Maybe I’ll Ride Next Week

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Saturday night and I’m out drinking beer and texting to make my Sunday mountain bike plan. Just to be somewhat conscious, I drink water between glasses, hoping to defeat entire dehydration before beginning an epic Sunday.

Truthfully, I decide early on that my Sunday ride will be shared with Sunday chores. I like puttzing around the house taking care of things while on the iPod, fixing, organizing, sawing, painting, creating – all without the interruption of children. How blissful to have both in one day.

By 7:30 I loll awake and lie in the bed making sure this is real. Quiet. The puppy isn’t even harassing me. I read the paper in my jammies while drinking strong coffee that is magically still hot to the last sip. I marvel at how I’ve never really seen the bottom of my cup. The morning sun casts from a crisp sky, and I smile at the realization that I will soon be twisting my bike through legs of rhododendron.

I fry my weekly bacon treat with eggs over easy, whole grain toast, and tomato slices, dashing it all with chili garlic sauce. I justify the extra fat and calories with a day too filled with fun to take time to eat.

The kitchen cleanup begins and the phone rings, drastically changing my day to sitting behind a curtain in the fluorescent lights of the emergency room. Mom may have had a stroke. I hang up and head to the hospital where I have become accustomed to spending quality family time with my parents. I can’t decide whether I’m grateful or bummed that this didn’t land on a workday, or at it’s usual time of 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. with a 6:30 a.m. wakeup call.

It begins with my mother, who has Alzheimer’s, being left alone while the nurses at her home put the other people to bed first, allowing her to her own devices. This is when she trips and cracks her head open. They call us, sending her ahead to the ER via ambulance. At the end of the night my father or I will get the ER nurses to help us coerce her into the front seat of my truck so that we can return her home and tuck her into bed two hours earlier than the ambulance would have. I crawl into my own bed just in time for the toddler to wake up with a nightmare.

In the ER my father tells me random stories about his childhood in Berlin –  the field across from the apartments where the kids played or how his mother came to school to make sure they didn’t make him take part in the Hitler Youth. It’s the only time that he doesn’t feel like he’s taking up my time and relaxes enough for us to just be together. He consents when I send him home to have lunch with a friend.

I crawl onto the stretcher with my mom, covering us both under the blanket, telling her stories about her grandchildren or things I remember about her mother. On other visits she smiles and nods, trying to talk, although she can’t string the words into a meaningful sentence. The doctor and I sing her favorite Beatle’s songs while he staples her head back together. She’s calmer this way. Distracted.

This time she’s totally out. She doesn’t respond to the stories or even open her eyes. I get my iPod out to drown out the nurse’s station but decide to give it to her instead. I play Barber’s Adagio, and for the first time all day she stirs. By the time my father has returned, she is trying to sing along. Growing up this behavior annoyed the crap out of me, yet right now it’s the highlight of my day.

She hasn’t had a stroke. She has bruising and bleeding on her brain, although the staff at the nursing home have no recollection of what might have happened. It’s not certain whether her slurred speech is here to stay, whether she’ll walk again, or whether she’ll tell my boys to shut up any more when they are wrestling across the family room floor screaming over trucks. What’s certain is that she will have a new home – in a skilled nursing facility, with hospice nurses to make her comfortable.

Maybe I’ll ride next week.

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