Sep 162010

Yesterday I finally picked up the last mass of correspondence my mother had left in her suitcase and that the Heritage had stored in its basement.

I discovered all the correspondence I had sent her ever, copies of my stories, cards and letters she had got from other people long before my cousin Jerry and Kathy were even divorced.

I could see right away that it would take me a huge effort in time and emotions to sort through this and make it helpful for my memoir. I shall put it off. But I must find a way of storing this correspondence solicited make it easy to go through some other time.

I am amazed at all the letters I sent to my mother, the quantity just overpowering.

I was also taken aback at the number of letters Kathy wrote to her. I came upon some wonderful photographs.

 Posted by at 8:36 pm
Sep 162010

Yesterday was mother’s 99th birthday. I went to her birthday party at The Heritage. The three social workers did a great job in making it festive but it was anything but for me.

Her nurses had spent half an hour on mamma’s dress and makeup. Their efforts were overdone and garish.

Sitting on my left, she slept through most of the party, her head on her chest dribbling from mouth and nose. The contrast between the decorations the cake and the music/singing on one hand and mamma’s appalling decrepitude just tore at me and I began to cry.

I fed her a chocolate cake and ice cream, a messy business. With her eyes closed mamma opened her mouth as a chick opens its beak waiting to be fed. Is it shameful to be disgusted by your mother’s neediness?

Doug Kaplan, one of the social workers who was sitting to my right, playing the guitar and singing, leaned over to comfort me. I wouldn’t have it. I told him, “I wish you would stop feeding her.”

He grimaced. “She is content,” he soothed.

That’s debatable in my mind. Is she content only because she cannot perceive her actual situation? Or is she content because, as Doug said, people at this stage are happy just to be?

If she had known 10 years earlier what would become of her by September 15, 2010, would be she be content?

Yes she’s getting excellent care and attention at The Heritage but it’s a part of the problem? Aren’t they just supporting her, a breathing lump of protoplasm?

Who was the character in Greek myths to whom the gods promised to fulfill his one wish? He asked for eternal life and was given it. But he did not ask for eternal youth. And for the rest of eternity he lay blubbering in a corner, an eternally pulsating mass of flesh.

I don’t want to live to 90 or beyond until we have solved the problem of the brain’s longevity.

 Posted by at 10:35 am
Sep 162010

Almost a year ago I started writing my autobiography. Not willingly. I’m doing it because I want to teach others how to do it so I have to walk the line.

It’s really hard for me.  It’s hard because I don’t want to remember bad times and negative emotions and yet I dwell on them anyway without writing them down for the record.

So from time to time I will add in this blog snippets from the memoirs/life story I am compiling. When I teach this course again I’m going to have to be clear that this is a challenge.

 Posted by at 10:10 am
Sep 052010

I’ve wanted to go to India all my life. I just never got there during the 13 years I lived in Hong Kong, probably because I never got an assignment there and I didn’t want to go on my own dime.

But since I’ve been back in San Francisco I have been communicating by e-mail with Virginia La Torre Jeker — one of my closest friends in Hong Kong –and she has invited me several times to visit her in Dubai. When I said what the hell why not and agreed I realize Dubai was not that far from India. I planned this trip for months.

Set to go on October 4, I got a call from the head of nursing at The Heritage, on September 29 telling me mamma was having seizures. Naturally I ran down to see her and first consulted with her physician, Doctor Matin. She told me that the medication mamma’s seizures had subsided. What is a seizure, I asked?

A convulsion she said.

Yes, I pressed, but what does that mean?

She said it was probably one of the consequences of mother’s several strokes. And while the seizures might be controlled, there was no good prognosis.

We reviewed her DNR and her instructions for the end of her life. I found that she had selected that she should be sent the hospital and treated with intubation. I decided to change that.

I saw my mother sitting in the seating area outside the Friendship Hall. She was awake and alert and looking very distraught in my mind. She embraced me and kissed me with vigor.

As I was standing by her watching her, I signed the document changing her instructions that would end her life quickly and I hoped painlessly. It was a hard moment.

I talked to Stanley and reviewed with him the arrangement I made for her cremation and transport to the crematorium.

The next day I talked to Linda and called Joe Stinson at Colma Cremation Services, explaining the situation.

I was very calm talking to others. Both at The Heritage and home on my telephone. But by myself I was crumbling inside and very anxious.

Not only was I grieving for my mother but I was also feeling angry with her that she should fall apart just when I’m preparing for my much anticipated trip. I was ashamed of this feeling but I had to cop to it.

 Posted by at 2:28 pm