Our Siege: My Mother & Me

Mother

Vignettes . . .
Our Siege
“Just Pain”
Jennifer & the Black Cat
Pain Meds
Nightmares
The Deer
Dr. Metwally
The Buddhist Monk
Crappy Nursing Homes
More Crappy Nursing Homes
Old Women’s Breasts
Sara’s Little Class
Grace
Prayer: Getting It All Wrong
Abandoned by Feminists
Her Life
Mothers & Daughters

Mother 2

Our Siege

My mother asked me this morning, “How long has this (she pauses, searches for the right word), this siege been going on?” I responded, “That’s an interesting way to think about it. Our siege has been going on for almost 5 weeks.” We both laughed a little, it certainly does feel like a siege, although that word would have never come to mind for me. I think of a military action, I think of Gaza. Later, back in my motel room I Google the term siege to check the definition. I discover that a secondary definition is “a prolonged period of misfortune.” Yes, my mother’s choice of words is brilliantly accurate.

“Just Pain”

I am afraid of pain. It feels ridiculous when I say it, like saying I am afraid of fire. I am with my mother in the Emergency Room and she is in excruciating pain. Things seem to move in slow motion in hospitals, the perspective of one who is suffering. The nurse has questions, needs to assess. Can you give her something for the pain? We must wait until the doctor assesses her. More waiting… More pain… Then, the doctor has to take time to assess. I tell the story of the injury one more time. Can you give her something for the pain? The kind and concerned young woman doctor explains that she has ordered pain meds but cannot administer medication herself; that must be done by a nurse. I’m thinking, “On the doctor shows on T.V. the doctors always give drugs!” More waiting… More pain… A male nurse comes in to assess and order an IV. He addresses my mother, “So, it’s just pain?” My hand is in my mother’s vise-like grip because she does not know what else to do but to squeeze my hand as a lifeline, hoping somehow to relieve the intensity of her pain. “JUST PAIN?” I incredulously repeat back to the nurse. He explains that a patient might be having a heart attack or stroke, something life threatening. Just pain is a good thing in an emergency room. This makes sense in the part of my brain that is still connected to rational thought. My hand has lost all feeling. Yes, it’s just pain. It feels ridiculous when I think it, like thinking it is just fire.

Jennifer & the Black Cat

We are back on the 5th floor after my mother’s big surgery on her hip and leg, after two days in the IMCU (that’s not ICU, but Inter-Mediate Care Unit, a slight step down from ICU). She was in a lot of post-op pain. I’ve experienced post-surgical pain a few times in my life, that awful void between the anesthesia and the pain medication, a knife of pain that seems unsurvivable in those moments. The IMCU nurses struggle to get my mother’s pain to be bearable, trying all the heavy hitters.

My mother has not fully awakened since her surgery. One of the nurses asks her about her name: “Oh, your name is so unusual, Burnice. Is that how you pronounce it: Burnice?” My mother: “Well, yes, it was my father’s name. I have never really liked my name.” The nurse: “What would you have liked your name to be? Is there a name that you really like?” My mother: “Well, Jennifer.” The nurse: “Would you like us to call you Jennifer?” My mother: “Well, yes, I would.” The nurse writes on the white board in my mother’s hospital room – “Likes to be called Jennifer.” So that’s what we all call her for the next few days, until she loses interest in the game.

My mother looks at me with a mother-daughter frustration, as if I am not doing what she thinks I should be doing. She bats at her legs with both hands as if she is trying to shoo something off of her. My mother: “Would you get him down?” Me: “Who?” My mother: “The cat. Get him off of me.” The black cat has been with my mother since surgery, a figment of her morphine haze. It’s not an unfriendly cat and she doesn’t dislike him, but she does not like him on her hospital bed. I pretend to pick up the black cat and take him into the hallway. The cat is persistent and just comes back in to be with my mother. The nurses tell me that some people have really scary hallucinations on morphine . . . we are lucky.

