WOT ABOUT SCRIPTS
This is a collage of expressing the randomness of life. It hardy matters if what we see, think or feel is factual or fictitious or surreal. Is it a descriptive memoir or a descriptive scene of a movie?
Updated: this 17th of August, 2020.
My dear Mother has died. I wept silently. Sadness.
Updated: this 5th of August, 2020.
Neither. It is real life.
The conversation with my mother 3-years ago seems as if it occurred just yesterday but the math hits me hard.
She is now 101-years old, and she has been in this institutional lockdown since the COVID19 Virus hit Oahu, Hawaii. She is trapped like all of us, but she is hardly in the same lifeboat.
I cannot imagine how much fortitude my mother has to survive this monstrosity of viral destruction, if not for some people, within the lungs of a human being, but also within the human mind of processing confusing information of government mandates which changes by the hour, by the days, by the situation.
I cannot imagine how she survives this virtually alone confined to a bed or a wheelchair.
I cannot imagine how tormenting it is to deal with a lockdown, on her terms.
There is a petri dish aspect, but there is definitely also the human aspect, the emotional aspect, the psychological aspect, the spiritual aspect, and perhaps too the psychic aspect. I fear the mandated lockdown is killing many other aspects of our existence.
If I can struggle with the anxiety and frustration of the impacts of this COVID19 lockdown, how can a 101-year old woman? I beg of you to tell me, how does she and many other senior people in a care home or in their own home psychologically survive this without going insane?
I trend softly on this matter of going insane as a consequence of being in isolation as a consequence of a government lockdown, and its benchmark of statistical infection rates screaming at you, while the screams of fear, frustration, confusion, and isolation goes unheard within a person’s mind.
Much of the criteria mandated in our COVID19 lockdown is the same as defined Solitary Confinement in a prison. The immediate isolation, the lack of human contact, the lack of stimuli, the forced loneliness and desperation when the door of the cell is slammed shut.
“Solitary confinement plays tricks on your mind. You’re bound by four walls, you’re cut off from society, and you’re left with just your own thoughts. Sometimes you start to feel like, if they treat me like this, I’m going to act like this.”
“Solitary confinement isn’t merely uncomfortable, they say, but such an anathema to human needs that it often drives prisoners mad. In isolation, people become anxious and angry, prone to hallucinations and wild mood swings, and unable to control their impulses.”
“As a result of the endless monotony and lack of human contact, “for some prisoners … solitary confinement precipitates a descent into madness.” Many inmates experience panic attacks, depression and paranoia, and some suffer hallucinations.”
At the onset of the lockdown, no one, not even family members are allowed into the care facility to eliminate the risks of COVID19 contamination on the senior citizens, many of which have pre-existing health conditions, and many without. Collectively, the lockdown measures are for the protection of both the care home residents and the dedicated health care professionals and staff of the facility. [I am very grateful and deeply appreciative for our caregivers.]
But where once my hand could hold my mother’s hand in tactile communication, there is none today.
Recently, I have been using SKYPE-To-SKYPE video to “chat” with my mother. It is a joy to at least see her face. But as hopeful as I was that we could at least bond again, visually and audibly, she has no longer the ability nor the will to speak or to gesture. I am so sad for her and for me.
COVID19 has trapped us between two worlds; of saving people while killing people.
I don’t know if my mother can hear me, or even see me. SKYPE resolution doesn’t lie. My mother’s eyes are closed, her lips closed. I speak as if she can hear me, I speak as if she laughed at my attempt to humor her. I speak alone. There is no audio report or visual report back.
In a desperate attempt to understand what perhaps she is feeling, be it immense joy or immense pain or immense horror, I watch for signs of life from her.
I can see her eyeballs move slightly beneath her closed eyelids when I think she is responding. I strain to interpret the lines of her lips as she tightens her lips in a futile attempt to smile or grimmace. I strain to reach out to her as her head tilts away, either from fatigue or do I dare, perhaps annoyance of some strange face on an electronic device from which her eyes and ears are incapable of processing.
I sit here in despair. I can only imagine her despair and torment.
I am afraid, that the true conversation that I had with her 3-years ago would be our last.
