As I was watching Tarzan with my mother in her hospital room on Thanksgiving, I was struck by this scene: Jane Porter, supporting herself between two branches, where she is stuck. “It can’t get any worse, can it?” she asks. As it begins to rain, she answers, “Obviously, it can.”
My mother was admitted to the hospital on Tuesday evening (her third hospitalization this year), after the assisted living staff found her on the floor. She has an infected sore on her bottom, which we learned on Friday is MRSA—Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—an infection caused by a type of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat staph infections. I spent my Thanksgiving with my mother at the hospital, leaving long enough during the day to have dinner at my sister’s house, and once more later in the evening, for pie.
Mom has been on IV antibiotics since she was admitted five days ago. We have not yet been told how long she’ll need to be on the antibiotics, or how long she’ll be in the hospital. There’s been some discussion of moving her to a skilled nursing facility before she goes back to AL. Since mom always does better in the familiar surroundings of AL (and with her cat), I plan to advocate for moving her back to AL with home health monitoring the IV. AL knows of the infection, and says they can take her back if home health agrees it can monitor the IV. Mom is taking all this in stride. I don’t think she felt well enough to be bothered that she was missing Thanksgiving at my sister’s. We did bring her a plate, which mom said tasted the same as the hospital lunch I fed her earlier in the day. Mom pulls no punches.
After mom ate her dinner, we left her to rest and went back to the alternate universe of my sister’s house. This is the place where everyone pretends my brother-in-law did not molest their youngest daughter over several years, finally stopping when she turned fifteen (seventeen years ago) and told a school counselor. My sister stayed with her husband and told no one what he had done. I wouldn’t learn about it until many years later, when my niece was living with me and outed him. My sister and I didn’t talk for several years after that. Not until all the dying, and I was thrust into contact with her (and her husband) at three funerals and a wedding. (Yeah, it’s got screenplay written all over it.) Now, with my mother in poor health and only my sister and I left, I find myself in my sister’s alternate universe more often these days.
My sister, much like myself prior to January 3, 2015, likes her wine (among other things). Having given up booze, I find myself closely watching how much other people drink. Usually it’s out of curiosity, more than judgment. Or so I tell myself. Thursday night, I lost count how many times my sister went into the kitchen to fill her glass with red wine. And when I say fill, I mean at least ten ounces a pop. The more she drank, the meaner she got. Here’s a snippet of her talking about my ex-sister-in-laws and my two brothers, who died of alcohol-related diseases:
Brenda was a real bitch. She trapped Steve by getting pregnant. She just used him to get a green card. And she thought she was better than all of us, always looking down her nose at everyone. She was awful to Steve. Dora was a bitch for a while, too. But Steve and Mike were horrible people to be around. They were total alcoholics. If I was married to either of them, I probably would have been a bitch, too.
Yes, my drunk sister, who is (still) married to a pedophile who molested their daughter, does not understand the irony of drunkenly telling us that my dead alcoholic brothers were horrible people to be married to, and made their wives act like bitches.
As I sat there drinking my Topo Chico, listening to my sister’s rant, I thought surely I must have stepped through the wardrobe into some Narnia-esque other-world. And I felt a sense of urgency, a need to get out of her strange, confused world before it permanently warps my brain. The trouble is, no matter how hard I pull on the wardrobe door, it remains stuck. And while I’ll keep tugging, I don’t expect that to change; I don’t expect I’ll be able to free myself from this other world, as long as my mother is still living.