Pain Meds

A male nurse in the IMCU is giving my mother a dose of IV pain medication. He is thinking out loud and says to me, “It is such a shame that many parts of the world don’t have any pain medications, when here we just throw much of it away. I am surprised by this unanticipated comment and don’t understand what I just heard, “What do you mean?” He explains that the IV pain meds are packaged in predetermined doses in the syringes that are used. If, for example, my mother gets a smaller dose than what is in the syringe, the rest is simply thrown away. This information disturbs me and I wish I did not know it.

Nightmares

My mother is visibly shaken when I arrive at the nursing home one morning. She tells me that she had a really bad nightmare. She was being chased and there were helicopters and horses. It is one of those bad dreams that stay with you through the morning hours. I ask her the first question that comes to my mind, “Were you running away? Was your new leg working?” I thought a dream where she was running on her new leg could be a harbinger of good news to come in her recovery. She doesn’t remember anything about her leg, just how scared she felt with all those helicopters and horses chasing her.

I had a terrible dream the night before my mother’s big surgery. One of those bad dreams that stays with you for a long time. I was leaving my mother for the night, traveling down the elevator from her room on the fifth floor. As I exited the elevator in the hospital lobby I could hear my mother’s voice calling my name, her voice an urgent echo coming through the elevator shaft. I needed to get back up to the 5th floor but the elevator would not work, there were no buttons for the 5th floor, the doors kept shutting on me, you know the kind of dream I’m talking about. I frantically looked for the stairs. When I find the staircase the stairs were too narrow and I could not fit . . . I continued to hear my mother’s cry to me but I could not reach her. Her voice had the same distressed and pleading tone that she had used that morning when I arrived to find that she had had a terrible night. She was sitting up in bed with her hands up in the air while two nurses were trying to get her comfortable. “Sheryl, Sheryl, please make them stop!” She desperately believed that I would know how to relieve her suffering.

The Deer

We like Robert, he is my mother’s CNA during some of the days we spend on the 5th floor. He is cute, friendly, talkative. He tells us how his father kicked him out when he was still in high school, but it was really a good thing because he got his own place, finished school, learned how to take care of himself. He is 27 and wants to have his RN by the time he is 30. I like his positive attitude about life. He is kind to my mother. One morning as Robert is assisting my mother, he tells us that he has had a crazy morning. He hit a deer on the way to work in the early morning hours and had to drive all the way back home to leave his damaged car. I wonder about the deer: “Did it kill the deer?” Robert emotionlessly responds, “It was hurt really badly. I had to put it out of its misery. I didn’t have a gun or anything, so I just took care of it.” He gestures with his hands to indicate that he did something to kill the deer.

Dr. Metwally

Dr. Metwally has given my mother a second chance. Really, Dr. Metwally has given my mother her life back.

My mother was transported by ambulance from her small hometown hospital to a large regional hospital about an hour from her home. She was admitted through the emergency room in the evening and we waited until about 5:00 p.m. the next afternoon before seeing her doctor. We were weary from the waiting, when Dr. Metwally and Steve, his PA, suddenly appeared and started talking to my mother without introducing themselves. My mother’s RN for the afternoon, Ryan, even slipped back in her room to hear what the doctor was going to say. “Berniece, this is really a BIG surgery.” Dr. Metwally’s voice is loud. “I guarantee that you will lose a lot of blood and need blood transfusions. You might die during surgery…Then it will be a long difficult recovery with some time in rehab.” My mother does not know if she can go through such a big surgery. “What other options are there?” I must ask. “Well, you really don’t have much of a choice. You could do nothing, but you will lie in a bed and die.” Dr. Metwally asks my mother what her wishes are if something happens during surgery—would she want them to save her life? He does a little mental status check by asking her a few questions: “Berniece, what month is it? Do you know where you are right now? Who is our president?” His voice is loud, as if he assumes that my mother is hard of hearing. She ends up saying “O.K.” The surgery won’t be tomorrow, it will be the next day. Another day of agony and waiting…

I am stunned by the sober reality of our situation, my mother’s situation. I try to read Dr. Metwally’s face and tone of voice and the faces of those who have surrounded him to hear what he is planning for this unusual case. I stop my mother’s nurse in the hallway, I like him, he has taken the time to understand my mother’s story: “Ryan, what do you think? There really seems to be no choice?” His response is grounding, “I think of it in terms of her quality of life. With the surgery there is at least a chance at some quality; without the surgery there is no chance.”

