Saturday, November 20, 2004

When Did I Become the Grown-Up?

I am sitting in a hospital room, at the foot of the bed of a sleeping 78-year-old woman who is and has been, for all intents and purposes, my mother, even though we are not even related. I was only a year-and-a-half old when she and her husband came into my life. I call them my “godparents", because I feel they were a gift from God when it became clear that the biological parents might not work out to my best advantage.

Her mobility has deteriorated so much in the last year or so. Her husband died eleven years ago. Watching him slowly succumb to Multiple Sclerosis was hard, but in some ways this is much, much harder. He had ten years, and hadn’t yet reached the point of needing a wheelchair or walker in his own home when he passed away from a brain aneurysm. The walker became a necessity for her in less than two years. It’s not MS – it’s something to do with the nerves in her spine.

She has had back surgery, and although she has been in here for nearly a week, I have only managed to get up here now. She will be here for at least a few more days, then she’ll go to the hospital in her own town.

She is all curled-up, like a little child. I often forget how tiny she is – a full foot shorter than I am. She looks so vulnerable, yet somehow peaceful at the same time. I think that this is the first time I’ve actually seen her for who she is now, the first time I’ve looked at her objectively, as if I were taking a photograph and she were merely the subject. The last couple of years have really aged her. She does look like she’s nearing 80 now. I hadn’t noticed it before.

I will just sit here quietly until she wakes up. I just hope I don’t scare her when she realizes I’m here.

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