As regular readers know, my wife and I moved about 15 miles south down I-5 to Wilsonville to be closer to my 85 year old mother. A couple of weeks ago I found out why that was such a good idea when my mother fell in her kitchen right after I got back from the Sunriver game retreat. At first, we thought that she'd hurt her shoulder, which hit the frame of the entrance to her kitchen. X-rays showed no bones broken, though, so the doctor recommended Tylenol for the pain until the ligaments healed up.
A week later, though, my mother was suffering from lower back pain, which eventually moved into her hip and around to the front of her thigh on the side she would have landed on, with less pain on the left side. More X-rays showed no breaks in her pelvis, but the concern is no longer about her hips but about her spine. Her specific symptoms are likely caused by a compression fracture in her spine. Astute readers know that for an 85-year-old, this is not going to get better, ever.
We had an MRI done last night to verify or rule out (hopefully) issues with her spinal column. [Side note: apparently tattoos contain enough ferrous material in the ink to cause problems with MRIs. The ink is pulled out of the skin by the magnets. Ouch.] We are still waiting to hear the results, hoping that in the digital age that maybe, just maybe, they could get results to a doctor within 24 hours of a test for diagnosis.
Time is of the essence because my mother is in enough pain to warrant her being on Vicodin. I'm pretty sure that she hasn't taken pain medication in something like 40 years, and she rarely even drinks wine, so finding an effective dose that gets rid of her pain without making her so woozy that she'll fall again is a bit of a trick. Especially because when she's woozy it's hard for her to assess her condition and communicate it effectively.
The MRI went until after 6:30pm, and by the time I got Mom home and everything but tucked in it was close to 8pm. I had already excused myself from the weekly gaming session for that very reason, knowing that I couldn't make it until well after everyone had started. That's a pretty small issue in the larger scheme of things, but I believe that it is going to signal a trend in my life. I've seen this coming for a while, but was hoping that it might hold off a bit more (sort of like becoming a grandparent!) While I don't have a firm diagnosis yet, the symptoms are so clear that I know that the rest of my mother's life is going to be pain management and physical therapy.
Don't get me wrong. My mother and I have an incredible relationship, and I am honored and pleased to be helping her. I also am extremely fortunate to be in the financial position I am in, in no small part to her hard work, and thus I am able to limit my activities to the point where anything I'm involved in can more or less be cancelled or put on hold. The one exception is the band I'm playing in, which will be a problem once they start getting gigs. I may have to reconsider my involvement there, I'm afraid. Otherwise, I can drop anything I'm doing and be there for my mother when she needs help.
I've been hesitant to bring this element of my life into my blog not because I'm embarrassed about the situation. On the contrary, I think that one of the best parts of the internet is being able to reach out and find a huge number of people who have gone through or are going through exactly what is happening to you, and by blogging I am adding to the body of experience that's out there. What has concerned me is my mother's privacy, made clear today when a friend's daughter mentioned that she'd stumbled across my blog while looking for information on Ticket to Ride! However, I've decided that few if any people my mother knows are internet literate enough to connect this blog with her, and I think that regular readers will get a clearer picture of what happens if the time element is present. It's a small thing, but tracking events as they happen feels different from reading a ten year old diary, for example.
I anticipate that many of my posts in the coming months and years will be about my experiences in caring for my mother, and I hope that those of you who have been in a similar situation will feel comfortable speaking of your own trials and joys along the way.
Before I go, I will leave you with this. I do not believe in an afterlife, at least other than what we produce through our DNA. I know that life is temporary, that we have but a short time on this world. I also know that life is cheap in the general sense (cheap enough that we are approaching the planet's capacity to support our species), but precious in the specific sense. To hear of the tsunami that killed so many in SE Asia a few years ago is terrible and tragic, yet the loss of a single close friend or relative has a larger effect on us. As such, I try not to couch my language about death other than to spare the feelings of those I'm speaking with. I will use terms like dying and death about my mother, and it's inevitability, but I do not do so out of callousness but out of a sense of reality and acceptance. I have spoken with my mother about death, and she is, I believe, ready. I will treasure the time we will spend over the coming months and years for the rest of my life, and I hope her remaining time will be as pleasant as I can make it.