The silence of a Saturday morning
Somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to sleep in.
Even a night of overindulgence can’t bring back the 12-hour snoozes of my youth. Right around 4 or 5 a.m., my body will jar awake, and these days, it often demands a groggy trip to the bathroom. I always return to bed, and sometimes, I can doze off for another hour or so.
Then the thoughts come, and the fidgets start. I think about what I have to do at work, about posts I should write, assignments I should grade, research I should research. I think about music I could be playing, movies I could be watching, books I could be reading. And then, I have to get up.
Of course, getting up doesn’t mean I actually do any of these things. I just think about them while sipping a cup of coffee and listening to the hum of our humidifier. The silence of a sleeping household is a rare gift.
Soon, Babe will wake up, a whirlwind of lists and activity, of things we need to get done. I am ever thankful because it is unlikely I would ever do anything without nudges driven by her insatiable desire for crossing items off lists. She is productive and organized; I am reflective and chaotic.
The animals will arise, with their needs to be fed, let out, and petted. Sometimes, our two indoor cats will howl and hiss at each other. The dogs may race around the house, and growl and bark. All will crave attention.
Lastly, the kids, the ones who can still savor those 12-hour layabouts under comforters, will awaken, hair askew, with no interest in conversation or puns or breakfast.
But I’ve had that moment of reflection, that break from the chaos. It is enough for the day ahead.
- 74 Plays
Humor in the dark
It never goes as smoothly as you expect, especially as your parents age.
It began as a cardiac ablation for my 80-year-old mom, a procedure we hoped would be a two-day hospital stay before returning home. The surgeon entered through three holes: one in each leg around the groin area and a third in the neck. He blasted heart imperfections with cold, and the hope was to eliminate the bumps that caused Mom’s atrial fibrillation.
On that score, the procedure worked flawlessly. Mom’s erratic beat had bopped around from 108 to 180 sitting still just before the procedure; by the time she was moved to the hospital room, it held at a steady 71 beats per minute.
The first day in the hospital, all went well, although Mom complained of some heart pain and soreness in her throat. Scans turned up nothing, but still Mom complained. The next day, she complained even more bitterly about the soreness and had trouble breathing.
Throughout the day, Mom had become fatalistic, which we attributed to the fact that she hates hospitals and has had almost no serious medical problems in her 80 years.
"This is it. I’m going home."
"I’m going to die."
"Are all of you here? This is it."
She was certain she was going to see my dad now. It reminded me a bit of Redd Foxx in Sanford and Son, clutching his chest, screaming about the “big one.” We tried our best to calm her down, but her anxiety kept escalating.
Some tests revealed a buildup of fluid around the lungs, and her belly was beginning to bloat, leading doctors to suspect there might be some post-surgical bleeding. They decided to move her to the critical care unit.
As they moved her bed into the CCU room, she became more agitated and continued with the apocalyptic speech. She was moaning loudly and talked about seeing Dad again.
One of the nurses thought the bright fluorescent lights might be overstimulating Mom and decided to flick them off.
"Oh!" Mom screamed as soon as the lights went off. "It’s all dark! It’s all dark!"
For a brief moment, all of us in that bleak room chuckled at the misinterpretation. We had to tell Mom that she was still with us, that the end had not come, that maybe, soon, all would be better.
Here we are, four days since the procedure. Mom is on a ventilator to give her lungs some help until the fluid subsides, and it’s likely she’ll remain on the machine for another two days. She is sedated to keep her calm, and her vitals look pretty good, except for her blood pressure — which is low due to the sedatives and painkillers. The bleeding has stopped, and she is getting some much-needed rest.
Today, they’re inserting a real-time blood-pressure monitor to keep a closer eye on her. Even after the ventilator is removed, she’ll have another few days in the CCU, and then it’s likely to be a long road to recovery. But the doctors are hopeful we’ve been through the worst.
All I keep thinking about is that moment weeks from now, when Mom is off the machines, back at home, independent once again, and we are sitting around the table, sharing a drink and a laugh about the time she mistook darkness for the end of the world.