November 27th, 2009
I’m down in Charleston, South Carolina for Thanksgiving weekend. So far:
1. Last night’s meal was a cornucopia of culinary goodness that would put Martha Stewart and other food snobs to shame.
2. I took a bubble bath. With bubbles. Not Michael Jackson’s beloved chimp in the 80’s.
3. I woke up this morning at 5:30 to my mom making a 911 call because my stepfather had aspirated and was unconscious. Cut to a few minutes later when their bedroom was filled with firemen, policemen and paramedics. Oh yeah 3 barking dachshunds (locked in the office) added to the ambience. Yet, everyone was cool. Especially my mom. This is nothing new.
My stepfather has been to the emergency room 25+ times over the last ten years. In 1999, he received large doses of radiation for cancer treatments and since that time his swallowing and breathing has been debilitated. Episodes like the one above generally land him in the hospital for 2 to 5 days (sometimes longer) while receiving intravenous antibiotics to treat his frequent lung infections and inflammation or pneumonia.
Over the years, he continues to appear on the brink of death, then (in alarming record speed) recovers. Every time. So far. He was unconscious longer than usual this time around so there was concern as to why. Then....as a Thanksgiving miracle should be...he came to. One of the male nurses is convinced that his extended slumber was the result of the tryptophan from the Turkey. There is much debate whether this amino acid truly does act as a natural sedative. It seemed pretty factual today.
I’m not making light of this scenario because his constant health rollercoaster is of great concern. Yet my mom has discovered some centered and admirable space that is present, efficient and heartfelt as she always revisits the familiar routine: She finds her husband unconscious - calls 911- medical types are in the house - medical types take him to the ER - he’s hooked up to scary machines - then.... he’s back in the land of the living – repeat cycle.
My step father is a doctor. An ophthalmologist. Yet it is my mother who has played nurse for the past decade. She holds her own talking medical linguistics with everyone involved in his recovery. It blows me away. She used big words, works respirators and changes trachea tubes. Yeah, confuses me too.
Once we received the word that he had pulled through, mom and I got some lunch. We talked about how she was a biology major and had always had an interest in science but getting married at 21 resulted with her switching her major to education. She has no regrets because she has two children who are “honest, moral, curious and have the ability to be present, especially when needed.” Nice. Right?
Here’s what’s interesting about mom. She admits that she has been known to exhibit “anxiety” when life’s smaller mishaps occur. Yet, under extreme pressure, no one is as collected as my mother. She is finding that these more traumatic events are assisting her with riding through all of life’s unknowns.
Mom: Nothing is constant but change
Jax – Did you make that up?
Mom – No. But I use it.
I asked her the fastest way that she can shift her mood. Mom lives on the beach and finds long meditative walks nurturing. If you don’t live by the ocean....I suggest running your bath and just taking a meditative saunter around your bathroom. Also, she finds cozy rituals are helpful. She starts and ends her days on the porch over looking the water. In the morning, with coffee. At night, with brandy.
Mom and I bonded and I am grateful for that.
I am also grateful that I have learned of a real life scenario that is analogous to a movie cliché. As we know, many films will have local police handling a crime. Eventually (to the dismay of the cops) the FBI will take over the scene. There is always a bit of animosity between these two groups as the local guys feel jilted about the hierarchy of crime solving. As I mentioned this morning, the firemen and policemen showed up first to do some basic medical work on my stepfather. Once the EMS(paramedics) arrived with their fancy medical equipment and(less than a doctor but more than a fireman) medical training... I sensed there was a similar rivalry.