Excerpt – Enter Mourning, Chapter 7

Enter Mourning: A memoir on death, dementia and coming home

By: Heather Menzies

Chapter 7: The Fall (excerpt)

…“Why does it hurt?” she kept asking, sotto voce so as not to appear complaining, not to make a fuss. I bent over the side of the ambulence gurney, holding one of her hands in one of mine, and used the other to stroke the hair back from her face. I told her that she’d fallen; she might have fractured her hip. Where? she asked. My face close, I told her: back in her room at the residence. She nodded and lay still for a while, then asked again, “Why does it hurt so much?” And once again I told her, my hand holding hers, she giving it a squeeze and I squeezing back.

This went on and on, her moaning softly, then her eyes searching for mine, me leaning in close, stroking her face, squeezing her hand, telling her what had happened, telling her where it had happened, hearing her say “ah,” feeling her squeeze my hand, her eyes glued to mine.

“Fused” I called it in my journal later. “The two of us were fused to each other”– at times, almost literally as I sometimes rested my forehead against hers. I was aware of my back aching as I bent over the railing of the gurney, but the pain was somewhere off in left field, poking away trying to get my attention, but failing….

…..I wanted to go over to this man, a complete stranger. I wanted to take him by the hand, and close the distance between his mother’s flesh and his own. I wanted to tell him: just touch her, hold her hand, and stroke her face. Yes, she’s strange lying there without regular clothes on, her hair a mess, her face so waxy and pale. But she’s still there, inside all that strangeness. Reach in for her. Make contact skin to skin. Let yourself go, trusting the rhythms of gesture and pure relating.

… I sat there hyper-vigilant as Gail the social worker asked Joanne, the head nurse. “Do you think she’ll make it?”
I looked at Joanne. “I don’t think she will,” Joanne said.

The words crashed into me. Hinges and latches gave way. Door-like things flapped back and forth inside my chest…. …

They showed me Mum’s chart, and it was almost too much to bear, seeing her set down in categories of bodily function, all in negative terms. Everywhere I read, there were clear, emphatic ticks indicating TA or “Total Assistance” needed in everything from toileting to feeding to movement in and out of bed. Everything was in the negative, the deficit category except at the very bottom, in the category for mood and overall bearing.

“Good affect,” someone had written in the comment section. I smiled at this. “That’s nice,” I said, and the tears came again….

All Contents Copyright © Heather Menzies