Thoughts, insights and rants by our favorite POST-dystopian author and fans.
Dear Diary #2
Back on November 17th, I wrote the first blog of what would be my morning writing exercise, before getting to work writing. The plan was (and is) that the blogs would be based on the research I do for novels which includes a mixture of history, technology and speculative fiction. However, those plans were waylaid by my 90 year-old mother having another in a series of major strokes. I then chronicled her journey till a few days before she peacefully passed on December 1st, 2013. That was just over two weeks ago. She donated her body to Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. We just had a wonderful memorial for her and so many people showed up. It was an amazing turnout for someone who has so few contemporaries left.
So, now it’s back to work on Between Two Rivers, the first novel of a new series based in Mesopotamia, circa 2350 BCE, and the aforementioned blogs. I’ll start that tomorrow. But I want to write a few more paragraphs about my mother’s passing, primarily for my readers in the United States. It has to do with socialized medicine.
I am constantly shocked and amazed, and sometimes I howl with laughter, about the crazy debate about socialized medicine in the USA. From an outsider’s perspective, it appears that the corporate powers and medical lobbies down there have the populace brainwashed to think they have a viable system. However, besides your US system being the most expensive ON THE PLANET, it gives your population as a whole very poor service. Even the new Obamacare system, while a small step in the right direction, still puts the foxes in charge of the hen house.
But it isn’t my intention to initiate a debate about American healthcare in this forum. If readers are moved by what I have to say next, (having to do with my mom) you will have to do your own research and take your own actions.
What I want to do in this blog, is to report to my fellow human beings in the fifty US states, that my mother received fantastic care from our socialized healthcare in her final months. There was no agenda to end her life by a death panel. She was kept comfortable, and it was my mother, sister and I who made the decision to stop life-prolonging intervention. As for myself and my family – and all my Canadian friends – I’ve never had a friend or relative whose life was put at risk because of some insurance company gatekeeper making decisions for a doctor. And while there has been serious illness in my family and among my friends, our homes and savings were never at risk to some insurance company by being under insured or by co-pays. And no, our system is not perfect. There is no such thing. But it’s better for the majority and cheaper for society. Heck, our roads, public schools, armies, infrastructures, etc, are socialized. Why not healthcare?
That’s all I wish to say on the matter. Now it’s time to get back to the personal pursuit that gives me the most joy in life, besides my family. That is, my writing. I haven’t written in over three weeks and my creative well is hopefully recharged.
December 16, 2013
So, I just started this online diary of writing my next sci-fi novel, but have been waylaid by life. So, I apologize to anyone who came by to see what was coming next on that front, but, you see, my mother is dying.
2 PM, November 24, 2013. I’m sitting by my mother, Ida Shirley Kaufman, who is on her deathbed. We’ve been here at least a half dozen times, after she stroked, where we thought it was the end. But this time, I think it is.
Her mouth is drooping, she can’t talk, her left arm is useless, and her support workers say she wouldn’t eat for them, or even open up her eyes.
I’ve positioned myself at the bottom of the bed, in a comfortable chair with my laptop, so I can’t see her drooping mouth. It’s too disconcerting.
My sister said she really didn’t know if mom with “with it” last night, because when she left and said, “I love you,” Mom didn’t say, “I love you more,” which she’s always said to both of us.
I guess I got that same lightly sarcastic sense of humor from her. Always wisecracking, it took me years of therapy to understand that it was a defense mechanism covering up an inability to be intimate. In fact, I can’t remember telling my mother that I loved her until about three years ago, when she started dying. It took me weeks to work up the courage to say it. Nor do I remember her saying those words to me until after that, and it came out, “I love you more.”
November 26, 2013 Well, she’s still here. I had to go to Toronto yesterday for a TV book interview, and almost cancelled. But when I came to the nursing home at 9 PM last night, it was determined she’d probably be around, at least for another day, and my sister said she would stay with her. As well, I would pick up my nephew, Ari, from Toronto, so he could come back and see his “Bubby”. Ari is an actor on a sci-fi tv series shot in Toronto, and he wasn’t needed on set this week.
Before I left, I talked with my mother’s doctor, Dr. Kennedy, about intravenous fluids, and he agreed it was a hard decision of what to do. If a person is dying and you give them fluids, it will prolong their departure for a week or two. Without fluids, they’re gone in two or three days. You can also give smaller amounts sub-dermally, but the same thing, except not as drastic. Knowing my mother, she’s been trying to die or several years now, but her body is too stubborn. Hell, she smoked for almost seventy years, up until less than a year ago, and didn’t even have smoker’s cough or voice. So she’s tough. When my father was dying about a decade ago, he refused intravenous, so he could get it over with. A fellow across the hall, who was dying of brain cancer, had intravenous fluids, and when his pain meds ran out in the middle of the night, he screamed to be killed. (We reported the night nurse who said she wasn’t required to give him his meds for another two hours, even though it was as needed.) Luckily my mother is getting excellent care, and Dr Kennedy says he’s seen people farther gone who rallied with only the small amount of fluids the patient managed to take in themselves. Knowing my mother, and the fact that she wasn’t opening her eyes, one arm was paralyzed, and her pain response was negative, we opted for no extra fluids and I went to Toronto.
12:30 PM Nov 27, 2013: She’s back! She can’t talk and can’t move, except for her right forearm, which she uses to hold hands or scratch an itch on her face. The personal support workers move her every two hours. Once again, Ari has come home to see his grandmother “one last time”. This is time four or five. My sons live in town, so can visit more easily. Yesterday she was given water and juice, thickened with a cornstarch product, so it wouldn’t go down her trachea. No food, except for a Fudgesicle I fed her. How she seems so bright with so little liquid the past four days, I don’t know. The decision, as I mentioned before, is to offer her nourishment, and if she refuses it, we don’t push it on her. We shall see what happens.
The devil of it all is that she’s probably had seven strong strokes over the last few years, (probably dozens of small ones) but none that would take her. She recovers each time, but at a lower level than before. I really don’t know what else to say about this. It’s not fun. It’s not funny. It’s only sad and a bit depressing. Who wants their mother to die? No sane person. But she’s had enough.
When we’re not in the middle of these situations, we make pronouncements about what society should do at the end of people’s lives, but every situation is different. Maybe when it’s all over, I’ll have something thought-out to say. This little diary is just . . . because I’m a writer and it’s what I do.
6 PM: Nov 27: I came in for a short while, and she was again back to being mostly not there, although she did like having another Fudgesicle put in her mouth. She always loved chocolate. Then she fell asleep.
10 PM: Nove 27. I went to a movie, and then dropped in for a bit to see how she was. Asleep, then a bit awake. Didn’t want the Fudgesicle this time. Mom’s not very aware. I just wet her mouth with a sponge. They are taking very good care of her. She’s had the same personal support workers and nurses for quite a while now. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe what?
With her in this state, I’ve only been able to write a few minutes per day on Between Two Rivers. Yesterday, while I sat at Mom’s bed while she slept, I got about 300 words down. Tomorrow, if Ida is still bright-eyed, I’ll push myself to do more.
Nov 28: Nope. No writing done. Sat with Mom most of the day. Her body is amazingly resilient. All the writerly romance has gone out of dying. Not pretty. Not ugly. It just is. Poor baby.
Nov 29: I really have nothing to write about this. Sat with Mom late last night and early this morning. She stares out with one eye, sort of, once and awhile. Sleeps with that one eye partially open. I think I won’t write anymore on this.