Monday, August 5, 2013

Her Own Pace

The call came on a Saturday night.  She'd fallen and not only couldn't get up, she was in the hospital. My 88 year old mother-in-law.  No ordinary person, Betsy is complex.  She's generous and stubborn. She's conniving and warm.  We don't call her the dowager for nothing.
Betsy likes her wine.  Sometimes too much.  Initially, we thought that might have something to do with her latest misadventure.  Wrong.  She'd been the victim of an irregular heart beat and was in intensive care.

     Over the next week, we made the 12 hour drive and headed for the hospital.  In a couple of days we were in another hospital and sweet Betsy from Berkeley had been given a pacemaker.  The symbolism was not lost.  At almost 99 her pace is fast and faster.  When the heart slows down the body can't help but follow.  This is one reason why we worry.  Betsy has two speeds: moving and sleep.  She's not going to follow doctor's orders very well and seems to be operating as if nothing out of the ordinary has taken place.  Hopefully she won't raise her left arm too high over the next 30 days.  That and a few other things.  She's on so many medications she needs the top of the line, super sized pill box.  You know, those Monday-Sunday plastic organizers that fit in purse or pocket.
And then there is the matter of the wine.  The daily glasses of wine.  To most, she's a sweet elderly woman who likes a little glass of wine EVERY DAY.  To her family, she's a sneaky alcoholic who dilutes her white wine with ice cubes but keeps a flask or two of Vodka here and there.  It's the elephant in the room, or the closet, or the kitchen cabinet, or possibly in the trunk of the car.
But then she's 88.  Going on 89...and doesn't drive at night.  Actually, at night, there is not too much sweetness.  She becomes a different person.  Everything kicks in and the past and present become a blurrrrr.  Her children avoid her at night.  Fortunately, she turns in fairly early and by morning the sweet, charming,  slightly privileged person returns.
If memory serves me correctly, and I recall how stubborn my post hospital, post heart attack father was, we'll be dealing with this and other issues again very soon.
Funny thing is, I hope I make it to 88 or beyond.  Sweet Betsy from Berkeley is many things, depending on what time of day you catch her.  Among them, however, is a remarkable survivor.

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