Against all odds, my mother is still here, among the living.
She struggled through her touch and go night, and then swung more up than down throughout the few days since.
I have stayed at her side or close by, fearing a call saying "Hurry now, she's turned for the worst." But it has not come.
She is ill still; weak, and broken-boned. The heart still gallops, controlled by medicine's drip, drip, drip into her arm. Her blood is still hosting hostile invaders, though fewer, we believe, than in the depth of her illness.
And yet, she had returned from the brink. No longer at the precipice of "multi-organ failure" her liver and kidneys are back in the job; her lungs and heart, though diminished, have not thrown in the towel.
She gains strength slowly, minute by minute. I watch the clock tick by with her heartbeats, the monitor screen my Rosetta Stone, translating her complex body into simple numbers I can witness the rise and fall of.
With these I can infer trajectories; legitimize hope. When her O2 sats at 99, *I* breathe easier.
Everything in such a delicate equilibrium, we are all tiptoeing around her, afraid to do too much and send the scales wildly tilting again.
And yet things must be done: IVs changed, oxygen delivered, blood pressure measured, pain medicine given. Most painful of all: her position shifted, so as not to develop bedsores. With every move her unset bones dig into her flesh from the inside, scream warnings of pain the drugs can only dull, not eliminate.
Also? She must eat. Because if her body is going to repair itself, to heal? It must have fuel and the ingredients to do so with.
Yet finding foods she is inclined to swallow is a daunting task. Sedated, reclining, nauseated from medications, she would rather skip the whole affair.
So I am once again mothering my mother. Offering tiny tasty morsels on the tip of a spoon, coaxing and cajoling her to take "one more bite"of something "yummy" harkens back to the days of my boys' infancy.
We are most successful with the comfortest of foods: soft, sweet, easy to slide down her tired throat: soups, yogurts, puddings.
Yesterday, perusing the hospital's dining menu I noticed an item I had previously overlooked and inspiration struck: baked sweet potato, one of Mom's all-time favorite foods!
It came soft and well done... perfect for my plans. I cut it open, smelling the earthy sweetness rising up from the deep orange flesh, slipped it all out of its papery skin, then went to work.
I emptied the margarine pats deep into the mound and watched them swiftly melt. I took up the fork and mashed and smashed, tamed lumps of potato flesh into a smooth purée. To thin it out to a consistency that would slide right down, I slowly spooned about half the accompanying tomato bisque soup into the potato, blending and rendering it halfway between a thick soup and a mash.
And? It was perfect.
People? She ate THE WHOLE THING. And with gusto.
And in those few moments when I was scooping spoonful after spoonful of nutritious goodness into my mother, and I could see that eating this was something that was actually giving her pleasure, I was happier than I can ever remember being.
A very small, very brief bite of happiness, to be sure. But blinding in its intensity, and staving off the encroaching darkness, if just for a little while.