Hello, friends. It’s been a minute since I had words to leave here. I’m not entirely sure I have them now, but I’ll leave some anyway.
Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure this story doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s also not unique. But it has been our story for nearly a month now.
On March 12th, I got a call at work that I’d long been dreading: my father-in-law had had a heart attack. I wasn’t dreading that specifically – just that something had happened to him. Something serious and maybe not fixable. Since they live in a rural town in eastern Washington, the EMTs took him 90 minutes to a hospital on our side of the Cascades.
This meant I had to tell The Geek what happened. I was glad I was the one who got the call. The EMT said it looked good, so I passed that along to my husband and we headed to the hospital.
My father-in-law turned 82 a few days before. He was tall and strong and rarely sick. Seeing him so weak and helpless was awful. But they said they thought he would be released the next day and have to come in for another procedure in a couple weeks.
They were wrong.
I could tell you everything that happened, every detail and fear and tear that we shed. How we brought him home for a few days and ended up readmitting him to the hospital, how he grew weaker and weaker and was so tired. How we told him it was ok to go, that we had everything handled. In the end, his heart that was the biggest of anyone, of all of us, was too wrung out. He died March 25th.
That’s only part of this story. As if it’s not enough.
The Geek’s mother has suffered from Alzheimer’s for years. His dad took care of her, stubbornly, completely, even after we found place after place that would take care of her. He felt it was his duty. No matter that she hid knives in the house, bit him, ran out in to the street and into strangers’ cars, or hid the phone for days so that we finally had to call the Sheriff to check on them. Twice.
And now her caretaker was gone. The Geek did it while his dad was sick, but it is not a job for amateurs. A son should not have to bathe his mother or worry that she will take his things or come after him with a knife while he sleeps. The place we found in their town tried their best, but couldn’t handle her for more than a day. She needed meds and professional help.
And so. We found ourselves this morning for the third time going to “court” at the Gero Psych Ward. It is where she was admitted after we took her to the ER three weeks ago. The same ER where they had to call a Code Grey to restrain a 100 pound, 82 year old woman, who was so, so angry. Who didn’t know us. Who wanted only to go home, where she lived as a teenager, who didn’t understand where her parents were and why they weren’t coming to get her. Who wanted to take a woman’s purse in the waiting room, convinced it was hers. Where I held her while they drew blood, twice because old people have tricky veins.
Where I had to leave the room in tears and couldn’t talk to the social worker, where the nurses and staff were amazingly kind.
The Gero Psych Ward is not for the faint of heart. It smells like old people and coffee. Its ceilings are low and the halls are dark. Sometimes, people scream. There is usually always crying. There is a one woman in normal clothes, eating her food with real utensils. She does not get a “safety tray” like Darlyne. We have been to visit maybe ten times now, and it is a different Darlyne every time.
They are trying to stabilize her with meds so that she can move to a nice memory care facility. But currently she does not sleep. At all. There is kicking and spitting. She talks to people we cannnot see. But other times she almost seems to see us, really see us. Those times give us hope that we are almost there. Until we go again, and she is angry and onry.
We have been lucky, I suppose, so far that when there is a “court” day, she has agreed (as best she can) to stay in the hopsital. If she were to refuse, there would be a hearing in front of the judge, and we and the hospital and her lawyer would have to testify.
The Geek has been amazing throughout, doing what must be done, with no time to grieve. He apologizes for something for which there is no one to blame. It just is. The hardest part is not knowing how this story ends. We just do the best we can.
So while we deal with the loss of a man who knew us and loved us, and all the logistics of death – money, mail, a house, a brand new car and no one to drive it – we continue to deal with the loss of a woman who hasn’t known us for years. Yes, she knows that we are familiar, somewhere inside her where the secret memories are. And she tells us she loves us, sometimes.