“She was screaming at night about her arm, her chest, her leg,” Anisha, a caregiver, said.
“She hardly slept.”
Anisha was speaking about my mother,now in Stage 4 cancer, confined to a bed for the last eight months.
Later on, when I went into her room, my mother said she had slept well the night before. “There is nothing wrong with me,” she said.
She was breathing on oxygen, then she told us to take it off. She has refused most pain medication, reluctantly asking only for sleeping pills.
I took her out on Sunday, in her wheelchair, and we ventured along the Marina. By chance, we happened to come to a dock where a water taxi was taking passengers. I wheeled her down and we rode around the harbor for a dollar.
A hospice nurse visited on Sunday night and found nothing “wrong”, only anxiety.
On Monday, another nurse came and told me later my mother’s feet were showing signs of “mottling” an impending indicator of death.
On Tuesday, I was back down at her apartment. A social worker was talking to my mother. Anisha told me that my mother had not slept the night before, and had talked of her future fear and past regret. “You should give her some hope for the afterlife,” Anisha said to me, an atheist.
When the social worker left, I went back into the bedroom. My mother was combative, annoyed. “You and your brother are driving me crazy with this system! How would you like to be under a microscope?”
I asked her if she had slept well. She said of course. She slept fine.
Again we went out to roam around the Marina. It got windy and she asked to go back inside. “I want a steak,” she said. She had not eaten more than liquids for at least a week. I corrected her and said she meant hamburger.
And then after I left the apartment, after I had two glasses of wine at a bar, I walked around Venice, shooting pictures along the canals, and then wandered back to my car.
The phone rang as I drove east on Washington. It was Anisha. She wanted to assure me that my mother had slept well last night. When she had called out, it was only in a dream.
“I told him,” Anisha said to my mother before she hung up the phone.