Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A day that will live in infamy

You may have noticed that this blog is out of order.  Well, so have our lives been since Dad hit the deck.

My sister, my wife and I have had many epic days on this journey.    One of them is the day that Wifey and I got my Mum to the lawyer.

You see, my Mum remembered who she was, who the rest of us were, and that Dad was dead.  She could remember many things.  But she had her down time.   In the days immediately following Dad's bucket kicking, I realized that given her condition, we were getting about two hours a day of clarity before she sank into a dark haze.

I realized that I had to get Mum to a lawyer.  I needed to get Power of Attorney so that we could pay her bills, sort out her finances, and take care of her medically.  We needed a way to ensure we could act on her behalf.

But this was going to be a problem.  Since Mum wasn't totally lucid all the time, there would be questions raised about her ability to act on her own behalf.

As I had successfully got into my parent's safe, and retrieved their wills, I had the name of a local lawyer. So, I rang them up.  I asked for the partner who had written up my father's business articles of incorporation.   I left a message for him, and a few hours later, finally spoke to him.  He was a bit of an arrogant dick, but in the end advised me that if my mother was indeed starting a decline into dementia, they may not be able to help me.  They asked if my mother had been certified mentally unfit, and I said that she had not, which was true.    He put me on to a secretary to book an appointment.

I spent a few minutes on hold, and tried to let the apprehension in my stomach subside.  You know that they say you go through these universal stages of grief?    Total and complete bullshit.  When I got the call from Nory, I had gone straight to Anger (and have not left that 7 months later).  Anyway, thanks to my reptilian brain, I was in full-on "fight" mode.  No flight for me.

Finally, I got through to a legal secretary who was sympathetic to my needs, and managed to find me a slot on the calendar of a lawyer the following Tuesday, five days after Dad died.  I timed the appointment to coincide with my mother's "best" hours of the day: 10am to noon.

* * * *

The day dawned sunny cold and clear.   My sister had not yet arrived from the UK.  But wifey and I had already sprung into action.  We knew that my Mum would be physically sick in the morning, and would need a few hours to get up, vomit, go back to sleep, and then rise again.  I took a massive gamble: I woke her up three hours before we had to leave for the appointment, helped her to the bathroom to vomit and void herself, helped her wash up again, and my wife and I got her back into bed to sleep.  Before we put her down, I gave her half a gravol.  She drank it with the tiniest sip of water.

She snoozed while Wifey and I prepared ourselves to get some kind of food into her.  The time finally came to get Mum up, about an hour after we'd put her down. She woke up feeling slightly better, but drymouthed and groggy.

We got her cleaned up and dressed and sat her down in front of a toasted Eggo, and some gatorade.  She sipped listlessly at the drink, nibbled half the waffle and, nauseated, fed the rest to the dog.

I had printed out the papers that the lawyer had sent us to review. I went through them with Mum.  We located her glasses and watched her read through things.  We couldn't actually tell if she was soaking it in.   I then asked her some questions that we knew the lawyer would ask: Was she executing this Power of Attorney of her own will?  Did she understand why she was signing it?  Did she understand what my sister and I would be able to do with this power?

She gave us pretty good answers.

We prepared her coat and shoes, and got her dressed for the journey.  Slowly, we walked her out onto the snowy deck and carefully toward the three steps down to the car. She hadn't been off the deck (let alone off the property) for over 6 months.  She was terrified.  The sun shone and the air was fresh and clean,  but in Mum's mind, a terrifying darkness had descended.  She started to wobble and cry out as we attempted to ease her feet down the three steps to the drive way. Wifey and I were on either side of Mum with an arm each under hers around her back, our other hands were steadying one of her arms.  She wailed and cried out in fear that she was falling.   It was an absolutely maddening moment. Wifey and I actually looked at each other and laughed because we were so helpless.  Every step forward was a step toward the abyss, for Mum. Somehow, minutes later, we had her down the steps - hysterical and crying - and to the open door of my rented Camry. The front seat was slid back (my Mum is tall), the door was wide open, and carefully we began lowering Mum to her seat.  The fear returned:

"I'm falling!  Oh God, oh God, oh God."

"You're fine Mum. We have you.  You're OK."

"No no no, I'm falling. Help me, please oh God".

And moments later, her bum was on the seat, and I'd helped move her legs into the car.  Wifey and I made sure we had everything we needed, got in the car, got Mum's seatbelt on and the two of us sat shaking and stunned for a moment.

