This is the end of my second full day in Tulsa, caring for my mother after her triple bypass surgery. As I haven’t gone to sleep yet, I consider this to still be Friday (past midnight makes it really Saturday, but who am I to heed details?) As I’m still considering this to be Friday, it has been one week since my mother’s surgery and her progress in that time is simply amazing! Miraculous even; that’s truly what it is, a miracle.
Last Friday, my mother was taken early in the day for an angioplasty that revealed one artery 100% blocked, one that was 95% blocked and a third that was substantially blocked though no one seems to remember the percentage. We now know that my mother was having a heart attack, which she believed to be severe acid reflux, for four days. Over and over again medical personnel at the hospital told my mother it’s amazing that she even survived the attack.
I’ll go into more detail (maybe) at another time about my mother’s belief in “faith healing” and where we do and don’t agree, and how her opinion has been affected by this experience, but the bottom line is, she admits that this experience was the result of her not listening to her body (and the holy spirit) telling her to make changes and that while this was a terrible thing to have happen to her, she is doing as well as she is and feeling as well as she does because she has faith. I can go along with that.
I left San Francisco International Airport at 7:30 PDT on Wednesday morning, arriving in Salt Lake City a little after 10:00 Mountain Time. My flight out of Salt Lake was schedule for 1:35 Mountain time but after being pushed back to 2:10 we actually departed at roughly 1:55. We landed at Tulsa International at a few minutes after 5:00 PM and I called my mother while the plane was taxiing to the gate. She was just about to leave the hospital and told me that my friend Heather, who was picking me up and I should just come straight to her house instead of going by the hospital.
I wasn’t entirely prepared for what I’d find, but in a lot of ways it was better than what I suspected. She looked old and pale and tired, all of which I’m sure is to be expected. She was sitting in a straight backed chair and didn’t seem to be moving much but she insisted she wasn’t in a lot of pain. I don’t suppose she is in too much pain as she only takes half of a 7.5 mg hydrocodone pill every 4-5 hours. When I spoke to her during my layover in Salt Lake City, she told me that she gets tired really fast and that I’ll probably have to help her walk everywhere for the first little while. By the time I arrived at her house she was able to stand up from the chair on her own and walk into her bedroom to use the restroom without assistance.
Thursday, she was able to dress her self, put on a little make-up and fix her hair, and I drove her to her office where she is the sole employee (Office manager, shipping and receiving clerk, and generally personal assistant) to a Gospel Singer and his wife. Their office is just one of many in the building and the receptionist at the front office was unable to contain her absolute shock to see my mother not only out of the hospital but up and walking around under her own steam.
In her position with the ministry my mother is a signatory on the checking account and she needed to write her self a paycheck. Twelve years she’s been in this position and it still amuses me that she writes the check to herself signs it with her own name and then endorses the back of the check to deposit in her bank account.
We left her office, went by her bank to deposit the check via a drive up teller window, dropped one piece of mail at a drive up mail box and then went to the grocery store where, according to my mother, “Kevin forced me to ride around in one of those motorized carts. You know the ones that beep when you back up, as if I weren’t enough of a spectacle already?” The truth is she was pretty tired when we went in, but she needed to be there with me, and by the time we left she was feeling more energized.
I took her home and while I cooked dinner, Salmon and Asparagus with a salad, she rested.
Today, I drove her to her doctors office to have some blood drawn and tested, and then to pick up a new trial pair of contacts and then took her to the nail salon to get a “buff and polish”. She missed her regular appointment last week and just needed a little something to tide her over till next week-end… apparently. I brought her back home and while I cooked dinner, she pretended to do a crossword puzzle, while in reality she was in and out of sleep. She was ready to go to bed at 6:30, but she knew if she did she’d wake up in the middle of the night and be up for the duration so it was my job to keep her up. I kept her up till bout 8:30 when I presented her evening medications and helped her into her bedroom. She was out cold by 9:00.
It’s hard to see her like this. She has bruises all up and down both arms from all the IVs and things, a massive bruise and much smaller than I expected incision on her left leg near her knee from where they extracted the veins they used for her bypass, and naturally, a long incision down the middle of her chest with bruising and redness all around it.
