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Vagaries in Gestation: December 6.16

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThus does the middle-aged dad (aka, my firstborn) demonstrate to his eleven-year-old apprentice (who is not easily impressed) how the core of the fake Christmas tree can be fake-played as a guitar.

Christmas is obviously underway. This tree was bought by my parents long ago and has seen over thirty Christmases. It always leans, but it wears its generations of ornaments proudly.

Amid a torrent of abusively dumb eleven-year-old-boy jokes, the tree went up, twisted limb by twisted limb. My grandson sipped apple cider from a plastic Christmas cup dating to his dad’s boyhood. Grit from the garage made its annual path through the kitchen. Tradition reigned.

Then came the phone call. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter had been in an accident. Everyone reading this blog knows that life can change in a blink, so I’m not here to tell you what you already know. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter are shaken but all right, and that is what matters.

But so suddenly did family goofiness change to intense family anxiety that the suddenness got to me. It was whiplash of a sort. There are certainly times in life when we feel as though we are on the end of the crack-the-whip line, and right now I’m that kid that goes caroming off in zig-zag trajectory, trying not to end up flattened on the blacktop. I think it was easier back when the Christmas tree was new.




Vagaries in Gestation



1 Comment

Family knows

It is now about 7:30AM. Eighteen years ago this hour I called my mother. She was in the hospital’s oncology wing, and I was at home ready to make my list of what she wanted me to bring when I visited. We chattered as usual, but then Mom started talking about the clock. She didn’t make sense. Then we were back on track. Then her subject floated away again and I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about.

I told her I’d see her later, she said ‘bye, I hung up and immediately called the nurses’ station. “Is my mom OK? Did she have a stroke?” The nurse assured me that Mom had been observed and nothing alarming had been noted. So I went on with my morning. Before long, the nurse called back to ask how soon I could be there. I was stunned by the sudden urgency.

As I learned later, Mom’s oncologist had been in the nurses’ station when I called. Within seconds, the nurse had relayed my concern to the doctor, who grabbed Mom’s chart and made a beeline for Mom’s room, saying to the nurses, “Family knows them better than we do.” She checked Mom and instantly transferred her to Intensive Care.

It was the day from hell, and Mom died that evening. My memories of it are fire and smoke: searingly bright and chokingly obscured. But the doctor’s words rose out of it: family knows.

Those words resounded through my caregiving years. Deniers who said I exaggerated and medical personnel who considered me irrelevant tried to undermine my faith in my own insights. But I clung to the doctor’s words and I pass them on to you. If you are family caregiver, believe in yourself. Family knows.