Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Most Uncomfortable Thing I've Written in Some Time.

This is probably self-explanatory as you read on, but here is the letter I wrote and am sending to two of my mother's friends from her younger days telling them she died back in 1997:

I’m not sure why it has taken me so many years to write this
letter. Perhaps it was easier to tell myself I was going to do it and then go
into denial not long after. Anything to avoid the discomfort of putting
together thoughts best left felt than expressed.
It isn’t easy to talk about a parent’s death, especially
when that parent dies at such an early age.
Denise Nadeau died in 1997 due to complications initially brought on by
Diabetes and eventually becoming renal failure. At the risk of sounding blunt,
she suffered quite a bit up until that point.
The Nineties was a difficult time for my mother. She entered
the decade losing feeling in her feet, often the first sign that a lifelong
Diabetic is starting to succumb to their disease. She wound up on a cane at first, which is how
she was when my father died of lung cancer in 1991, at the age of 48. Soon she
was in a wheelchair, but she refused to let that stop her, at least at first.
If you remember Denise Nadeau, and anyone who knew her seems
incapable of forgetting, you know she did not just give in to what was ailing
her. She kept working until she couldn’t
anymore, when the onset of Diabetic Neuropathy took the use of her legs and
left her hands like shaky claws. Her mind still worked and she did everything
she could to keep it working.
Unfortunately and to my living regret, she went through a
period where her health was too poor for me to take care of her alone or even
with the help of family and an aid. She wound up in a few different nursing
homes, a rather demoralizing fate for someone with such a brilliant mind and so
much left to contribute to society. Blue Cross did everything they could to try
and deny her care based on her age (early to mid-Fifties) and the fight to obtain
her Social Security was a lengthy one that eventually wound up in some sort of
I promised my mother she would not wind up in a nursing home
forever and I kept that promise. She came home in December of 1996. However, in
August of 1997, I entered her room one morning to find her in bed with foam
running from her mouth. She’d experienced a few seizures recently but this one made
her non-responsive. Rushing her to the
hospital merely resulted in her coming back to without the ability to process
information for more than a few seconds at a time. I suppose I’ll always bear
the guilt of not having noticed the warning signs of the night before due to my
own physical and emotional exhaustion.
My Uncle Mike, her younger brother, refused to allow me to feel that way
but sometimes, when I relive that night…
Anyway, she lasted another 4-6 weeks after that. My other
Uncle, her older brother, was a physician’s assistant specializing in renal
care. The speech her doctor gave us about her lack of chances and the option to
place her in hospice care was identical to the speech he’d given countless
patients at his own hospital. It suddenly became too real for my uncle and he
wound up retiring a year or so later.
Providence Hospital, always looking toward that next major
malpractice suit, found a way to get my mother out of their hospital and into a
nursing home/rehab facility in Royal Oak a few weeks before she died.
It’s funny: The day she died, I inexplicably decided to call
in sick to work. I kept wanting to go see her and something kept causing me to
delay leaving. A phone call came in early that afternoon from the facility
advising me my mother wasn’t responding and that an EMS had been dispatched. I hesitated
to leave even then, wondering if I should make myself available in case they
needed to call back (this was before cell phones became the norm). Eventually,
I decided the hell with it and drove over there.
I met the EMS workers coming off the elevator. Their gurney
was empty, so I figured this was yet another case of Mom pulled through a
seizure. As I rounded the corner, I actually heard one of the nurses ending a
phone call by telling the person on the other end to please call back ASAP.
Don’t ask me why, but somehow I knew I was being left a message. I said, “Hi, were you just calling me?”
I don’t remember a whole lot about what happened next. I was
taken into my mother’s room, where I had just peeked inside moments before,
only now I realized the bed wasn’t empty at all. The covers had been pulled immediately
asked where I wanted to send “the body.” I remember having no idea and being
asked to go through the Yellow Pages and find a funeral home.
I also remember sitting in the room with my Mother one last
time while some insane woman in the next bed over complained about me being
there. Finally, I remember just getting up and leaving without saying anything
to anyone.
Each year your card has come to the house she once filled
with her powerful energy, a house I still live in and will be losing soon
due to foreclosure, and each year I tell myself I’m going to write a letter
back and tell you what happened. If I have a reason for not having done so
until now, it is because the cards made me feel as if she was still here. My
reason for doing so now? Soon I won’t be in this house anymore and the cards
will stop coming.
So, that’s what happened. Hopefully my decision to wait is
at least slightly forgivable.

Chris Nadeau

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