On the other hand, no one expected her to be this mobile and strong this soon and that’s good to see.
Everyone at the hospital told her she was lucky to have the surgeon she did. He was apparently the best and his technique is different (better) than any of the others at that hospital. This surgeon doesn’t use a bypass machine. Somehow he manages to do the surgery without stopping the patient’s heart, which was good to hear because it was one of the things I had been concerned about. He also doesn’t use staples to close the incision as most surgeons do. He uses traditional sutures and does such a tight job that until I asked about it, I thought what I was seeing was dried blood at the point of incision and that she didn’t have anything holding the skin closed. She’s told that due to his technique and handiwork she will have little or no scar on her chest!
Some of the things I had hoped for and mentioned here seem to be quite out of the question. I suppose it was a bit of a pipe dream anyway, but I had hoped for her condition to be bad enough that she might be open to some conversation that we can’t otherwise have. She’s much stronger than I expected and all in all she’s actually doing really well emotionally, which also means that she hasn’t changed much in her outlook, I don’t think.
Perhaps I’m not giving her enough credit, though. I walked into her house (where we were not alone together) wearing a pair of shorts and a short sleeved t-shirt, meaning all three of my tattoos were fully visible. I forgot until later that I was wearing my earrings. I was very up front with her and said, “Let’s get this out of the way while there are lots of people around. You didn’t know about this but…” and I held out my arm and pointed at the superman logo in flames tattoo that is there and then at the black panther crawling up the outside of my lower left leg. She saw the tribal design on the back of my neck as I turned around and walked away. She made a comment (in a light-hearted tone) about how silly and ugly tattoos are and why would anyone do that to themselves. But outside of asking me politely what made me decide to get them, and later what was on my leg (she hadn’t had glasses on to see it clearly) she hasn’t said much of anything and hasn’t been terribly negative about them. I knew before I got the first one that she wouldn’t like it so I didn’t expect her to be positive, but I’m impressed that she didn’t make a big deal out of it.
As for my earrings, I got my left ear pierced when I was 18, so she already knew about it. She may have just forgotten that I didn’t do them both then, or else she just hasn’t bothered to get riled up about it. That in itself is an improvement on her part.
She talks frequently about God, faith and the Bible and I suppose that’s to be expected. She lives most of her daily life in a circle where that’s the focus. And it’s no that I don’t agree with most of what she says, I just don’t feel the need to talk about it incessantly, and I don’t really know what she expects me to say in return which is why I get uncomfortable when she does it.
When we were making our grocery list yesterday, I wrote down Diet Pepsi, because the plain facts are, I’m an addict and I can’t go two weeks without any. She said, “Yich, I don’t like Diet Pepsi. Especially since they’ve become so vocal about supporting the ‘homosexual agenda’.” That was hard for me to stomach, but I didn’t say anything. There may come a time when it’s right to spring that bit of news on her even if she’s not receptive, but this is not that time. She then said, “I just don’t even like to give them my money. But I will, for you.” Make no mistake. She meant, she’d buy my Diet Pepsi, because she knows it’s the one I prefer, not that she’d give them her money because I am a homosexual. Still I don’t wish to discount the significance of that attitude shift.
For the most part, things have been fine. I’ve been able to express my opinions with a minimal amount of resistance from her and I’m able to listen to her opinions without getting bent out of shape about what she’s saying… So far, she hasn’t said anything particularly derogatory about me, which is either progress, or she just hasn’t gotten around to it yet. I believe I’ll choose to believe its progress until I see otherwise.
The next big test will be how she treats me when my sister or nieces are around. Fortunately, that’s not going to happen this trip.
It’s the end of the second full day. I’m about to turn in for my third night of sleeping in my mother’s house on a borrowed twin sized mattress on the floor. The good news is that it is on the floor and so if I fall off of the mattress I don’t have far to go. Why would I fall off of it you ask? Because, for the last 10 years I have been sleeping on a queen sized mattress with a pillow next to me that I tend to hug when I sleep. I guess I better get used to this. I suspect I’ll have more of the same when I get to New York for my visit with my Sister.
Three weeks on the road, by the time I get back to my own bed, I’ll probably feel like I’m swimming in it… Actually that might be kind of nice!