The A-Line It is what it is, unless it is not
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2006
23
Oct

Waiting It Out

The call came Wednesday night at 10:30. The elevated heart rate that accompanies every ringing of the phone around these parts these days went up even more when the Caller ID displayed the words ‘Roman Eagle Memorial Home.’

Answering it had me talking again to one of the pleasant nurses from Roman Eagle. My Mother had gone into a bad way, even by end-of-life standards. Her attending physician had been summoned. After examining Mom he had the nurse let me know that if there had been any change of heart on the family’s part concerning prolonging her life through the use of external means, now was the time to express them. There had not been.

I was then told that the only thing the doctor could recommend was the introduction of morphine into her system to ensure that she was comfortable. I readily agreed. The shot was given at 11:30 Wednesday night.

Family members were notified and by early Thursday morning were on hand and we hunkered down to wait it out. As of this writing [0755 Monday], we are still waiting.

Proving to be just as tough an old girl as she had been during her entire life, Mom continues to hang on, unaided by anything other than the continued application of shots of morphine. There is no suffering to be gleaned, only continued breathing and the beating of her heart and pulse. And so it goes.

By Friday afternoon, the Alderson boys decided there was only one thing to do: we headed to the Tech game. Mom, a huge Tech fan who never missed a game on television, would have approved could she do anything except stare straight head acknowledging nothing or nobody during the rare times she wakes up for a few seconds.

Most family members agreed with us going, including the favorite cousin who sits behind us in Lane, the young lady who spent much of the game with us discussing the situation. At this point, I really didn’t care about my standing among those who disapproved and won’t Thursday either, if Mom is still breathing, although far from what we generally consider ‘living.’

Mom’s continued resistance and her body’s steadfast refusal to give up the ghost have created some rather remarkable experiences. They began with a phone call from a Richmond cousin who, when informed that the end appeared to be near and a shot of morphine had been delivered, opined that my Mother was entirely too tough to be waylaid by a single shot and expressed her opinion that she would soldier on and was proven correct.

There has also developed a solid rooting interest from Mom’s fellow residents of Roman Eagle, who are delighting in the Grim Waiter being kept waiting. As much as we might like for this to be over and Mom finally achieves peace and rest, it is hard not to pull for her.

The most delightful of this entire nursing home experience has been my pleasure to be able to meet some truly remarkable people also living there. They include the 97-year old grandmother of TechSideline employee Chris Coleman. Mrs. McMullen is an enchanting woman that leaves an extremely positive expression on all who meet her, including me and all of the nursing home staff. Like my Mother, she is a huge Tech fan and has reacted to the two losses by ordering me to relay instructions through Chris to the Tech team for them to ‘play harder.’ When told Sunday morning by me that my Mother was continuing to live, she shook her fist in the air and exclaimed, “You go, girl.” Even under the trying circumstances, I couldn’t help but laugh, as I do every other time I go to see her down the hall from my Mother’s room.

There is also a gentleman [in every sense of the word] named Mr. Scruggs two doors down. Once having a ship shot out from under him by the Japanese during the Battle of Leyte Gulf and ending up in the Pacific, he extracted his revenge by later sailing triumphantly into Tokyo Bay as a conqueror, which he still recounts with a cackle and “We sure showed those Japs.” I always remember not to mention to him that I drive a Honda.

While my late father had made his peace with the Hun for starting a war that came to include him charging up Riva Ridge with the rest of the 10th Mountain Division by buying his eldest son a Volkswagon in 1968, Mr. Scruggs still holds a grudge.

Mrs. McMullen and Mr. Scruggs are two wonderful people I have come to know at Roman Eagle that I plan to continue to visit even after family does not require me to. There are good things that can come out of even the worst situations.

The fact is that I do not consider this the worst of situations. All lives will eventually come to an end, including mine and those of and everyone reading this. It is as natural a part of the life cycle as being born. My Mother lived a very good life for 85 years. The chronic renal failure that is finally exacting its final toll was kept at bay for 15 of those years by a very able nephrologist who never once had to resort to the dialysis that is now no longer an option.

She remained active for almost all of that life, as recently as six months ago still driving, walking daily in the local mall and attending the many functions in the church she so loved. I felt much worse about the dementia that quickly overtook her in May than I do about her life finally coming to a close.

These have not been a pleasant few months for anyone close to her; it will be with a sense of both sadness and relief when her end finally comes. The sadness will be that the Mother I remember for most of my life will no longer be around and available, the relief will come in the knowledge that she will no longer be forced to exist as she has for the past few months.

It has been an hour since I began typing these words and it is time to again head back to the Roman Eagle Memorial Home. I will gaze at Mom for a while and then enjoy the pleasures of the company of Mrs. McMullen and Mr. Scruggs. There is another Tech football game coming Thursday night, one that I may or may not be attending. That will be up to my Mother. After the last few days, I still wouldn’t bet against her.

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