returned to her room in the nursing home.
Today I went up to see her and spent more time than usual. I brought her a cup of coffee and we went in to the dining room to enjoy the DJ Sal sing and play music for the residents of the nursing home. Fifteen residents sat around tables in their wheelchairs, some sleeping, some staring, some singing along and laughing at Sal’s jokes. He played and sang Irish songs and then moved on to country and pop songs of the past.
One resident, a prominent local surgeon dealing with Alzheimer’s, loved the music. He couldn’t speak well but he sure could sing. He sang along with “Danny Boy” and swung his arms to the music. At one point he wheeled himself over to me, took my hand, and kissed it. I told him I liked his sweater, a bright orange, and he told me in slow speech that he liked it too. I said it was my favorite color and he said then he would wear it tomorrow.
All the time I sat at my mother’s side, thinking how different today was from yesterday when I feared the worst and expected to lose her at any minute. Today she sat quietly, laughing at times, smiling, clearly enjoying the music. Sal is her favorite.
Sitting in the dining room with the residents, these men and women who are now my mother’s acquaintances, who I now know by name, people who once had active, busy lives, jobs, hobbies and activities and now sat in their wheel chairs listening to the joys of music, an overwhelming sadness came over me. I kept glancing at my mother, loving her, and wondering how I could ever exist without her. It comforted me to sit so close to her, to touch her shoulder, to laugh with her, to feel like she was still there if I needed her. And I did.
There was joy in the dining room of the nursing home today. The only tears were mine.