I don’t know what to do.
At 98-years old, my mother appears much younger than other senior women in the care home. Tonight, she looks particularly tired, perhaps a bit worn out and I suspect that the newly installed air-conditioning in the facility is keeping a chill in everyone including my mother and I. It’s darn cold. The thermostat on the wall is digitized at 70-degrees.
It’s dinner time in the care home.
I politely ask if she would like to try another spoonful of sliced miniature meatballs smothered in brown gravy.
By now, the untouched white mound of mash potato appears like a high mountain with deep vertical ravines down its side. Sometimes when dinner time isn’t productive, meaning my mother isn’t hungry, I idle the time away using the tines of the fork to put the green peas on top of the white mountain. It looks like a green forest on top of the mountain. Sometimes, enough time passes by, and she might be hungry for another mouthful.
“No,” she says, “I don’t want anymore. I’m not hungry.”
“Alright. How about some fruit?” I ask, poking at the square pieces of small mixed fruit in the round cup. I motion the spoon with a couple of pieces in front of her. “Try?”
She does, grimacing a little. “It’s sour!”
“Sour.” I nod affirmatively, now offering a warm cup of tea. “Try balancing it off with some warm tea.”
“Are you cold?” I ask, reaching for her hands. “Your hands are Icy cold”.
She agrees. She’s cold. I wrap the cotton towel over her shoulders and front arms.
“Where’s mama?” she suddenly asks inquisitively, “Where’s mama? Is she alright?”
“Mama? Do you mean MY mama? I ask.
“Your mama??” she laughs with a smile.
“My mama is you!” I smile back, “You’re my mama! And you’re all right!”
She smiles for a moment, and then the expression of humor melts into an expression of loss. Despair.
My heart sank.
She pauses. Looking out the window now. Distant. Searching. Grappling.
“How’s my mama doing?” she asks peering out of the window. “How is she doing? Is she okay?”
I pause in silence. That familiar knot in my throat tightens its grip. Months ago, I evaded the entire question by saying Mama is fine. Mama is okay.
Tonight, it’s different. My mother really wants to know how her mother is doing. The knot gets tighter.
“Your mama…your mama isn’t here anymore,” I struggle to reveal. “She’s gone Mom.”
My mother looks at me, “she died?”
“Yes, Mom,” I’m half-way gazing at her eyes, “your mama died a long time ago. She lived a very long life. She lived a healthy and long life, just like you Mom!”
The truth always seems to hurt even if we know the loss is so expected.
“Noo, I can’t believe that,” my mother says with lips trembling, “I can’t believe that mama died. No one told me?”
“It was a long time ago Mom,” I reply, “We told you. We all were told. We all were at the funeral. But…but it was a long time ago. You don’t remember. It was long ago.”
“….and papa too?” she asks so gently. “Did papa die?”
“Papa a few years before that,” I struggle to say.
“I cannot believe papa died too,” she seems to want to cry, like I remember she did at her father’s and then years later, at her mother’s funeral.
“And mama too.” she says seeking some sense of verification, “I cannot believe they both died.”
“I didn’t know!” she says.
“We all were at the funeral Mom. But It was a long time ago. Time passes so quickly. We forget sometimes.”
She looks faraway. I look at her eyes and trace her line of sight from the valley all the way to the sliver of the ocean where it meets the horizon. I ponder, is that faraway look the distance between miles, or the distance between markers of time past in her memory? How can we reconnect to the past which seems fragmented or lost?
“Mom, time just flies. It was a long time ago. We used to visit them and give them flowers at the cemetery. You were so happy to visit mama and papa.”
I hold her hands. They’re icy cold.
“You’re hands ARE cold!” I place her hands on my warm forearm. “Keep your hands right here and warm them up.”
For a moment, my mother looks at her hands on my forearm. I place my warm hand over her hands.
“Keep them here for awhile,” I said, “We’re finished dinner. Maybe, we can go back to your room where it is warmer.”
“My room is warmer,” she replies.
I release the brakes of the wheelchair, and we head for her room.
“It’ll be warmer in your room Mom. It’ll be more comfortable there.”
She nods. “My room is warmer.”
It’s time to head home.