I Am My Family’s Angel of Death
I’m crying today. I woke up in a foul mood with my back on fire. I dumped yesterday’s coffee grounds all over the counter because I couldn’t be bothered to empty the green bin and really believed I could squeeze in one more thing. I put one contact lens in my eye inside out and caught a hair in the other. I got my daily “Good morning Mom ❤” text from the daughter who wakes up as Sunshine Personified every day and just about threw my phone in the toilet.
I escaped unseen to my office with my pot of well-earned coffee, and before I could even open the laptop, I broke down in tears.
I have spent the last nine years analyzing my crying patterns through grief, frustration, fear, and exhaustion, but today it feels different. And it took a while to figure out why.
This time round, it’s my mom.
I spent the day at the hospital with her again yesterday. She’s 82 and needs blood transfusions every other week because she can’t make her own red blood cells anymore. It’s called myelofibrosis. Typically, it onsets around age 64, often morphs into cancer, and has an average prognosis of four years. Mom’s starting Year 13.
She also has this little memory bubble of present tense she lives in, where she is perfectly intelligent and coherent, but, depending on how tired and engaged she is, she loops back and starts over every 2–60 minutes. Oh, hi, when did you get here?
This means she needs me to accompany her on her day-long transfusion days. To make sure she gets what she needs. And eats. And takes her meds. And gets to the bathroom.
I’ve had the remarkably good fortune to be able to care for her through covid, while not being able to visit her otherwise at the nursing home, spending an entire day with her every other week. We’ve become incredibly close friends, and I’ve got to know her on a level I never suspected even existed. I am beyond grateful for the gift of time I’ve been given with her.
The flip side is that I’m watching her die an unbelievably slow and ominous death.
Eventually, her body will completely reject the transfusions. Or eventually, her kidneys will fail to manage her fluids. Or eventually, her heart will…