Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Me Mum

So do I start with the accident, or start with the woman? The accident I suppose. It’s the easy bit, ugly and short. My parents where driving a friend to visit her father in hospital. The sort of thing they did every day, little things for other people. They were turning across traffic late in the day, it was dusky. The lights were on, my dad had flipped the turning signal, the road obviously looked clear and he started a turn. What he misjudged was the oncoming car in the far distance wasn’t going a normal speed, which would have given him plenty of time to turn, but at twice the speed limit.

Wham, my parents car was spun. It was an old car, because it wasn’t a head on collision the one air bag in the steering wheel didn’t deploy. My dad cracked a rib, puncturing his diaphragm and a lung. My mum, in the backseat, got slammed against the side of car. The passenger was essentially unharmed.

Ambulances appeared, my parents taken to different hospitals to spread the load. Dad was shunted into emergency surgery for the punctured lung, mum had to be resuscitated in the ambulance and was immediately put on life support. Thus began a very long few months of my life, one of the reasons I started blogging actually, though I didn’t blog much about what was happening, that was too painful.

We actually thought my mum was in the worse condition. Dad’s injuries, though harsh, were survivable. Mum was in a coma, on life support. What we didn’t count on was a little bug called MRSA. It got into dad’s lungs, picked up from something in the hospital (he’d been tested on admission and hadn’t had it). They tried every antibiotic available. Each would slow things down for a while, then it would creep back. In the end the pneumonia overwhelmed him.

Mum, however, went to recover strongly. First out came the breathing apparatus, then the drips, then she regained consciousness, then her health improved, then she went home. None of us where that surprised, she was fit as a horse. This is a woman who ran a half marathon at the age of 76 (not fast mind, but she still did it).

Dad died, and we all surrounded my mum to support her. She came through it remarkably well. Then time passes, as it does, and life goes on. Though I talked to her frequently on the phone, I hadn’t seen her since the funeral. I’ve had updates from my sisters, so intellectually I knew what to expect, but it still hits hard. In so many ways she’s still my mum. It’s a cliché, but to know my mum is to love her. She’s one of those ever optimistic and essentially happy personalities that its hard not to warm too. That personality was backed up with a fearsome intelligence, and a very high emotional IQ.

Now though, she’s subtly changed. Her short term memory is damaged. Some things she remembers, some things she doesn’t You hear the same story again and again now. Her singing voice, a strong alto, is damaged. One of the things that’s hit her hardest really. However, her hands remember how to play the piano, and she can still sight read music. But hardest for me is her judgement has collapsed. That fearsome intelligence that questioned everything, is dimmer. My sister back in Vancouver is having to fend off salemen with a stick. She just falls for every line. Plus, some of the conversations we used to have, questioning the world, they just can’t happen now. I’ve tried. She wants to be engaged, but struggled. It almost made me cry the other day.

Still, mostly she’s there. The happy personality is still there, stable and persistent. She still delights in so many things, and loves watching and playing with the kids. We can still talk about many things, though, not unnaturally for her age, its often conversations about the past. It’s a real pleasure to have her in the house, and given how fit she is, will likely be with us for a good long time yet.


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