It's been a month since my mother died and I'm still processing through everything. One thing I can say for sure is that this has been harder than I anticipated. I'm surprised by that because our relationship from as far back as I can remember has been...strained. That's the word I use to describe it anyway. It sounds polite and doesn't convey years of feeling not good enough, unwanted and bothersome. It doesn't really convey my resentment and bitterness. It sounds neutral to my ears. As if I were just stating a fact, like the weather. Growing up, I can hardly remember a time when we weren't at odds with each other. As adults, we just ignored each other. That is, until we were forced to be together and once again, I became a young girl struggling for approval I never seemed to receive.
It's never what I wanted. I always thought she was hard on me; harder on me than other people's mothers were on them. I could wear lipstick at 13, nail polish at 15 and no make-up until I was out of the house. There were very strict rules in place during a time in my life when being a girl is already very difficult without being different. The locker room was a humiliating place.
When my parents came to visit when Reagan was born, nearly 2 years ago, my mother told me then she had non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver and she would not have a transplant because it crimp her lifestyle. She looked yellow then. I remember thinking that being dead would also affect her lifestyle. Since that time, she had been in and out of the hospital for different reasons, but really started to deteroriate this summer when she started having....spells. Spells where, as my dad would later report, "she wasn't with us". She would stare off into space, be unresponsive. As it turns out, her liver wasn't processing ammonia out of the body as is its job, and these "spells" were caused by ammonia backup in the body. Ammonia can only be exited from the body in one of two ways, so she was given high doses of laxative and fluids to speed the process. Once the ammonia levels lowered, she'd "come back".
At the end of August, I started getting daily phone calls from my dad reporting her status. The information seemed to be getting bleaker and bleaker until one call said that "things didn't look good". We packed it all up, and made the 5-6 hour drive in 9 hours with a fussy newborn. When I arrived at a major hospital in the Houston Medical Center, I saw more tubes and bags and lines connected to her than I had ever seen connected to one person in my life. She had a breathing tube and couldn't talk. She had leads connected monitoring every function, every minute. She was gaunt and yellow. Doctors of every discipline came and gave their reports. "We don't know what's causing the infection, but the antibiotics seem to be working. More invasive testing to determine the exact cause of the infection is too risky." "We don't know if the liver numbers will ever return to what they were."
Then she started getting better. A lot better. I place her improvement directly at the feet of my brother who arrived from California. He moved to California a few years ago and had not yet been back home. It's never been any secret that I am a daddy's girl (as are all little girls, I'm told), and Sam is a mama's boy. After he arrived, she improved enough to be transferred out of the ICU unit to an intermediate care unit, and then was transferred to a rehab hospital to begin preparing her to return back home. Finally, the reports were getting better.