Vigil 2

The morphine is talking.

She is unsettled.

“Mantra, Mantra. Oh.” she mumbles on an even tone.

“Everything but me and Bob. Oh Oh”

“What is this? Oh, Oh”

“No more. No more. Oh, Oh”

“Oh God, please take me. Oh, Oh.”

“Oh God, where are you? Oh, Oh. Oh. ”

“Mr. Murray. Oh, Oh, Oh,”

“Those stairs…. Oh, Oh”

And then a gentle snoring. She is sleeping.

“The babes. The babes”

Her monologue takes up again.

“What did she say?”

“I have to go down stairs. I have to go downstairs. Oh, Oh, Oh”

It is a curious, unconnected series of comments. Where is she, I wonder? What does she see? She is no longer able to tell us what she sees, hears, feels.

Dawn comes, Friday the 26th.

It is the same dawn as yesterday. Clear. A few doves in the tree. A crow, a block away in a weeping birch. Only today, there is frost. A white rime covering the green of the park lawn. White rime on the tennis club roof top.

We gave her liquid, then she asked for more.

During the night, we’ve been able to give her a whole cup of liquid, spoonful by spoonful. When her mouth becomes dry, she babbles. With a thimble of liquid, she quietens and she sleeps.

All of a sudden her sleeping eyes that have been shut against us these twelve hours, open wide. I explain that she can’t get out of bed. Very clearly she responds in a querulous voice, “Why?”and her legally blind eyes fix on mine as she asks. She gazes at me blindly, a long, long look, but she sees nothing. It’s unnerving.

Is this night number four? I’m losing track. Night has become day. Not that I wasn’t already a night owl. What would she say about me staying up so late, now that it is a vigil for her?

Heather stayed here in the evening so that I could go out to dinner with friends who flew in from Edmonton for my retirement celebration. My work colleagues had fixed the reception date for today, but obviously I could not celebrate while my mother was very actively dying. It was deferred for a month. My friend and her husband had bought fixed air line tickets, so they came anyway and instead, we went out to dinner. I hadn’t been at work for a week, but I now was officially retired, even though I had done no paperwork to accomplish this status. I’d have to see to that after Mother passed away. I couldn’t deal with it now.

We went to a Cajun Creole place up on Granville Street – a wonderful bistro. Bob ordered alligator as an entrée and let each of us taste it. It was chewy and so covered in a thick strong tasting sauce that one could not taste what the meat really was like. My friend and I were slightly more mundane in our choices, nevertheless the cuisine was excellent. Afterwards, we walked down Granville, all three arm in arm, to Sixth Avenue looking in the fashion district’s display windows and in the art galleries. Happy.

We stopped in a shoe store and looked but did not buy. Finally, we walked back up the other side. All along, we talked avidly, sharing our latest news. Then they walked me back to Mom’s residence, now her hospital, and I rejoined Heather in the wakeful watching of Mom’s care.

Otto and Heather’s husband came at nine thirty to stay an hour, but I tactfully (I hope) suggested Otto be a taximan instead and pick up Heather at ten and bring Nephew Hugh to spend the night watching with me.

I couldn’t bear hearing Otto tell Mother she would be alright. She will NOT be alright. I know he cares deeply but his care giving isn’t the same brand as mine. I try to understand, but I’m not always successful at it and I’d rather be alone than be irritated.

Otto was glad of the respite from watch duty. He was at the busiest of his work season. He was overtaxed. An all-nighter would not have been productive for him. He took my brother in law home then came back with Hugh at ten and took Heather away.

I’m enjoying having time with Hugh. We share a crossword puzzle; we chatter about the day’s doings. We have a quirky sense of humour and often play with words and ideas in a way I don’t do with anyone else.
To the rhythm of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by woods on a snowy evening”, mother’s favorite, he chants,

He gives his balding head a shake,

My young nephew, seems to think it’s queer

To see us doing crosswords here,

This darkest evening of the year

Okay, it doesn’t scan right, and it mixes up verse references horribly, and we are a month past the darkest evening, but it was fun while it lasted. Anyway, for us it is the darkest evening of the year.

The night was otherwise uneventful. Mother had tremors for about a minute before her morphine was renewed each hour. Some tremors were strong, some weak. Hugh talked her out of her agitation with gentle words of “Sleep in peace” and “Go to sleep. Rest quietly.” It sounded like a mantra, and it worked.

Hugh with his newly shaved head came up to her and hugged her, leaning over the bed, stage-whispering “Shh, Shh” in her better ear. Then I would spoon some more Gatorade into her mouthful by mouthful from the other side of the bed and she would calm somewhat. When she snored softly like the purr of a sleeping cat, she was somewhat at peace.

He fretted that she would not recognize him because of his shaved head, but she did not see anyway. She responded to his voice, and knew it was him.

When it was his turn to watch and mine to snooze, he pulled the blue wing back chair up beside her, leaning over its arm to touch her shoulder with his head. His favorite pillow that he brought from home, wrapped in a Macdonald plaid flannel pillow case, was tucked under his head to compensate for the difference in level between the chair and the hospital bed.

When it was his turn to sleep and mine to watch, he leaned back in the wing chair his Pyromania Bob black hoodie pulled so far forward as to cover his eyes and cut out all the ambient lighting . It amazes me that he can come out in knee length khaki shorts when it’s only two degrees out, Celcius, and not need another cover to help him keep warm as he snatches a few minutes of shut eye.

The fountain outside at the front circular entrance roadway rushes like the first spring run off, a trickle building into a young rivulet, racing towards the sea, breaking up the mass of icicles that formed during the cold spell. Sometimes it sounds like a heavy rainfall. It doesn’t soothe; it flattens the edges on thinking, dulls the brain.

“Where are they” mother mumbles indistinctly. The water sound is incessant. I wish they would turn it off so I could be in peace.


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