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Copyright 2009-2010 by
Mary Brotherton
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Inside my Brain

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Monday, September 05, 2005

My sister's entire family has been displaced by Hurricane Katrina, but they are safe. Their home has not been demolished, but it has been damaged. She, her husband, two children, two grandchildren, and a dog managed to get away safely. Her husband remained behind, so he knows what the house was like when he decided to join them some time later. I am sure that house was eerie during and immediately after the storm. I sure would not want to be 500 feet from the Gulf of Mexico during a Category 4 or 5 hurricane! But, they are safe now. Homeless more or less, they don't know how soon they will be allowed to return home...but they are safe, now.

My stepfather passed away two days ago. He and my mother were estranged, and had not yet celebrated their first anniversary. She warned me not to marry: "Mary, they change the minute you marry them!" She was right, but I like my changes. A couple of months ago her husband had refused to get in the car with my sister driving. His pride was assaulted. 83 years old, he'd already had his license revoked, because he'd had too many episodes of blacking out - at least once behind the wheel, resulting in an accident. My sister had accompanied our mother to the opthamologist's office to be sure all questions were asked and answered satisfactorily prior to her pending corneal transplant. Our stepfather was not happy and so he decided he would rather walk the 16 miles to my mother's home, rather than riding with my sister - though we still don't know exactly WHAT his problem was that day. He'd had quite a few "bad days", but when my mother had to call the police to find her husband, she thought it might be best if he was back home in Florida, with his own children.

My mother is 78, but beginning, for the first time in her life, to suffer aging: her vision is failing, she needs a knee replacement, and testing has found a heart murmer. A stent was put in to help with a blockage, and since then, she has been placed on numerous medications - none of them particularly helpful. She's been depressed and lethargic - feeling her age. When she heard that her husband had died, despite my siblings offering to drive her, she had made up her mind that she would not attend her husband's funeral. Some family members were shocked and upset with her decision, but her reason was simple: "I do not feel up to the trip." Only 5 hours long, she still felt the drive would be more than she could handle.

Maybe she knew something.

Yesterday, she became violently ill, and while vomiting, she fainted. I am so grateful that my sister and brother-in-law had come in shortly before this happened. They were there, and called EMS. Last night was a long night for most of the family. She was finally admitted to the hospital with a broken pelvic bone and "fluid on her intestines" after midnight. She fell about 6 hours earlier, so I know she was in a dire pain during that entire time.

I learned of her accident from an email from the wife of one of my brothers. So many of us have taken to email and have lost the art of phone calling. I don't have half my siblings phone numbers! I intend to change that statistic quickly.

So, now my mother cannot attend her husband's funeral, if she WANTED to! How ironic karma can be.

She cannot take anything by mouth until the doctors determine the reason for her violent vomiting, and the source of the fluid on her intestines. All reports tell me that she is doing as good as she can under the circumstances, but there is nothing like being able to be there in person. Right now, I feel my presence would be wasted. When my brother in Arizona found out last night, he called the hospital and identified himself. The nurse he spoke to asked, "You mean you are not ALL hear already?" He told her that there were three of us out of state who could not be there, but if we could, we would! At that point, there were six family members waiting anxiously for news of her situation.

We are not accustomed to seeing our mother suffer. She has always been a survivor, with an extremely high tolerance for pain. I remember seeing her standing at the stove, weeks after my baby brother was born. She was oblivious to the hemorraging in her body, and even when the blood covered her gown and puddled on the floor, she finished what she was cooking before she stopped to tend to herself. Pain and discomfort that would debilitate normal people was endured quietly by our mother. She complains -sure she does, but she's not a crybaby!

I suspect that when my sister returns to Mississippi, I will be called to take her place at our mother's side and will gladly go. I am hoping that perhaps, my husband and I can go for a weekend, before they leave!