My mother’s bruised and battered arms lifted toward me from the confines of her hospital bed. She was motioning for me to lean in so she could tell me something in private. I casually bent over thinking she was going to whisper something like she loved me but got something much more dire. Her breath, hot on my ear, seared the following words into my brain: “They are trying to kill me. Take your children and run. Get out before they kill you, too.”

Now, my mother is usually full of caustic remarks (my sarcasm is definitely an inherent trait) so I’m used to her smarmy comments. But this? No way was I ready for this. And she fully believed that someone was going to kill her. She was terrified. She kept trying to get up out of bed but the restraints that held her down due to her combativeness refused to give.

I was stuck in between the reality that nobody was truly trying to kill her and realizing the fact that she fully believed that someone was trying to kill her. In her mind, it was terrifyingly real and there was not a single thing I could do. She even stated to me that she understood how crazy it sounded. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that this person was not my mother. And even though her scathing remarks can sometimes take their toll, I wondered if that person would ever be coming back?

The hard part is that she changed so drastically in such a short period of time. On my first visit to the hospital mother was her usual self. She was genuinely happy that we had come to visit with her but, of course, it was all tinged with a few biting remarks about how she had to “get sick” so we’d come visit. Then she had a couple of days of not doing well. She had become combative and was becoming increasingly delusional. Then she had a day where she did nothing but sleep. I sat beside her resting body and stroked her bruised and battered limbs. She had cuts on her legs from the restraints. They were covered with sheer plastic bandages so one could easily see the jagged edges of her wounds. I outlined them with my finger, wishing they would disappear.

During one lucid moment she queried, “What has happened to me?” Again, tears filled my eyes as I shook my head, not knowing how to answer her question as we, ourselves, had no answers. The doctors first believed she had an infection, possibly meningitis or encephalitis. Once that was ruled out they started thinking that she’d had a series of strokes. She has a pacemaker/defibrillator, which, unfortunately, made it impossible for them to conduct an MRI. So, we still don’t have any answers.

And it was without answers that I left Central Ohio, shifting gears to begin thinking about Ben’s next round of antibody therapy and bone marrow biopsy that is starting all too soon. I have just enough time to get laundry done and maybe get the tree decorated. We won’t be coming back from NYC until right before Christmas. Ben doesn’t believe in Santa any longer and I figure this will be the last year that Madeline believes as well. Then, somehow, the magical element of the holiday will be gone. I’m so angry because Cancer stole our Christmas last year and now that Ben doesn’t believe in Santa, I wanted to somehow make this year extra special. I don’t know how that will happen, but I’ll figure something out.

And, boy, would I love to take my mother’s advice and run. I wouldn’t be running from the murderous hospital staff she believes is coming to get her. I would be running from pain and cancer therapy and sick mothers and laundry. Oh, how I’d love to run away from laundry. But the restraints called responsibility are keeping me confined.

And I’m dealing with that the best I possibly can.

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