Mom, true to form, was cranky, frightened, despairing even though she had asked to go to the doctor: "I think I'm going to need surgery again" she said very darkly, two days ago.
Yesterday, I waited until half hour before we'd need to leave to get the bus to Dr. Bronson's office. I pretended to make the call:
me: Hi, Dr. Bronson? Oh yes, hi. I was wondering if there's any chance we could get in to see you today. Mom is worried about the pain, and it's definitely time for our follow up after the hip replacement in June...Today? Really? Oh, that's wonderful Dr. Bronson, we'll see you there."
I can't tell her anything ahead of time or it cycles in to the fiercest, most relentless feedback loop. She starts dialing everyone, anyone, agonizing, asking if it's time yet, when are we leaving, now what was his name again?
So I told her: "Mom, it's incredible, Dr. Bronson has an opening this morning. We should get ready and go."
Then it starts, the backtracking, fear, complaining. Julie, Elaine and I sing the national anthem to ourselves under our breath. We muscle through the prep. We get her in the wheel chair, we cajole her down the four stairs in our lobby, comfort her through her loud protests about the bus. I ask her please to stop complaining for five minutes. Half the time I am laughing, half the time I am close to tears. She catches me and says:
"So I guess you think this is very funny, don't you. Well, have you ever been in PAIN????"
Just getting her on the x-ray table is an exercise in extreme manipulation, patience, and bossing. She just doesn't understand anything in a coherent way. She is terrified. We do our best. We get readable scans...the knee from last November looks perfect, popping out in white crisp relief against the murky background. The hip is the same, pristine, lovely. The other hip? Not so much. Beyond end stage arthritis.
Dr. Bronson says she is strong, everything looks good. "When do you want to do the other hip? I'd say November or even earlier in the fall."
My stomach is lurching. I've been secretly hoping he'll talk us out of it. I've been secretly hoping enough was enough. I've been secretly hoping somehow it just wasn't that bad. He reminds us that indeed she did have "three flat tires. And even though she only has one flat tire now, she still can't drive."
I look down at mom, she hasn't really been able to hear or follow the conversation, and it's too exhausting to try to translate as we go. She is calm and smiling all of a sudden. Maybe she is confusing Dr. Bronson with Dr. Kruger, - "the one who loves my poetry and already married two Nancys and that's why he can't marry me?"
Dr. Bronson starts to the door. Mom looks up at him, totally innocently: "Are you Dr. Cutie?" (Her attempt at Kruger)
We all crack up. She is enjoying the audience although she's not sure what is so funny.
Dr. Bronson: "Well, some of my patients think I'm cute, but, no, I am not Dr. Cutie."
We decide to push her the ten blocks home, rather than go through the stress and drama of the bus. Of course, then it's: "What are you doing, where is the bus? OWWWWW." Tears and more tears.
At least we've had a moment. Sad but sweet. Humor alive in the rubble. I have to keep remembering how excruciating it must be for her to feel her world closing in; words that she knew yesterday just beyond her reach today, nothing making sense.
Horton help us all.