My mother’s hometown orthopedic surgeon once told us that my mother’s x-rays would freak out any emergency room doctor, this after my mom was taken to the ER after a fall. This small town doctor, and I mean SMALL in many ways, told my mother that there was nothing that could be done to fix her leg. He told her that the only option would be to cut it off. This statement has haunted her. She will not let anyone cut off her leg. My mother has lived in pain and on pain medication for many years. She had a hip replacement a long time ago; because of her severe osteoporosis her bones did not hold the implant in place. Over time it has shifted downward, so that over the past five years or so she has lived with chronic pain as the shaft of the implant that is in her femur has been literally breaking through her bone. I feel shaky describing my mother’s situation because it is so awful. Finally, the implant shifted enough so that my mother was incapacitated with excruciating pain and unable to walk or move.

The day between Dr. Metwally’s visit and the surgery, this space of a day, is one of our most difficult. My mother is not sure she can do it, go through the surgery. She is exhausted from the pain, from the cruelty of her life story. She is spent. I wonder how on earth she will find the reserves of energy and emotional strength to do it. I ask for the doctors to speak to her again, as I am not sure what choice she has made about the surgery. She has changed her mind. She really has no choice. Choiceless choices. By the time Dr. Metwally’s PA, Steve, comes in to see us my mother is calmer, her pain is bearable for a little while. I am thankful that he pronounces her name correctly—he addresses her as Burnice. He takes the time to know her name. He is respectful. She tells Steve, “I’m not ready to not be in this world. Yes, I know I have to do the surgery.” She also tells Steve that if something goes wrong, she does not want them to save her life. She has decided to be a DNR.

I knit, I wait, I drink Diet Coke, I watch the people around me and wonder about their stories. I chose to wait by myself, not wanting to deal with the emotions of family members. They text me periodically, “Any news yet?” “No, still waiting.” I know that if the doctor comes out too soon it will mean that my mother died during surgery or that maybe they could not do anything surgically to repair her leg. Part of me hopes that she will be taken during surgery, that her pain will end, that at least her death won’t be in pain. It is a horrible feeling and thought. It is a long wait. After several hours, I don’t think she is going to die during surgery. Finally, after about 5 hours, Dr. Metwally comes through the double doors. We sit down and talk in a small room. His voice is quiet. She did well during surgery. She needed blood. This was really a difficult surgery. Dr. Metwally had never seen bones like my mother’s, he said they were like wet paper. He gestured as if he was remembering how it felt to hold her bone between his fingers. Her femur bone was almost nonexistent so they built a new femur with a metal plate. To get enough bone to hold the hip implant, the shaft goes almost down to her knee. “What about the hip joint?” I ask. Her small town doctor said that her pelvic bone could not hold a new implant. “Oh, that was no problem at all,” says Dr. Metwally. “Do you want to see the x-ray?” he offers. He shows me the x-ray of my mother’s new leg on his phone. I see the plate that is now her femur, I see the new metal hip implant, and I see the dozens of large metal screws that hold it all together. Dr. Metwally wipes his brow with the hand not holding his phone and says, “Wheh, that was really a hard one…” He is tired.

Dr. Metwally walks with me down the corridor to show me the way to IMCU where my mother will be taken. He says that he hopes the new leg will be more stable for her, that she will be able to walk around her house again with her walker. That would be a successful outcome. I try to read his face, his tone of voice. He is worried, not sure how this will go. She has a long difficult recovery and rehab ahead. I ask, “What do you think? Will she be able to walk again?” Dr. Metwally responds, “Well, look at what she has lived with. That says a lot about who she is.”

