Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Monday, 20 July 2015

Mother's Bunion

I wondered if maybe I should end my whole blog with me on Simon’s roof with the daisies. Now I am in Perth, Ontario. The clouds in the sky seem close to the ground. My mother is waiting to get her bunion chopped off her left foot. I am not certain that chopping is the right word.  If it were my foot, I would not get it done, though if you’ve seen my feet, you might conclude that I am not the best judge of feet. As she prepared for having a foot cast, my mother was even more hyperactive and erratic than usual. One minute she is boiling the corn for dinner and before I know it she is out in the garden, planting a periwinkle.

This morning after I finished yoga, there was wild rice boiling on the stove and my mother was throwing in a load of laundry. Moments later she is up in her bedroom doing yoga. My parents aren’t together, but they both do yoga. If I was their teacher, I would tell them both to soften their breaths. Their exhales sound heavy and strained, as though they have grief around their hearts. Probably they do have grief around their hearts. Who doesn’t.

My mother turns on the French radio to help accentuate her yoga practice. I can still hear her heavy exhale. I walk past her bedroom. Now yoga is over, but the radio still plays. In the bathroom, my mother is frantically brushing her teeth. It is exactly the sound of enamel wearing down. My mother walks out of the bathroom. She is dressed in jeans and a t. shirt. Her socks are white with hot pink toes and heels. She folds forward in one more yoga pose and lets out one more grief-filled exhale.  

Pre-surgery, my mother is forbidden to drink coffee. She feels this is entirely unmanageable. We agree that half an inch is okay. I consume several inches. These days I wake up to a black wall. Coffee is the only way forwards.  
Other things on my mother’s list: plant a peony, run the dogs, don’t burn the rice.

She takes the dogs out for a run behind Perth’s Nursing home near a place called The Garden for the Blind. There the flowers are supposed to smell particularly good. As you pass by certain areas, a voice talks to you about plants. I stay at home and eat granola. Despite my several inches of coffee, I still leave the rice on for too long. It sticks to the pot and smells a bit burnt.
There is no time for the peony. Guiding the two dogs on leashes, I walk my mother halfway to the hospital. Her bunion doesn’t make her limp, but she says it’s impossible to buy shoes.

“This’ll just be an experiment on how I deal with pain.” I am curious to see how the morphine goes.
At noon I drive down to the hospital. To save on parking, I try to find a space on the street I grew up on. Mary Street. My grandmother’s name is also Mary. The only spot is between two cars. I have always been terrible at parallel parking and so instead I drive around some more. I end up parking in front of the funeral home beside my old high school.  

The surgeries are backed up. Two different knees need scoping. Plus the surgeon will have to have lunch at some point. I love how the O.R. is labelled “Operating Theatre.” Very reassuring. Outside a man is sitting and flipping around on his I-pad. The surgeon comes out to show him a picture of his wife’s esophagus. I guess she choked on a fish bone.  The fishbone wasn’t there anymore but it left a little scar. Where is the fishbone now?

I ask the surgeon with the esophagus photo if I could go see my mother. He says he will ask the nurses.

“It’s the nurses who run the show,” says the man with the I-pad. He’s a retired doctor.
“I love doctors,” I tell him. “And nurses. I used to want to be a nurse, but my fine motor skills are not that good.”

“Really?” he asks. He sounds surprised, as though I look like I radiate intricate agility. But I don't. When I lived with the Boatman sometimes, somehow, I would get peanut butter on the walls. Left over from breakfast or washing dishes or who knows. Back when I used to consider becoming a nurse, we used to joke about me being in the operating room. “Who got the peanut butter on the heart?” the Boatman would say.
“But I used to be quite good at bowel routines,” I tell the retired doctor. This is true. I was excellent.

I can hear my mother’s voice from behind the double doors.
“Can I just talk to my daughter?” she asks, almost shouting. I open the double doors. My mother is wearing a blue hospital gown and puffy blue hat. In permanent marker, someone has drawn an arrow pointing to her left foot. That’s a good idea. Remembering your left and right is tricky.
At this point the bunion will probably not be chopped off until three or four p.m.  I receive orders to go home, and turn the air conditioner on for the dog.

“You know how to do that, right?” asks my mother. My mother looks a little bit like Jane Fonda. Tiny, blonde, feisty. She is chatting with all the other patients who are for their turn in the theatre. She’s the only one who’s upright.
“It’s a party in here,” she says. I tell her I know how to turn on the air conditioning, and that the hats are very nice. On my way out, I see a woman with a walker. Her spine is curved permanently forward, so that she stands in an upside down L shape. When I get home, I eat a small handful of burnt crunchy wild rice.

At 3:30 p.m., the chopping is all done. I ring the buzzer to the operating suite. The doors click before they open, both at once. It feels a bit like the Wizard of Oz. For a brief moment, it occurs to me that they might have messed up, and my mother will meet me with only one foot. Well, I have friends with less that two feet. Everything turned out fine. My mother looks fine, but her eyes are a bit puffy.  Her foot is vaguely wrapped in what looks like a white version of one of those fluffy blue hats.

"Hi," says my mother, and hops into the wheelchair.
 "Bye Leslie," she calls out to the nurse. 
"It's Wendy," says the nurse. "You'll have fun tonight."
"Wendy," says my mother. "Hahaha."

We go to the drugstore to get Tylenol threes. My mother is enamoured with all of the vitamins. Centrum for Women 50+ is on sale. She puts a box in her lap. Then she asks me to wheel her around the shelf where there are laxatives, and birthday cards. I take my blood pressure. It is within the optimal range.  The drugs are ready, and we wheel to the car. I put the free parking token into the wrong slot. Instead of forking over the four dollars, my mother recommends I return to the pharmacist for another token.

"Four dollars is half a bottle of wine," she says. Apparently, wine is cheap in Perth Ontario. 

"Way to go," says the pharmacist when I ask for another token. As I fumble with the slots, my mother and I laugh and laugh.

I turn onto Drummond Street. My mother raves about the general anaesthetic. Despite her disdain for excessive alcohol and all things marijuana, it seems she is a fan of medically induced comas. 

"Oh Erica, it's beautiful," she says. "If that's what death is like, I'm all set."

The End.

Now my mother is in bed. With her foot elevated, she chats relentlessly on the phone. The small black dog is curled up in her nook beside the fire place. The big white dog is sprawled across the bathroom floor, next to the toilet.

Small Black Dog

Large White Dog
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I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt

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