I was immediately catapulted into a world from which I had just recently emerged. Those emotions and feelings that I recently filed away, quickly rose to the surface. I was overwhelmed with fear and the uncertainty of how this would all play out. I wasn’t ready for this. I wasn’t ready to lose my Mom—the matriarch and the heart and soul of our family. I wasn’t ready to read monitors and take notes. I didn’t want to engage in scientific conversation about cardiac output and arterial pressures. I just wanted to think about my Mom and pray that she make it to the next phase-which at this point was the 12 hour, followed by the 24 hour mark post incident. I was desperate to tell her that I love her and how much she means to me.
I lasted about 2 minutes in her room and then had to leave. Three years ago you couldn’t peel me away from the room and the crisis level was just the same, if not worse. Was it was because she was my Mother? Was it because I was tapped out and had not yet recovered from the 111 hospital-days of advocacy I had just invested with my husband? Or perhaps it was because my father, together with my brother Gary— one of the smartest people on the planet---was at the reigns.
The knowledge and medical understanding my brother gained while working in the hospital as an Orderly coupled with his experience working in the healthcare industry as an analytical chemist, would be the perfect combination in order to make sense out of the situation. He was keeping track of all the numbers as each minute ticked by, and although my Mom was making only an ounce of progress, I was comforted and encouraged by his choice of words, “Progress is progress.” And when I was scared during a critical point early in her hospital stay and asked the question, “Do you think she will pull through?” I was comforted to hear him say, “If anything looks off, they (the docs and nurses) will take a step back. Low risk.”
And then there was my Dad. For the first day-and-a-half he didn’t leave her room except when he was told to leave for shift changes. He stood vigil, holding my mother’s hand, stroking her hair. Even though she was sedated, I’m sure she heard his voice urging her to fight the fight. He hadn’t slept in nearly two nights. His body swayed back and forth in a rhythmic fashion, a sign that he was growing weary with exhaustion. He too was fixated on the monitors, smiling each time a number went in the right direction. He’s the one expected to be there first thing in the morning and the last one to leave at night. He’s the one who has to hear all the updates-good, bad, and ugly- from the physicians and nurses, the therapists and the ancillary staff. I felt for my Dad, for I know what it was like to be in his shoes—the person who is on the front line of the battle, taking shots, shielding and protecting. He’s scared inside but keeps a strong front for others to lean on; his children, his friends, and most importantly- my Mother. The love he has for his wife trumped his need for rest, food, and comfort.
At the end of the first day I had to text some important medical information given from a nurse to my Dad, my sister, and my three brothers for safe keeping. This group message, as it turned out, was a godsend as it served as a vehicle for us all to be connected to the situation and each other in what would be one of the most critical times of our lives. My Dad learned how to text and was able to give us all updates throughout the day. Each of us chimed in with questions, input from our own visits with Mom, a bit of humor to break up the tension, and above all love and support. Although my heart skipped a beat each time my phone beeped with a new text message, almost always the news was better than the text before. I never felt more connected to my Dad, brothers and sister than I did over the coming weeks through a simple group text message. Everyone’s personalities surfaced…Gary kept his input to numbers and data, giving each of us a sense that things were moving in the right direction. My sister Renee and I inserted our “I love you guys” and “Way to go Mom” comments, lending virtual hugs at all times. My brother Roddy was the quiet charmer, giving a positive vibe to our group, and always up for getting together for lunch or dinner after our hospital visits. Then there was my brother Randy…the ultimate sarcastic jokester. When the air was getting too thick with tension, I could count on him to break it up with some eye-rolling humor. He made us laugh at a time that was draped with fear and anticipation. Last but not least there was my father. For the first time, he used texting as a way to communicate. He would spend a half-hour creating a message that was grammatically perfect. He didn’t understand some of the lingo that we were using. It was so cute to see him write, “What does ‘TMI’ or ‘LOL’ stand for?” Every morning I would wake up, look over at my phone, and inevitably there was a message awaiting each of us from Dad. “Wake-up everybody…Mom looks great…” He proceeded to tell us how she was doing, and what the day had in store.
For the next few weeks, the routine stayed the same: text updates, visits to the hospital, restaurant dinners, and a daily Miller Manhattan toast to my mom. We finished the night singing our traditional German song, “Ein Prosit, ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit.” The meaning of Gemütlichkeit is hard to explain, but in essence it means good cheer, happiness, and warm tidings.
My Mom’s odds of survival the day of her incident were very low. But somehow, I believe that the spirit that lives in my family (which also includes my nieces & nephews, my in-laws, my aunts, and my husband & children), our closeness, our commitment to her and one-another, and the tidal wave of love that was showered upon her over her two-weeks stay in the hospital brought her back to life. A phenomena my brother Randy refers to as the “Miller Bounce.” It was the same force that helped my husband recover in the hospital nearly three years ago.
Now that my Mom has made it home safely, I am able to look back at these past few weeks with a sense of pride and gratitude that I am lucky to be a part of this amazing family. My Mom has committed her whole life to my father, her 5 children & their spouses, her 12 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren (with one on the way). It really hit me just how much my mother means, not just to me, but my father, my siblings, my nieces & nephews, and my husband and children as well. I could read it on their faces, I could hear it in their voices, I saw it in their actions. Our Mom, our Grammy…she’s the heart and soul of this family. I am so blessed that we all get to tell her in person just how amazing she is!
On behalf of my family, we would like to thank everyone for their prayers, cards, flowers, and well-wishes. Most especially, a big thank you to my Auntie Judy who without pause stepped up to the plate, and is currently helping my Mom recover at home.
And to my Mom…I love you more than life itself. Thank you for being the ideal mother, loving each of us unconditionally, and sacrificing your comfort so that others may have theirs. Now it is your time to sit back and relax. Here’s to a quick recovery and a lifetime full of Gemütlichkeit!