February 25, 2021
Today has been surreal. It started with me “kidnapping” my mom from a horrible hospital and rushing her to Mayo Hospital via a medical transport van paid for with my credit card less than 12 hours ago. This feels like the plot in one of those suspense novels my mom used to read.
It’s late in the afternoon and the most important thing is that my mom is finally resting comfortably – or as comfortable as she can possibly be – and she’s finally at a good hospital.
The doctors and nurses have cleared out of her ER room, at least for now. She’s sleeping in short spurts. When she wakes up, it’s sudden. She either blurts out random memories or says, “I’m thinking,” with a look of fierce concentration on her face.
System Reboot Triggers Memories
Her brain is literally rebooting like a computer, according to one nurse. Her memories are all over the place. She goes from recounting memories from me and my brother’s childhood to my divorce over a decade ago.
She suddenly sits up for the first time and yells, “You didn’t cheat!”
I respond with: “What are you talking about? Of course, I didn’t cheat. I love my husband.”
“No, not him,” she says. “Your fucking ex!”
She then goes into a tantrum laced with F-bombs worthy of any sailor.
“Fuck him! FUCK HIM!!! You didn’t cheat. He cheated. That fucking asshole.” These words leave her pursed lips with such fury, it scares me. She continues her rant in English and Spanish… Pinche cabrón desgraciado… and I just let her go. Let her get it out of her system.
She had never demonstrated any of this anger and disgust while I was going through my divorce. She had been nothing but supportive in the most loving, motherly way. I guess she had been holding it in.
Finally, she’s calm again. She grabs my hand and says, “But that’s OK. You’re better off because you met Troy (my current husband) and he loves you. And he loves Sienna (my youngest daughter). And by loving her, he’s saving you.”
I ask her what she means by this, but she won’t tell me. She grabs my hand again and says, “You’ll see.”
To this day, I still don’t know what she meant by that.
When I ask the nurse if this is normal, she tells me that whatever my mom had been given at the other hospital appeared to be wearing off. It was most likely some sort of sedation.
My mom is finally coming out of that nightmare, her mind was trying to make its way through the foggy maze.
The Pain in Remembering
A few minutes have gone by and my mom is in deep thought. She’s using everything she’s got to concentrate as she gathers her thoughts. She puts her hand up as if to say, “Wait, the words are coming to me.”
I’m following every line, every expression in my mom’s face. I’m anxiously waiting to hear what she’ll say next. Which memory she’ll dig up. Will she bring up that time I cut my hair when I was four. Or that time my brother used crayons to draw Superman on the side of the house.
She’s found the memory and it’s bad. The look of horror in her eyes has me shook. I don’t know what to say. No one gave me instructions.
I take a hold of her hand and ask if she’s OK. She shakes her head no and starts to cry.
“She was all alone. They let her die. Oh my god, they let her die!” My mom is crying and screaming at the top of her lungs. I’m trying to calm her down.
“Mom, it’s OK. What’s wrong? Who was all alone? Who died.”
She finally says her name. It’s a close friend who had died the previous month. (Out of respect for the family, I am not revealing her name.)
My mom tells me that she felt that the hospital (coincidentally, Abrazo Hospital) where her friend had died had not done enough to save her life. She thought she was going to suffer the same fate before we “kidnapped” her from that hospital.
My mom and her friend were from the same small town, but they hadn’t met until a few years ago. They quickly became close friends and my mom talked about her. A LOT.
“I can’t wait for you to meet her,” she’d tell me. “We had lunch today and laughed our asses off!”
And then Covid hit. The pandemic kept them apart. In fact, they never saw each other again. Her friend passed away in January 2021 and my mom passed away March 2021.
Now, every time I see two butterflies together, I think of my mom and her friend. Is that them, flying around, seeing the world together while checking in on their loved ones?
I have this visual of them in the next world, sipping on some cafecito, sharing the chisme (gossip) and keeping each other company.