The Buddhist Monk

Buddhist monks. They seem to float, like bald apparitions in long flowing brown robes, in pairs or threes through the lobby and parking lot of the hospital. I know a bit of their story. My mother’s caregiver also works at their monastery taking care of an elder monk there. One of the monks is having open heart surgery, so they are here to support their friend. My mother has been in the emergency room for hours. I am returning from a short break to grab something to eat. A monk is standing outside my mother’s room. An older woman. I am shocked by her shaved head. I am taken a back, I don’t know how to interpret the monk’s presence here. I’m exhausted with this new crisis that brought my mother back to the hospital within 24-hours of her discharge. I introduce myself and ask her why she is here at my mother’s door. Her face is kind. She tells me that our caregiver had told her about my mother. She had come to see her. We walk into the room together. My mother is turned away from us in the hospital bed, she has been coping with horrible pain. “Mom, someone is here to see you.” She turns toward us. When she sees the monk my mother’s face softens and she smiles and welcomes her. They hold hands and talk for a few minutes. My mother embraces the spiritual presence of this woman. The monk’s presence eases my mother’s pain. It is a momentary gift.

Crappy Nursing Homes

It is a real life nightmare. My mother has spent one night in the rehab facility/nursing home. I arrive in the early morning to find my mother sitting in a wheelchair eating her breakfast. She looks good. I feel hopeful. She asks for help to be put back into bed. A pretty young CNA named Taylor says that she needs to weigh my mother before she goes back to bed. Taylor takes the foot rests off of the wheelchair and wheels her into the long hallway. I follow them. All of a sudden my mother bends over in agony and cries out. I kneel beside her. Her foot went down to the floor when she was being propelled forward, her right foot, jamming her entire leg from ankle to hip. The leg that just had all that surgery. Oh, god. I am a witness. I recall a flash of premonition, the image of my mother’s feet very close to the floor. I should have known. I should have prevented this. Oh, god. She is crying in pain when she is helped back into bed. I go to get the nurse and explain what happened. I ask for pain medication. I can’t believe this is happening. The pain meds don’t touch my mother’s pain. I find the nurse again. She decides to call my mother’s surgeon. My mother is taken by ambulance to the emergency room at the hospital as ordered by her doctor. She has a new pelvic fracture. Six hours later, we are back on the 5th floor overlooking the helicopter pad.

I go back to the nursing home to speak to someone in charge. The administrator and Director of Nursing meet with me. They don’t ask me to sit down in the administrator’s office. The nurse remains standing, leaning against the small conference table. I am exhausted and almost ask if I can sit. They are not happy that I am there. The Nurse is defensive. I explain what happened to my mother, what I witnessed. I ask for a copy of their report on this incident. I question their practice of moving patients without footrests, especially someone like my mother who has had recent hip and leg surgery. They tell me that they have no reporting responsibility. I am incredulous, “You mean, one of your patients is taken by ambulance to the hospital due to an injury that was caused by your staff and you do not have to report it?” I am told no, only if it is abuse or neglect. I am confrontational, I am honest. I tell them that I will be making my own report. I call the Long-term Care Ombudsman, who in turn makes a report to the state licensing agency. I am right, although unintentional, this was an act of neglect and must be reported.

