I can’t get the smell of the blood out of my awareness. I’ve showered, washed my hair, changed my clothes — but it’s still with me, sourly red and black, just as it was left at the bottom of the portable commode they placed beside her bed. As soon as they removed it, she just contributed more. I found myself gagging at the stench, but somehow I managed to block it out and help to clean her up. Yes, the daughter becomes the mother.
I have no idea when it really started, her internal bleeding. And, even after that traumatic battery of tests they administered to check out her gastro-intestinal system, they still don’t have a definitive cause. Four bags of blood later, they continue to check to see what her blood level is at. For a while, she was eliminating it almost as fast as it was IV-ing in. She is in the Intensive Care Unit and she’ll be there until they release her.
She is, literally, drained, and her disorientation and anger has escalated because of the pain and discomfort she has had to endure. After the testing procedures, the bleeding seemed to have stopped. I just got a call that it started again. .
What was my choice? To have just kept her home to begin with, weakening and in pain, not knowing exactly what was wrong, incoherent and terrified, until, just shy of her 90th birthday, she gave in, gave up, gave out?
If her blood level remains constant, they will send her home, and it’s entirely possible that she will come home and the whole thing will escalate again. If they have not found a defect, a problem that can be treated in some reasonably non-invasive way, I will be faced with the same dilemma all over again. And we will again be reeling from the stench of those red and black leavings, that smell of bloody decomposition.
And if it happens again, I think I will think that it’s time to make the hard choice.
Meanwhile, it’s Christmas Eve, and I am home alone, having left my brother to keep vigil at my mother’s bedside. I will go back for another 28 hour stint tomorrow.
Meanwhile, it’s Christmas Eve, and I just had a plate of Polish pierogi with sauteed onions. That’s what my family always had on Christmas Eve — and also barszcz, which is a clear mushroom soup make from dried mushrooms imported from Poland. I never got to make that part. I’ve frozen the two dozen other pierogi that I bought (Millie’s are the most authentically delicious.)
Meanwhile, it’s Christmas Eve, and more than a dozen miles away, my mother is bleeding inside. And there’s not a damned thing anyone seems to be able to do about it.

9 thoughts on “decomposition

  1. There is no way to imagine how all this feels for you. For what it’s worth, you could NOT have just kept her home. You had to try, to see what was happening, to find out what, if anything, could be done. And I think, if it were all to happen again, you and I know what the decision would be. What even she would want it to be. You have been a wonder for her — even if she doesn’t know it.
    “Let me go” she said. And you told her it was okay to go.
    That’s all there is.

  2. I must agree. You’ve done more than anyone could expect of you. Your mom needs now a kind of attention beyond your knowledge/ability. I have seen many times that when the aged ailing know it’s all right for them to let go, they do. They just let their body do what it will to shut down, not always pretty or even bearable. Right now, it sounds very much like time for professional care, even if they send her home (which it sounds like they shouldn’t). You have gone as far as you can go in caring for her. Making yourself ill or crazy with trying beyond your capability is no answer. Not for you or her. And there is no shame in that. You’ve been the good daughter, the good human. Be certain of and in that. You’ve kept your promise.

  3. Elaine, this is the first time I have posted a comment on your site but the agony you and your Mother are experiencing touched me deeply. Having been a caretaker for my Mother as she aged and when she finally had to enter a nursing home it was so difficult. But in my heart I knew I was doing all I could while caring for myself and my family at home.
    The last time I saw my Mother she begged me to help her, she was ready to be released and go on to the other side. I could only pray that God would look down on Lou Ella and give her peace. The next time I saw her,after my husband and I rushed to the nursing home but too late, she had passed away. I knew she was finally at peace and out of pain but I still cried like a baby and knew I would always miss her. She was 91.
    Remember to take care of yourself.

  4. Elaine, I too have been following your journey with your mother and have been very moved by your devotion and your honesty about this experience. I wish peace for you, your mother, and your brother.

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