My mom is still crying hysterically. I don’t know what to say or what to do. A nurse is asking if she’s OK, she heard my mom crying from the hallway.
“She saw me. She really saw me,” my mom says in tears. “She’s the first person who really saw me for me. She saw a beauty in me that I had never seen in myself. My friend, I miss my friend.”
I have never in my entire life heard my mom cry like this. Her crying is so intense that I can feel it in my chest.
The pain in my mom’s voice, the sadness in her eyes, makes me cry to this day. She loved her friend. She missed her friend.
I finally realize my mom is in mourning. She had never truly mourned the loss of her friend. She spent her life compartmentalizing pain. She had to; it was a coping mechanism.
But now, as her mental hard drive was rebooting and her physical self was compromised, she couldn’t stop it. She couldn’t stop the pain of this loss from rushing back to the surface. She had to go through it.
It’s early evening and my mom’s been admitted. To the 5th floor we go.
On the way up, we get an update from one of the ER doctors. They’re still working on getting my mom’s records from Abrazo and waiting for the results of their own tests.
We’re greeted by Nurse Paul. My mom immediately tells him that her son is named Paul and gives him the cheesiest of smiles.
My mom’s memory suddenly goes into overdrive as her hard drive, aka her memory, is still rebooting. She starts telling me how much energy my brother had as a young boy and how she caught him stealing Hot Wheels (small toy cars) from the store when he was five. (It’s one of her favorite stories.)
Nurse Paul jumps in and says, “I remember this story. You had him arrested, or pretended to.”
My mom and I look give each other that surprised look. The one where your eyes get really big so it pushes your eyebrows up real high.
She finally asks, “Yeah, that’s the one, but how do you know that?”
“I remember that story from when you were here last time.” Nurse Paul says he’s met my mom before today.
I’m shocked at this news because, surprisingly, I know every hospital my mom has been in and why.
My mom appears shocked as well and says, “I’ve never been to this hospital.”
My mom and I quickly go through her medical history. Nope, she’s never been here and never had a reason to be here. My mom avoided hospitals like the plague.
Nurse Paul says he remembers her and remembers her last name, Galindo. He then goes on to tell the rest of the story of when my mom had my brother fake arrested for stealing toy cars.
And he’s spot on.
He even cites details no one else would know. For example, when the police showed up at the door, my mom made my brother pack his little suitcase and roll it all the way down the driveway to the police car.
Nurse Paul knew all of this. But how?
Not long after this bizarre convo, Nurse Paul walks out and we eventually get a new nurse. She’s very pleasant and very attentive and I’m very grateful.
The end of visiting hours is approaching, but she tells me I can stay as long as I want.
“I heard about what your mom has been through and what you did to get her here,” she says. “If someone else from the hospital wants you to leave, they can come tell you themselves cuz I’m not gonna do it.”
I start to cry.
It’s 10:30 p.m. and my mom appears to be dozing off for the night. I’ve come up with a rotation plan for the family. Only one person can be with her per day and it has to be the same person. No switching, hospital rules.
As I head out for the night, I pull the nurse aside and thank her over and over again for letting me stay past visiting hours.
I also ask her to thank Nurse Paul for me. Her response stops me in me in mid-sentence.
“We don’t have a Nurse Paul,” she says. “Perhaps he’s an ER nurse?”
“Um… No,” I tell the nurse. “He was the first nurse who attended to her when we were arrived in this room. He even took her vitals.”
She shrugs her shoulders.
I’m so tired from the stress of “kidnapping” my mom and her overall health that I, too, shrug my shoulders and file this somewhere in the back of my brain.
But… I’m walking out of the hospital, thinking… Who was Nurse Paul and where did he go?
To be continued…
Soy hija de Gloria. Hija de guerrera. Esta es la historia de mi mamá. Y también mi terapia.
I’m Gloria’s daughter. Daughter of a warrior. This is my mom’s story. And my therapy.