More Crappy Nursing Homes

After four more days on the 5th floor, watching traumas come in by helicopter, my mother is discharged to a different rehab facility/nursing home. We feel hopeful that this one is a better place. The admissions coordinator assures me that my mother will get very good care, but I can’t take my eyes off her white lipstick, like the first lipstick my friends and I used in 8th grade. She is very sweet and sincere, “My mother-in-law is here right now and I don’t even visit her every day because I know she is getting such good care.” I arrive at about 7:00 p.m. on my mother’s first night in “paradise” (my name for this facility). My mother was admitted at about 3:00 in the afternoon, her discharge paperwork forwarded by the hospital earlier in the morning. My mother is in pain. She has not had pain meds since her last dose in the hospital at 1:00 p.m. She is supposed to get meds every 4 hours and it has now been 6. I find the nurse. His name is Norm, he’s a stalky bald guy. I don’t like him. I hate that look—why do men shave their heads anyway? Norm is scattered and anxious. 8:30 – 9:30 – 10:00 still no pain medication. Norm says he is trying: he says it is the pharmacy’s fault, then it is the doctor’s fault for not signing the prescription, then he is faxing the doctor (do people still fax things?). I am frantic, I am angry. My mother is turned on her side in the bed grasping the sheets in both hands rocking back and forth. She is in agony. I pace the hall in front of the nurse’s station. I don’t know what to do. A woman sits in the nurse’s station with Norm and looks at me with a strange sneer on her face. She thinks I am causing them grief. I want to slap that expression off her face. I keep pacing. 10:30 I call my mother’s caregiver who lives 45 miles away. I don’t know what else to do. She calls the hospital and talks to a supervising nurse. The nurse pulls up my mother’s records and says that the facility nurse can call her directly. I tell Norm to call her. My mother’s caregiver gets in her car and drive over the mountain to be with my mother. 11:00 Another nurse comes into my mother’s room, asks me if they can substitute Norco for the Oxy that my mother is supposed to get. I can’t believe they are asking me. I tell them that I am not a medical person, I cannot make this decision. I want my mother to have the prescribed drug. I am beside myself. 11:30 Norm says, “We may just have to sort this out in the morning.” This is beyond belief. I fall over the cliff. I tell him that I am ready to call an ambulance to take my mother back to the hospital. My mother’s caregiver arrives, lies beside her in bed, and helps her take deep breaths. 11:45 Norm comes in and gives my mother her pain pills.

I meet with the Director of Nursing the next morning. She is apologetic, “I’m so sorry. This just never happens.” She is very sweet, like the admissions lady but without the distracting white lipstick. I make another report to the Long-term Care Ombudsman. The next day, Adult Protective Services is investigating my mother’s case. We don’t feel safe leaving my mother by herself. My mother’s caregiver agrees to stay with her overnight at the nursing home so that we don’t have to leave her alone. She loves my mother a lot. We spent three weeks in the nursing home with my mother, advocating, trying to ensure that she was safe. What we learned: nursing homes are crappy places with a few good people.

Old Women’s Breasts

I feel a little guilty in my voyeurism. Sara, my mother’s roommate in the nursing home, is putting on her nightgown. I don’t know her age. Sara has dementia, at least part of the time, and has told me she is 33, 77, and 88. I like the symmetry of the numbers that come to her mind. I think that 88 is probably the closest to the truth—she is quite old. My mother, who is 83, has very droopy breasts, the breasts of an old woman. I peek at Sara as she changes into her nightgown because I wonder if she has lived her long life without the tragedy and disfigurement of breast cancer. She has both her breasts, droopy beautiful old woman breasts, like my mother. My best childhood friend has lost one of her breasts to cancer; her breast cancer is now on her spine and in her lungs. I don’t really understand why they call it breast cancer when it appears in other places in the body. My friend is 60 years old, too young to lose her breast, to lose her life. These two old women have had long lives, thank god—they have droopy beautiful old women’s breasts.

Sara’s Little Class

I am spying again on Sara, as I sit with my mother in the nursing home. Some sort of therapist is sitting next to Sara’s bed and talking to her about helping “with her thoughts.” Ms. Therapist is holding a clipboard and is playing a matching game with Sara, the kind that one might play with preschool children. She is describing characteristics of different farm animals and asking Sara to identify and name them. Ms. Therapist: “What has a short nose and a curly tail?” Sara: “Hmmm. Let me see. Let me think about that. No, not that. How about a kitty cat?” Ms. Therapist: “Well, no, it is a pig.” I’ll go with the kitty cat, I am thinking to myself. This game does not allow for individual interpretation. The game goes on with Ms. Therapist describing different types of barn yard animals. “What has webbed feet and likes to swim?” After Ms. Therapist wraps up her mind games with Sara and leaves the room, Sara addresses me through the thin fold-out partition that separates her bed from my mother’s: “How did you like my little class?” Sara is quite perceptive and she seemed to know that I was listening. I said, “Well, Sara, it all seemed a little silly to me.” She retorted, “I’ll say!”

