Friday, January 1, 2010

our humble toast

We watched "Apollo 13" at the hotel until a little after 11PM, then went over to see Mom. I brought along three paper cups and some white grape juice; our intention was to sit with Mom and greet the new year together.

The ICU crew was a jumble of new faces; most of the regulars were off somewhere. Mom was wearing the same stick-on protective "goggles" that had been placed on her face earlier in the day; her eyes have been so irritated and swollen that they can no longer close completely. Today's nurses, I discovered, had failed to apply the proper eye drops to Mom, using the regular drops instead of the petroleum-based ones. Mom looked awful.

Sean declared his inability to toast the new year with the grape juice I had brought; his Atkins regimen demanded something sugar- and caffeine-free, so he went to a drink machine and bought a bottle of water. I flipped the channels of Mom's TV until I found a live feed to Times Square-- not the Dick Clark/Ryan Seacrest celebration, but an honest-to-goodness live feed of the square, unadorned with any ticking clock in the corner to alert us to how much time we had ("five minutes!") to break out the drinks. The only timer we would see was the one at Times Square itself: the huge video clock and the dropping ball atop One Times Square.

We prepped our drinks, we three guys, and toasted the New Year. I acknowledged that the year was going to bring sadness, but I also expressed my hope that it would bring a measure of happiness, too. The words felt hollow, and no one else expressed any wishes or hopes for the new year.

Poor Mom was trying to sleep, but she was also more reactive to our touch than she had been before. Her half-closed eyes would try to pry themselves more fully open every time I patted her right hand, so I stopped patting it, and we all strove to speak only in low tones. Not that we spoke much: there wasn't much to say.

Sean left first; some of his New York friends were having a get-together. Dad and I spoke briefly with a respiratory tech who came in to look at Mom and tap some data into the room's computer. She contemplated doing a bit of suctioning, but decided against it because Mom needed her sleep, and such a procedure would have been painful. The tech left, and Dad and I left soon thereafter.

So there we are: we ushered in the new year with paper cups of white grape juice and water, with quiet toasts and one humble wish, and with Mom lying in front of us like a ruler on a catafalque. We're looking forward to taking her back down close to home. I'm hoping Walter Reed has learned something since its 2007 neglect scandal, and will take good care of Mom. They have large shoes to fill: despite the recent problem with Mom's eye drops, I've been generally pleased and impressed with the New York Presbyterian Medical Center's ICU staff.



Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Kevin, here we are at the start of a new year, and circumstances are vastly different than one year ago. I've been consistently following your walk, which has become for you increasingly arduous of late, though I don't often comment. What can one say? Nevertheless, a new year has begun, and we must face it, with all that it brings . . . or takes away. We never really know.

All the best in this new year.

Jeffery Hodges

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Dale said...

Kevin, Please let everyone know that I am thinking about them. As I read this blog daily, and as a New Year comes to a beginning, I hope that with all the joys and sorrows it will bring, it will also be full of peace and comfort to those in need of it. Take care.
Love to all.... Dale Molina