Chapter Twenty-Nine – Home from the Hospital – In Mom’s Eyes
2004 – I am 55, Scott is 30, Julie is 27
This morning, the doctor told us all that Scott was going to be released today. We knew it was coming, but I think we all hoped he would stay a while longer. I’m terrified of what’s to come for Julie. But I can’t do what she’s about to take on, I just can’t handle it. This morning it was all laid out by the doctor.
“So, at home, someone is going to have to help you bathe, Scott. At least until your leg swelling goes down enough for you to do it yourself.”
“I’ll do it.” Julie pipes up immediately. Thank God. Because I can’t do it. Physically or emotionally, I just can’t do it. The doctor then directs most of the rest of his instructions to Julie, as if neither Scott or I are still in the room.
“After urination and bowel movements, he needs to be thoroughly cleaned, and re-bandaged. You’ll need to apply the cream lightly to his rashes, and keep those areas dry and covered. But let them breathe a little in-between cleanings too.” Julie nods. “You’ll need to closely monitor his medications, make sure he’s taking the antibiotic twice a day, his blood pressure meds in the morning, and his thyroid pill at night. He’ll need to drink more than average amounts of fluid. Make sure he sticks to this regimen on his pain pills as well. Too many, and he could become dehydrated. Did the nutritionist give you a meal plan?”
“Uh, yeah, we went over some of that. She’s given us some good ideas, and I think he has an appointment next week to see her too.” Julie’s face is getting paler by the moment. She’s afraid, unsure, and lost in a sea of instructions.
“Do you understand what all needs to be done for Scott now?”
“It’s pretty straight-forward I guess.” Julie looks at Scott and gives him a reassuring smile. The doctor seems to notice that he and I are still in the room.
“Well, so, is everyone on the same page? Do you have any questions?” He looks at each of us, his head tilted down, peering over the edge of his glasses, holding the discharge papers. We all nod. Scott signs the papers, and the doctor leaves. Now it’s time, all of a sudden, to go home. A nurse wheels in an oversized wheel chair to get Scott downstairs in. Julie just stares out the window for a while and none of us say a word. We know we have to go, but we’re not sure how this is going to turn out. And we’re not really ready for it.
After getting home, all of us were exhausted. Scott went and laid down. I went to my room, and Julie just sat in the living room for a while, then made an early dinner. We all ate, for something to do, I think. But I can guarantee you that none of us had much of an appetite. We’re all waiting for the first bath. None of us want it to happen. Scott is humiliated. Julie is scared. And I just plain can’t even fathom that my youngest child is about to bathe my 30-year-old son. And I am guilt-ridden.
I hear Scott go to the bathroom, I hear Julie running water for the “experience”. I hear her singing too. She’s so nervous. I hear Scott sniveling. He’s crying again. Tears are running down my own face, but I won’t make a sound. I can barely breathe, I’m so anxious and sad and my heart hurts for them both, for all of us. I wish I was stronger.
I can’t hear exactly what Julie is saying, but I can tell it’s something to try and soothe Scott’s pain. I can tell she’s trying to keep it together and make him feel better all at the same time. I am in awe of her. I don’t even know how she got this strong. I don’t know how she’s doing it. But she is. And before too long, they are done. Julie has turned out Scott’s bedroom light, walked down the hall, and sat down on the couch. I think she lit a candle, or maybe a cigarette. I have to see her face. I need to see Scott’s face too. My babies have just been through something that I couldn’t help with, and I’m so sorry for that. But I need to see their faces, know they survived it, know they’ll be okay.
I peek in on Scott, turn his light on again. He winces, covers his face, his eyes, from the light. I sit down next to him, rub his temple, stroke his arm, and ask if he’s okay. He says he’s fine, he’ll be fine, just tired, ready to sleep. I kiss him on the cheek and leave him, turn out the light. He’ll be okay, I think, eventually.
I walk down the hall to the living room. Julie’s head is in her hands, a cigarette between her fingers - wavering too close to her hair, a candle lit on the table, and a tremble in her shoulders.
“Are you ok?”
“Really? You don’t seem fine.” Julie shrugs at this, lifts her head, opens her palms to the ceiling, takes a drag from her cigarette, and blows it out in a long, smooth stream. Her whole body seems to deflate with that exhale, and the tears expose her truth. She is exhausted, drained, horrified, sympathetic, and sad. You can see it all cross her face, one at a time, like pages in a magazine, or a slow-motion replay. I want to take it all away for her. I want to make it all better, but I can’t. I can’t. And I’m sorry.