I don’t know much about dementia or how to understand what Sara is experiencing. She is fully aware of her challenge at remembering specific things and sometimes will say things like, “They think I’m just a crazy woman.” Or when she can’t remember something, I will say, “That’s O.K.” and she will respond, “No, it’s not.” After three weeks of being around Sara, I observe that her dementia is a part-time affair. Sara is witty and funny and observant. Her responses are usually quite appropriate to the conversation, her sense of humor is dry and hilarious, and she is in touch with what is happening to others around her. She is very sweet. One morning I walked in to find my mother covered up with Sara’s special crocheted blanket; my mother had gotten cold in the early morning and Sara offered her own precious quilt. Sometimes Sara strings together her words in ways that on the surface don’t make sense or that seem incongruent with the current conversation or moment. She would be an interesting study for a cognitive linguist, because, although her words come out all wrong, there is usually a thread in the thought that is perfectly coherent, even though masked by the way the words are strung together. There is a pattern to the way Sara expresses herself, but I can’t quite unravel the puzzle. I find Sara’s voice, her unique expressions, playing over and over in my mind. I have sort of gotten into the unique rhythm of Sara’s thinking. Perhaps Sara’s “little class” is useful in exercising Sara’s brain, but I can’t help but wonder how she must feel being treated like a child. What if Ms. Therapist sat and talked to Sara about her family, current events, or about things that interested Sara? Why not exercise her mind in a meaningful way, why not express a regard for the richness of her long life? Sara is going home today. She has become my mother’s friend and we will miss her.

Mommy

Grace

Grace is one of those ineffable words that I have never really grasped. What does it mean when someone has grace? Is it a quality? Is it an action? Is grace present only in bad situations? I believe that my mother has given me a glimpse into the essence of this term, grace. I like the feel and sound of this word. Even when my mother was in unbearable pain, she acknowledged and thanked those who were trying to help her. “Thank you, Sir.” “Thank you, Mam.” Grace. My mother’s hospital room on the 5th floor overlooked the helicopter landing pad (that may explain the helicopters in her nightmare). From her bed she could see the helicopters fly in and out, from my perch at the window I watched as they unloaded trauma victims and brought the stretchers into the hospital. Like watching a train wreck, I could not look away. I wonder about their stories. It has to be a very bad story to be brought in by helicopter. As I watch out the window, my mother reflects, “Well, there are people who have it a lot worse.” Grace. My mother’s roommate, Sara, has dementia. My mother does not miss a beat in communicating with Sara, she shows no reaction to her dementia. My mother allows Sara her full humanity, she treats her like a friend. Grace.

Prayer – Getting It All Wrong

My mother is laughing. As I get ready to leave the nursing home for the night, she presses one of the buttons that positions her bed. The whole bed jerks and shakes as it moves higher and higher. She laughs. It is funny. She presses the button again to prolong the humorous experience and keeps laughing. I don’t remember ever seeing her laugh like this. Funny things do happen in the nursing home. One night Sara pushed the wrong button on her bed and could not stop the bed from folding her in half—she became trapped in her bed like bologna in a sandwich. The look on her face was funny. She was stuck. I asked her a stupid question, “Do you want me to do something?” To which she responded, “Well, YES!” My mother kept asking me to tell other people the story about Sara getting trapped in her bed so that she could laugh again at their sometimes bizarre circumstances. Sara’s pants feel down in the dining room—they laughed about that.

