Thirteen January 27, 2014Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
I spent half an hour Sunday in my mother’s bedroom and wandering the house, looking at what remained, thinking of what would have to go. My mother is in a nursing home with a ruined knee and without the will to walk again. Without that, she can never come home, and my sister can’t afford to live in the expensive apartment in Park Esplanade. Other than her knee, she is fine. There is an enlarged artery she is too old to explore that almost certainly hides an embolism. That could go tonight, or next year, or ten years from now. She survived a rare cancer, undergoing a rigorous and hideous chemo regimen that included spinal chemo.
I just wrote all this the other day or at least part of it. I only come back to it not just to meet my self-imposed geis to write something every day, but because instead of going to bed, although I’m feeling frail with exhaustion, I had to read my friend Ray Shea’s piece on the Rumpus about his last months with his dying father. You should to. I hope there was solace for him in finishing it and seeing it published. There was solace in me for it as I contemplate the disposal of my mother’s things while she wastes away in a nursing home. Like Ray’s father, she still has most if not all of her marbles. She will finally die of nursing home, in a nursing home, because we don’t live in arrangements that allow for any other end. My sister has selflessly cared for her for over a decade, but is well into her 60s with bad knees. She can’t do it any longer, and shouldn’t have to. Even if I were in a situation to take my mother in, she wouldn’t come. She wouldn’t even let my girlfriend and I stay over a weekend so Pam could take a trip to the beach with our sister and her family. And I wouldn’t do that to Patrice, who spent a decade caring for her dying partner, then her mother, then her step-father-in-law. She should never have to do that again.
My siblings and I were all born at Hotel Dieu on Perdido Street. Hotel Dieu is an old French name for hospital because it was, in the days before modern medicine, the last stop on the way to meet your maker. My mother’s last stop is at Notre Dame, where there is a statue of Our Lady of the Rosary standing in the lobby. She was a Dominican College girl, and the Dominicans were very big on the Rosary. If there were a window without heavy curtains always closed in her dreary room it would look out at Dominican High School. The communion ministers are mostly Dominican College alumnae, women my mother has known for decades. As much as she complains I hope it is some small comfort to her to see those women, to count the beads on the beautiful Rosary my daughter brought her back from Belgium, that it never occurs to her as it does to me that she is counting out an untold but dwindling number of days in that small room, mystery by doleful mystery. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and through the hours until our death. Amen.