Pat (Patricia) asked, “You know that old Victorian house across the street from mine?” He replied, “Yes, I do.” Pat continued, “A real good lawyer lives there and he is going to get me a new trial. This time I will get out of this prison as we are going to get a woman judge.” Her visitor sat silently, as he didn’t want to tell her that she was disillusioned. A bit later her meal arrived and she just stared at it. Since being confined here she was having drug withdrawals. There was one drug that had dominated her whole adult life. That drug was a potent liquid know as coffee. Since arriving here she had been Jonesing for a cup of coffee. The only coffee they offered her had terrible tasting Thick-it added to it. She took a sip her first day here and spit it out. Fact is, all of the food had Thick-it added and she refused to eat any of it. She had been having a hard time swallowing so all of her food was pureed. It didn’t resemble food at all, so she was going on a hunger strike. They would soon learn how hard-headed she was. She had been shouting out loudly to anyone within earshot that she was getting out of this prison. Her husband and family came to visit her every day. She’d swear at them and demand that they organize a jailbreak for her.
She was hungry but still refusing to eat anything but a little bit of applesauce. She claimed even that was way too sour. She knew good food as she was an excellent cook and an even better baker. She was someone people came to and asked to bake fancy wedding cookies. Everyone in this region of the country knows you must have a big table of assorted cookies at a wedding reception. She had also worked at a fancy clothing store for over twenty years. It was the kind of place that wealthy women patronized. As a woman who knew style, she had found her calling. She got to know the taste in style that the store’s loyal shoppers wanted. She would call many of these women to tell them an article of clothing had come in that she thought was designed for them. She would bring clothing she had selected for various customers to their houses at their request. This service soon became a big part of her job. She was able to aid the clothing store owner in the type of clothing styles he needed to be successful. She was also living in a new time of growing feminism. She was able to help dress women for success to help give them get a fair shot of breaking that glass ceiling.
Here many years after the store had closed, Pat sat in confinement with a roommate. Today, that roommate was finally going home. The room was abuzz with employees of the place helping pack. There is tons of paperwork to fill out before you can get out of such a place. Pat stared at her food still refusing to eat. Pat had a couple of relatives who were in the room visiting her today. They had been trying to encouraging her to eat. They were also trying to keep Pat calm during all the activity of her roommate’s leaving. Pat jealously stared at her roommate, she was longing for the day when she would be released. Pat spoke up to one the attendants helping her roommate. She declared, “Waitress, this food was not very good at all. We will not be coming back ever again. That is OK though, as we would just like to have our bill. We just want to pay and go home.” One of the attendees asked Pat “Is there anything I can get you?” Pat replied, “Justice.”
The Pat I speak of is my 84 year-old mother, and the he I refer to, is me. The prison she was in was actually, Sharon Regional Hospital. Her recent sentence was for ten days. I have nothing to say about the staff that attended to my mother but great things. While in the hospital Pat (my mother) didn’t understand what she was suffering from. In the old days they called it, “a failure to thrive.” It is a term they no longer use but is very descriptive of her problem. She had been hospitalized after a bad fall at home. She fell because people were chasing her. The people persuing her were all in her imagination. She had been afflicted with dementia for about a year. Many times, she was totally rational, other times she spoke about things that just didn’t make sense (to anyone but her). I wasn’t making fun of mom’s dementia when I spoke about her thinking she was either in prison or a restaurant with terrible food. I actually marveled at how mom creatively used her dementia to illustrate how she felt trapped in a situation she wanted out of. We all knew mom was never going to get better but we didn’t want to tell her that. We didn’t want to diminish mom’s hope of getting out of the hospital and going home to “thrive.” Truth is mom didn’t have dementia when it came to thinking she was getting better. I knew that when I heard her speaking to a nurse at her bedside. The nurse had asked her, “Honey is there something I can get you?” Mom replied, “Honesty.” At that I choked up and had an even harder time swallowing than mom had been having.
My mother’s doctor wanted my father to put her in a nursing home. Our family toured an area nursing home along with my father. My father decided he didn’t want to see my mother put into such a tiny room with another roommate. The cost of a nursing home is unbelievable (I will discuss healthcare costs at another time). My dad decided to take mom to their home and have Hospice come there. Under Medicare they can only come a few hours a week. My dad opted to hire an agency that provided home healthcare along with the help from Hospice. This was even more costly than a nursing home. Dad decided it wasn’t about the money; it was that mom would prefer to be home. My dad is a couple of years older than my mom. I was hoping that the strain of taking care of my mother didn’t kill him. My dad’s sister, my brother and I went to help him as much as we could in the week she was at home.
Thursday in the evening I was driving home from their house on a wooded back road. I turned a corner and slammed on the brakes as three small deer were standing in the road staring at me. I waited as they walked only several feed into the woods, they then stopped and all stared back at me. Being of Irish decent I know that the Celts (as well as Native Americans) have thoughts about what deer represent. It is anything from: love, beauty, grace, creativity, and watchfulness to spirituality. It left me thinking that all those things could describe my mother. When I arrived home, I was still thinking about those deer and realized they were a mother and her female doe. I did some computer research and came across this, “The deer (particularly the doe, female) has the capacity for infinite generosity. Their heart rhythms pulse in soft waves of kindness. Match that graciousness by offering your trust to her. She will reward you by leading you to the most powerful spiritual medicine you can fathom.”
On Friday after work I took dinner to my dad and stayed the night with him to help attend to my mother. I wanted to give my dad’s sister, Cathy a break from her generosity of staying all night for most of the week. We had my mother set up in a hospital bed in my parent’s family room (the largest room in the house). My dad was sleeping on a couch near the hospital bed and I was sleeping in a recliner nearby. My mother was not in a lot of pain as we had been medicating her. Her breathing had been getting harder each day. On Saturday November 5, 2016 at 4 am mom quit breathing. She hadn’t had the strength to talk her last couple of days. My father said a few days ago she stated, “I’ve had a glimpse of the other side and it’s beautiful.” I’d like to think she was in her own way, “leading us to the most powerful spiritual medicine we can fathom.” Rest in Peace, Pat and thanks for your watchfulness.
One of my mom’s favorite songs seems so appropriate: Nat King Cole: “Unforgettable”
“How can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?” ~Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter