In the wee hours of Sunday morning, The Boyfriend in the Basement heard Mom moving around upstairs and went to see if all was well.
All was not.
He found Mom puttering around in the darkness of the living room and gently directed her down the hallway to bed. That's when he saw the blood stain on her pillow. That's when he looked at the back of her head. That's when he realized she was still bleeding.
That's when he texted me.
Mom put herself to bed around 7:45 on Saturday night. Usually I try and keep her up for awhile longer so she doesn't wake me too early the next morning! But I left her to her own sleepy devises that night as I had made plans earlier in the week for virtual wine at 8 o'clock with a group of friends (something I don't do on my Mom days, but MotherMinder's car trouble had me unexpectedly taking a Saturday/Sunday turn).
Once I was sure she was asleep I hustled Mr. Bones around the block for his poop walk, returning to the house in record time to get in on the cyber celebration. As I was grabbing my laptop to hurry outside I heard a thud from above, then a cry of "Daddy!" from Mom.
I sprinted up the stairs to find Mom laying on her side in the hallway. I hollered for The Boyfriend in the Basement to help me get her upright. Once we got her standing I noted no bones sticking out of skin, could see no bruises doing a slow spread, and judged her confused from the fall, but not in pain.
As I was laser focused on joining my pals online as soon as possible, I determined my hurried medical assessment was of sound mind, railroaded her back to bed, waited barely 2 minutes for her eyes to close, and exited the scene.
The Boyfriend in the Basement stood at Mom's door watching her. "She's fine. She's fine!" I said exasperated as I hustled past him. I didn't want his concern to make me feel bad for my lack thereof.
At 1:26 a.m. on Sunday morning - my friends having long since called it a night and signed off - I was still sitting outside working on furthering what was already an alcohol induced stupor when I got TBITB's text.
I attempted to sprint up the stairs again, but instead careened from side to side stupidly. TBitB already had Mom seated on her bed and was gently washing the cut - staunching the blood flow while cleaning the dried blood from her matted hair.
I felt like the biggest ass-jack in the world. The biggest drunken ass-jack in the world. Mom had smashed up her head in a fall and instead of taking the time to do a thorough check to make sure she was okay, I selfishly abandoned her for my own desires.
I was useless to TBitB as I slurred my sorries to Mom. He got her back in bed while I crawled onto the other side, held her hand and snuggled up to her, the only assistance I could think to offer the situation. She once again drifted off to sleep.
It was a caregiver fail kind of night.
A hospice house-call Sunday afternoon declared Mom's cut "Not too bad." We were instructed to put Neosporin on it twice daily, and it is healing up nicely.
The weirdest thing was that Mom was happy all day on Sunday. Her sudden eruptions of of laughter would catch us off guard. Smiles beamed forth for any and no reason whatsoever. She talked joyful gibberish throughout the day as if she was telling us jokes, making wisecracks about the objects and people she saw before her. Apparently, Mom's funny bone never resided in her elbow - it's in the back of her head instead!
While that 24-hour ray of sunshine faded to her normal baseline, there are indicators that other effects of the fall may be lasting. Her head now droops, her neck elongated forward as if it's a mighty struggle to raise her noggin one more inch. We can tell that her neck is sore and have been administering spoonfuls of children's liquid pain reliever for comfort, but there is something about the droop that makes me think it may permanently be with her. Like the fall bent her neck but all roads were heading in that frail, damn-near-dead old lady direction anyway.
And mentally she's... less. Not less Mom, but Mom less with us; less present in her not-all-that-present dementia way.
I don't know how to describe it... not vacant so much as... argh! It's so hard to put my finger on it, but it's as if more of her now resides in her ultimate destination, her eyes reflect something not of our physical world, unconcerned and unafraid of this sudden shift, not in a frantic hurry to finish up the move, but not worried that it's imminent either.
While in my eyes she physically aged years overnight.
It shocks me to see her like this. What's coming terrifies me. But when I rail and shake my fist at the devastation dementia has wrought on my mother, the Devil's advocate within me replies, "Well, what would you rather?"
"Would you rather have had her die in a car crash a year or two after you were born?"
"Would you rather have had her drown on a camping trip when you were an adolescent?"
"Would you rather have had her murdered in a home invasion in your teens? Deadly breast cancer in your 20s? Boating accident in your 30s? Heart attack in your 40s?"
"Or would you rather have had her die suddenly, like your father, leaving you with such heartbreaking regrets of what was left undone and unsaid
that it will haunt you for the rest of your life?"
My anger cools as I concede that I would rather have none of these. That I suspect Mom would rather have none of these. That my mother would probably not have traded her full-life at any time to avoid death by dementia.
I go into the living room where crook-neck Mom sits. I place myself at her feet, tears spilling down my cheeks as I drink in a face that reflects the subtle changes that frighten me, even as a surprising wink and glorious smile boosts my bravery. I shall remain my mother's keeper. I am resolved to gather the courage to finish the job.