Today would have been my mother’s 99th birthday. Born in 1922, she changed her birth year to 1923 only because she didn’t want to be two years older than her husband, my father. She regretted it when the social security age came around and she lost a year of benefits. Twenty-three years ago she died on this day, her birthday. She was 75 years old.
It was a beautiful summer day, perennial flowers were still in bloom, her vegetable garden ached from neglect since only eight weeks earlier she was diagnosed with an advanced brain tumor, a glioblastoma multiforma. No one knew very much about it at the time, the doctors recommended brain surgery but warned it would only prolong life not necessarily the quality of life. Despite a variety of unsubstantiated “cures” like powdered shark fin, the medical professionals all said, there is no cure. No way out.
My mother’s inner sanctum knew this. She quietly prepared the best she could in the short time she had before the tumor overcame her. She was home surrounded by her family. The summer breeze made the white curtains billow like the sails of skipjacks on the Chesapeake Bay. The garden was there unattended for a time until my father took up the shovel to turn it over for the next season.
Quite a different situation for Yuri. His Brain, the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Human Body Ltd knew it wasn’t his time. Under deep sedation, his internal organs went about their essential repairs, his willful mind went on a walkabout of a lifetime, meandering through hallucinatory dreamscapes often intertwining with ICU setting of machines, a backdrop of blinking instruments flashing vital numbers while dispensing medications to put out the conflagration that had spread as rapidly as the wildfires out in the West.
Today is three weeks since his arrival home from the Rehab center that brought him back from a long hospital stay to a home ready for health restoration. We’ve overcome the first week of extremely (for us) difficult physical and logistical challenges – physical transfers, doctor visits, medications, and tube feedings. After that, during Week Two, Yuri’s photo having a beer shows him looking pretty good, and sometimes it’s hard to recall the days, weeks, months when it looked like his time was dangerously close to coming to the end of the line.
I watch the discipline and focus on all of the exercises and movements for him to relearn as he becomes more self-sustaining and not as reliant on me. His voice is coming back. Swallowing practices takes him from soft foods to textures and flavors he is savoring. His motivation impressed the Home Care team so much that they add more to his daily repertoire for the return back to normal. Back to the ability to face the Unexpected Present with a sense of humor over the things we still have little or no control over like when he sneezed and the liquid squirted out of his PEG tube like a spouting fountain.
The doctors are surprised, astounded at what Yuri has gone through to where he is now. Happily, they send us off until another month from now. The Visiting Nurse stopped visiting. The Speech Pathologist is discharging him. Yuri is graduating from Occupational Therapy. The Physical Therapist is coming only two days a week and recommending Outpatient Physical Therapy. We told the G.I. we want his feeding tube out. Scheduled for removal a week from today.
New beginnings for this summer day. It’s his time. And he’s making the most of it. Can’t wait for what he’ll be making for dinner tonight.