I don’t believe in god, at least not in the ways that religions conceive of him or her or it. When someone I know has something bad happening I will sometimes say, “I’ll keep you in my prayers.” I say this in notes to my best friend who has cancer because she does believe in god. I can’t think of anything else to say. I don’t really know what I mean when I say that. I guess I mean that you are in my thoughts and I hope for the best. When my mother was in surgery, I thought, “If there is a god, if there is anything kind in the universe, then my mother will be taken during surgery.” I hoped that her pain would end. I prayed that she would die in surgery.

I could not have been more wrong. These matters of god or the universe or other peoples suffering are not for me to know or have any say about. I know that my prayer was really about wanting my own suffering to end. I did not believe that I could bear my mother’s pain any longer. My mother is laughing, she is walking again. Dr. Metwally was right, she is laughing, this “says a lot about who she is.”

Abandoned by Feminism

My mother is not the kind of woman that is of interest to feminists. She was a 1950s housewife who has always been dependent on a man, spending her life taking care of my father. I have never felt close to my mother. From an early age I wanted to be everything that she was not. I have disrespected her passive role in her relationship with my father. I saw her as weak. I have spent my life hating the emotional abuse that she has put up with since I was a child. When our siege happened this summer, I was supposed to attend a curriculum institute sponsored by the National Women’s Studies Association. In preparation, we were asked to read articles about transgender studies, decolonizing feminist pedagogy, conceptualizing the nation. I was looking forward to these discussions, to seeing what my colleagues were thinking, what kinds of questions they were asking. I enjoy theory. I call it “mind-fuck” because so much of theory is one theorist talking to another theorist, arguing complex intellectual points that rarely trickle down in a meaningful way to the Women’s Studies classroom. I sat in hospitals and nursing homes while my colleagues were talking about how to trans/decolonize/denationalize women’s studies (I don’t really know what they talked about, but this is how I imagine the conversation). Old women are not interesting to my field, they are not an emerging or edgy issue. They are virtually invisible in feminist work. I did not find solace or perspective in my feminist lens during our siege. I had it all wrong, that my mother was weak, a passive and dependent woman—a woman that feminists, that I, could not respect or admire. I have learned a lot from my mother. My mother’s inner strength, incredible agency, and yes, grace, have garnered my deepest respect and admiration. My feminist lens has been shifted by my mother, now allowing in more light, more options for what it means to be a courageous and strong woman.

Her Life

We decide to take my mother home. She is so happy to be back in her own modest house, she yearned for her own bed. I weep as I see the relief and joy on her face as she crawls between her silky purple sheets. She has been home for an hour after a 5 week ordeal. My father is already grumbling and complaining. Being an asshole rather than celebrating the fact that mother has another chance at life. This is her life. We did it. We got her home. She still has some painful recovery ahead, but she is already walking around her house with her walker. I suspect that Dr. Metwally will be writing a journal article about my mother.

Mother’s & Daughters

I am sitting on the end of my mother’s hospital bed on the 5th floor. She says, “This reminds me of how I slept on the end of your bed in the hospital when you had your tonsils out. You were just a small child and I knew you were scared. I didn’t want to leave you alone.”

My mother is going home in a couple of days. She says to me, “I really didn’t know at times if I would make it. I wondered if this was it. My time. I was so scared and then I would look and you were there.”

Grace.

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2 Responses to Our Siege: My Mother & Me

  1. What an ordeal for both of you. You made the experience very vivid. It was as though you needed the pain medication too so you could continue being your mom’s advocate. You learned a lot by this harrowing experience, especially accepting your mother’s own kind of humanity. Bravo, Sheryl.

  2. mayleechai says:

    These are very powerful vignettes, Sheryl! I am so glad that you wrote them and are sharing them with the world. I think you’ve introduced some very powerful themes that *should* be addressed in feminist theory and women’s studies , including the reliance on daughters by mothers (the scene where your mother sees you sitting at the end of her bed and felt comforted–grace–gave me chills) as well as the intersection of sexism and ageism! Really powerful, moving, and important!

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