"Oh, it is a lovely day", said Mum looking out the window.

* * * *

On the thirty minute drive to the Lawyer's office, we quizzed Mum again.  She was clearly at her best, and we'd timed it perfectly.  We got to the lawyer's office, got parked, and got Mum out of her seat and onto the sidewalk with much less drama.  As we were walking into the office, she whispered to us:

"I need to pee."

Wifey, like a trooper, found where the toilet was and took her there ... my Mum shuffling along like a wizened old crone.

I met with the receptionist, found where we were meeting the lawyer and got settled.  Wifey was standing outside the lady's toilet, listening to Mum's clearly audible shouts of annoyment:

"Oh for HEAVEN's sake".  As she tried to get her pants down, etc.

Finally and unbelievably, we found ourselves in front of the lawyer and the legal secretary.

In what seemed like a whirlwind, they asked Mum questions, she answered them, and we listened to a litany of legal terms and advice.  The strangest calm came over me, as I realized that there was nothing more I could do. Wifey and I had done everything in our power to get to this moment.  Either Mum was going to answer correctly - whatever that meant - and we were going to get Power of Attorney, or Mum was going to blurt out something and end it all spectacularly.

To our utter amazement, suddenly Mum was signing.  A bit shaky and not always on the lines, but she was signing.  Copies were being made, staplers were being crunched, hands were being shaken, coats were being thrown around shoulders, and we were suddenly out in the sunshine.

Wifey and I felt like Gods.  Mum had asked God to help her, and we had.

We drove home and talked ... about nothing that I can remember. I was just in a daze.

We got home, got Mum out of her clothes, and got her to bed for a nap.  We woke her up for lunch time (Wifey had laid out some cheesed and meat and crackers) in the hope that we could get some protein into Mum.  We got everything laid out.  Mum said she wasn't feeling very hungry but came and sat down. The sun was shining in off the bright snow outside. It really was a lovely day.

And then, as I watched Mum sitting at the table, her eyes rolled up into the back of her head, her hands lifted off the arms of her chair, and then she suddenly slumped down, limp and lifeless.

"Jesus", I thought. "Mum's dead."

In a flurry, Wifey was on the phone to 911.  I stood beside Mum and felt for a pulse, but she was clearly breathing.  She came out of it like nothing had happened. And then it happened again.  Eyes into the back of the head, arms up off the chair, and another slump.  By this time, Wifey had the operator on the phone and was describing Mum's state. (Have to say here, my wife is an experienced first aider and expert at dealing with emergency medical situations ... like a Godsend, I tell you).  Now Mum was coming out of it again, but heaving.  We got a bowl in front of her in time, and her minuscule breakfast and lunch came out of her.

In a few minutes, the Paramedics and Fire were there.  They'd been to the house before, it seems, for Mum's falls, and Dad's desperate pleas to help get her up.  After they came once before (probably more than once) and discovered the alcohol abuse, they weren't as much in a rush. They seemed surprised to see Wifey and I there, and hopped to it.

While Wifey and I gave stats and background to the paramedics and fire crew, one of the young firemen led me out of the room:  "You may want to step out of sight here, sir. They're going to have to expose your mother's chest to put the leads on her."

I stared at him dully.  "I gave her a sponge bath last night, mate.  Nothing I haven't had to deal with before."

"Oh," he looked at me sorrowfully. "I see".

She was wired up, stretchered, wheeled out (feet first, I might add) and, by God, she was gone.

Wifey and I cleaned up the house, made some calls (sister, neighbour), took the dog for a pee, cleaned up ourselves, made up a list of chores, and followed Mum into Calgary.  We stopped and ordered the big picture of Dad for the funeral. We ran some other chores and eventually ended up at Rockyview Hospital.  Mum was in the hallway on a stretcher in lively spirits, wondering where she was, talking to the delightful paramedic stationed with her.  We got her a paper and settled her down, and eventually she was found a room in the emergency ward.

She mentioned to Wifey that we shouldn't hang about in the bedroom, that we should go to the living room.

After what seemed like forever, but was actually only a few hours since Mum's seizure, an efficient and stern looking woman showed up with a sheaf of papers:

"Are you Hazel Parker's family?"

"Yes," said the son and daughter-in-law.

"I'm the transition nurse.  I've just received community orders from your Mother's doctor. She's been psychiatrically certified."


"Yes. She's not going anywhere."

And that was it.  In one masterful stroke, we'd cheated oblivion by a few short hours.

No comments:

Post a Comment