This was my initial visit to my mother on her first day of waking up in her nursing home. Mum had been failing for some time, vision and hearing impaired, physically disabled due to spinal fractures and a hip replacement that never quite worked. Although bedridden a lot of the time, and on oxygen for her lung and heart condition, she had run her household like a martinet, with the support of her second husband, whom she had married at the age of 70.
There we were. Her husband was in a cardiac unit of a local hospital and my mum had been placed in a nursing home by one of my sisters. A forever home. I must say, the home was maintained spotlessly, with a lovely garden for the geriatrics to enjoy on a sunny day, sitting around having cups of tea and a natter. The food appeared quite reasonable.
However, Mum only liked her own cooking. She refused to attend meals in the dining room and defied the nurses’ best efforts to interest her in any of the daily social activities. These geriatric nurses have a true vocation, I have nothing but admiration for their dedication to their patients’ welfare. My mum was a retired nurse, who hated being nursed. When they were performing routine tasks, like checking bowels and meds, Mum swore at them and called them total b*****s.
This was day one. Could this get any worse? I felt like smuggling in a bottle of medicinal whiskey or brandy to fill up her little teapot. “Here is some whiskey, here is the spout, tip your teapot, pour it out!” It might have taken away the pain of being there. No, instead, I made her a small fragrant pillow with butterflies on it, for her sore neck. Mum told me to ‘drop dead’. This was her lifelong favourite saying. “Some women have mothers …” my sister philosophically commented.
Could times get worse? Yes, indubitably. Mum developed pugilistic dementia. She punched my valiant sister in the breasts, then assailed her beloved adult granddaughters, then started on those devoted nurses. It could have been worse, I guess. A friend of mine tells me her late mother was expelled from three nursing homes for similar japes. We dodged that.
Then Mum had a bad fall, so the nurses promoted her to the private room at the end of the hallway of the forever home. My last visit before the day Mum passed away was the day she finally smiled at me, as I held her hand. Two days later, Mum passed away peacefully, just stopped breathing, heart stopped beating.
Being her family, half an hour later, my sisters and all the grandchildren were sharing dreadful grandma stories. The nurses could not understand why we were giggling. Nerves, I suppose. Why call them back from Heaven to go through that again? Soon, they started shunting the furniture. Like most forever homes, beds are at a premium. The nurses wipe down the bed and admit another geriatric. Some of the nurses came to her funeral, adorned with bruises from my mum, like my sister and my nieces. RIP.
There is really no closure. As women in our 60s, my sisters and I have aimed all our lives not to be like our mother. The wheel turns for everyone, we should all live so long, to be in a ‘forever home’.