04:57:38 pm on
Monday 15 Jul 2024

Mother Phoenix
AJ Robinson

Fans of Lady Gaga, myself among them, call her Mother Monster, as a sign of affection. Well, now I have a new term to use, the above-mentioned Mother Phoenix. As I wrote last week, my 94-year-old mother was in a terrible car accident that Tuesday; her legs were broken, feet crushed, ribs broken and pretty much every joint in her legs damaged.

I raced to her side.

Jo Ann, my wife, and I arrived midday on Wednesday and were informed she was again in surgery. We were consigned to the surgical waiting room to await the results. Not a nice situation to be in; not knowing.

The coffee dispenser, in the waiting room, had two labels: regular and strong. Care to guess which button I pushed or how many cups I downed? Finally, after a wait that would have driven King Aegeus to jump sooner, I picked up the courtesy phone and called to ask about her.

Mother was back in her room. No one had bothered to update the status board. I bit my tongue to keep from giving them a few choice suggestions regarding their computer system, and we made our way to the S/TICU: Surgical/Trauma Intensive Care Unit. The sight that greeted us surprised me.

Yes, she was shattered and a bit out of it for a few moments. Still, she knew who I was and that I’d just had a birthday, but she couldn’t recall my age. Neither could I.

Eh, that was par for the course. With five sons, numerous grandchildren and even a couple great-grandchildren running around, she can be forgiven that slight. Yet, she was strong.

Her hands and arms, horribly bruised and battered, reached for mine. Her face, weak and downtrodden, bore a smile and her eyes twinkled. Her voice held a twinge of pain, but she was able to sass her nurse.

She lived, my mother did, and she was not broken in spirit. We visited for as long as we thought best and returned the next day to spend lunch with her. That she was able to eat soup and grapes as well as complain of the salad said so much about her strength and resolve.

My heart ached when the nurses had to move her; roll her to prevent bed sores or slide her up on the bed so she could sit up. That was when she felt pain. I couldn’t take away her pain; as any child knows, I would gladly have taken all her agonies times ten, if it meant she was whole and hearty.

Then we spoke with the physician and learned of the prognosis. She would need several more operations to restore her legs. The metal pins and cages holding them together would gradually be lengthened with each surgery until her legs and joints were back in their proper locations. After that would come months of rehab; even then there was no guarantee she would walk again.

There was also the matter of her chest. The fluid draining from her chest wasn’t diminishing; not a good sign. Her broken ribs meant she couldn’t draw a deep breath or cough, which she needed to do so to ensure pneumonia didn’t set in. As we sat with her, the monitor on her blood oxygen level repeatedly sounded its alarm as the level dipped dangerously low and the nurse would rush in to tell her, “Deep breath, Silvana.”

This could lead to more problems.

The level would rise and yet not stay high. Jo Ann noted that mom was on five liters of O-2, the maximum without a face mask, which my mother hates; her inability to maintain a decent level was not good. It could lead to a heart attack or other major problem.

Then came the hospital administrator to ask, “The Question”; I weakened. I could not speak of it to mom and once again Jo Ann came to the rescue. They had to know mom’s wishes regarding the DNR, the do not resuscitate order.

Did mom understand what it meant? Did she want it? She sat there, calm, a smile on her face as she explained her wishes. Although not ready to give up, which was not her style, she was also ready to go if it was her time.

“Ninety-four years is enough,” she said casually. The lady would bring the form for mom to sign. She left, we continued our visit, and then all too soon it was time for us to leave.

Not merely go, but go and get ready to head home. I scolded mom about her driving, told her there was to be no more of that. I’d install the Uber App on her phone, but her days behind the wheel were over. For once, I got no fight from her.

Then, as usual, I expressed my eternal love and she did the same. Leaving her room, I paused for one final look back. I needed to see her again, as the future remains so uncertain.

She saw me, blew me a kiss and my soul ached to stay at her side. In a flash, I was transported to other times and places. I rode the Flying Horses, while she sat patiently waiting for me. My wrist was broken, I cried out for her; and she came to me, offering words of comfort. So many memories, so many times she was there for me; too many to recount.

As we drove home, I remembered a line from a Dylan Thomas poem. “Do not go gentle into that good night. Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

The Phoenix Silvana.

Yes, mom was raging against the dying of the light and I knew she had the grit and tenacity to rise like a Phoenix. Yet, I also knew the fearful odds against her. Well, mom’s luck has carried her through a war, three marriages, disease and injury, gains and losses aw well as countless heart aches. Will Lady Luck stay at her side through this? That page has yet to be written.

Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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