Saturday, January 21, 2006

Friday Drive

It was the beginning of dusk when I pulled off the grass of my mom’s yard for the trip back to Durham. I had the schnauzers in the back seat and had loaded the items in the car that I thought I might need to spend a quick weekend away--at my own home. Because I was transporting all three dogs and not just the girls, I was driving my mom’s car. Providing a space for the dogs to recline, I was also trying to improve my chances of driving without having constantly to push away one of the dogs as he or she would insist on standing in my lap, with two feet on each of my thighs for the duration of the trip.

I headed north on I-40 and from New Hanover County soon moved into Pender. With each passing mile, the sun continued to fall in the afternoon western sky to my left. A small amount of cloud-cover caught the light and refracted pastel pink, while between clouds, the sky grew deeper and deeper blue with time.

Soon the line of Duplin County passed beneath my wheels. As I approached Rose Hill, I thought of my hometown twelve miles west and how the sun appeared to be setting approximately in the spot of the sky over the tiny village where my family had spent significant time in their lives. It seemed appropriate that there would be a sign of the ending of a day emanating from our old home. There was serenity in the sunset…a peacefulness in the passing from light to dark and from day to night.

Mom had been readmitted to the hospital in the morning. She was unable to breathe when the morning started and we were scheduled to see her cardiologist’s “coumadin” nurse, a woman who samples patients’ blood and determines whether or not their dose of blood thinner should be adjusted. By the time we reached the clinic, it was apparent that mom was in distress and they sent us straight on to the Emergency Room from their parking lot. I got Mom to the hospital and within 20 minutes, she was on a gurney in the Emergency Room, receiving respiratory therapy and intravenous drips of medicine to slow her heart rate.

A cardiologist soon visited and explained mom’s condition in such a way that I learned a good deal about cardio-pulmonary disease. I learned about the fragile balance of body chemistry and its affect on the heart, and about the consequent fragile balance between life and death. In retrospect, the very nature of the past four weeks has seemed a bit like the irregular beating of a heart. There were days when my mom was in the hospital and in little distress, followed by days at home where the intensity and frequency of visits from home health nurses and my mom’s failing ability to function stressed us out and seemed like a compression beat or blows to the body. Three admissions in four weeks began to erode mom’s energy and she would eventually awaken at home to find she was unable to breathe. Her distress took its toll on me as I do not do emergencies well.

I realized I was replaying the events of the day as I drove along and I looked out the window to my west to find the skies increasingly pink, but mixed with darker and darker blues and violets. The silhouettes of pine forests showed black and rapidly disappeared by my window as we moved along. A few minutes later, a forest where the pines had been harvested came into view and the stark, bare silhouettes of the limbs of deciduous trees replaced the fleshed out images of loblolly pines.

My mind drifted back to the hospital and seeing my mom in bed again, basically in the same situation as two weeks before when she had been admitted the last time. It made me feel that we had made little progress toward getting her closer to independence again. I began to think that this cycle was one that we might experience over and over in the next few weeks and months. As my thoughts drifted from the hospital to the highway, the day passed into night and the highway grew dark. I soon realized that I had passed through Sampson County and beyond Newton Grove without even noticing. I saw highway signs for Meadow, knowing that I was in Johnston County and would soon pass over I-95 as my route would turn due west toward Raleigh and Durham.

I was driving with the flow of traffic on I-40, not paying attention to my speed as much as driving by instinct. Unfortunately, I normally drive a pick-up truck and was driving my mom’s luxury Toyota last night. The smoothness of the ride was deceptive compared to my usual wheels and I didn’t notice my speed until I saw lights flick on in the median as I passed a State Trooper. He whipped his car around, flipped on his flashing blue lights and pulled in behind me. I pulled the car over and stopped.

When he came to my window, he told me I was speeding. A few minutes later, I drove off, frustrated with myself, and carrying a sheet of paper that matched in color the pink of the beautiful sunset I had witnessed earlier. My new ticket stated that I have no choice but to appear in court in March, early in the morning, three days before my birthday, in Smithfield, North Carolina.

Thankfully, I have until late March to deal with this ticket and I hope that my mom will be healthy and settled by then. I think I will keep mum with mom about this ticket…she has more important issues to worry about.



Blogger Nelson Clemente said...

What an awful end to such a hard day :(

-Nel x

1/21/2006 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger Erin said...

seems that when it rains it pours and everything piles up on you when you're already feeling overwhelmed, doesn't it?

I hope that your mother's health improves, and that you can find a meansure of peace somewhere in the midst of this difficuly place you're in right now.

Know that you're in my thoughts.

1/22/2006 12:30:00 AM  
Blogger Zha K said...

Holding you and your mother, bathed in the pinks, blues, and violet light of the sky and even to the darkness of the pines with hope that you may pass through this time with the "peacefulness of the passing from light to dark."

With loving-kindness,


1/22/2006 11:45:00 AM  

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