“I’m assuming you know what’s happening with Mom but just in case you don’t she’s being admitted to the stroke ward at the hospital.”
It’s the night before Thanksgiving, here in Thailand, I’m up prepping food for the next day. We’re having new friends over to celebrate with us, because when you’re from a big family, it doesn’t really feel like a celebration without lots of people in the house.
“I don’t know anything. I haven’t talked to her for a few weeks.” I message back. “Did she have a stroke?”
She went to the hospital last night when she had a bad headache, blurred vision and her arm started twitching uncontrollably. They did a CT scan and discovered bleeding in her brain. Her heart stopped at some point and they did CPR. She was rushed to the hospital where AJ (our brother) met her at midnight last night. (He’s working in town). Last update was they were managing the pain and waiting for a spot in the stroke ward. I’m going to see her as soon as I drop the girls off.”
There is nothing I can do. It’s the most excruciating thing. I forget to ask if she is conscious. I keep remembering my grandpa, her father, in the years after he had a stroke and the way he couldn’t talk anymore. I imagine my mom speaking gibberish like he did while trying to page through a book of pictures with near useless hands, the fingers bent back towards the wrists. I try to figure out how on earth I will keep in touch with my mom if she can’t talk anymore.
I season the chickens, and place them in the pan breast down, just like my mother, and my grandmother, and all of my aunties on my moms side of the family do. The men who married into the family sometimes asked why everyone roasts their birds that way. The answer is simple of course, and a family secret. If you cook a bird breast down, all the juices from the dark meat, and all the flavor from the stuffing, drip down onto the breast meat and make it really moist and delicious, instead of dry and tasteless, which is always a risk when cooked breast up.
“Hey,” I ask, several minutes later, “Is she conscious?”
“She was. I’ll update you when I get there.”
I start chopping onions for stuffing, my mom’s recipe for stuffing, with the onions and green apples sautéed in butter with sage. Planning Thanksgiving dinner here, so far away from everything familiar, I want flavors that take me back home. Now as I make my mom’s stuffing recipe my mind is imagining her in a hospital bed somewhere in Canada, lying still the way she does when she’s in pain, and speaking softly. It’s easy to imagine my mom in the hospital. I’ve seen her there a lot in recent years. She had surgery when we went to visit her for Christmas a few years ago while we were there. She had an allergic reaction the last time she came to visit me and I ended up driving her to the hospital while her throat slowly swelled shut.
I ask friends and family on facebook to pray for her. I can at least do that. The outpouring of love for me, and my mom, and our family over the next few days is amazing. I feel way less alone.
I finish as much as I can, unable to even think of sleep for a while and message my sister again before finally going to bed.
“Please send me a picture of her.”
She looks exactly as I imagined she would, white hair splayed over the pillow, eyes closed. I had forgotten Ralph. My stepdad sitting next to her bed looks haunted and so, so worried.
Our friends ask if we want to cancel Thanksgiving dinner the next morning. I can’t even imagine it. Everything about this dinner feels like the only way that I am holding on to my mother right now. Every movement in the kitchen brings her to mind.
Instinctively I reach for life and wrap it around myself tightly. I know my mom would be saddened to hear that we turned inward, rejected joy and fellowship, in order to worry about her far, far away where our worry can do nothing. We pray for her, and we give thanks.
Thank you for the gifts we have.
Thank you that she is still alive to pray for.
Thank you for my brother and sister taking it in shifts to be with mom while I sit on the opposite side of the planet and eat stuffing and gravy with family and friends.
At one point, while thanking my sister for keeping me updated, and for being there with mom I tell her. “I question my life choices in moments like this, and think I should have made different ones that kept me near.”
But I know that is a foolish way to think. So I stop, and focus on the good things about being here.
Details trickle in. My sister and brother update the facebook thread.
“The head neurologist has seen her.
Her shoulder is dislocated. They need to set it before doing an MRI because when they laid her flat she was in so much pain she vomited.
The bleeding was a right parietal lobar intercranial hemorrhage. Apparently a weird place for a hemorrhage to occur so most likely not blood pressure related.
She’s on her feet again! Just enough to get to the bathroom but yay! Still waiting for the MRI though.”
The news just keeps getting better. The reasons to give thanks increase every day.
I hadn’t realized how much it means to me to be able to call my mom until that night when I imagined never being able to do it again. I hope to talk to her again soon.