“Are you terribly busy today Lori?”, without caller id I would not have recognized my elderly mother-in -law’s voice. I abandoned my computer, with the half written e-mail confirming my late morning meeting for lunch and thrift shop browsing, I set down freshly brewed tall mug of tea and ignored my pjs and unshowered hair. My few remaining days of break suddenly had a different schedule.
“No, what’s up?” From the sound of her voice I knew this couldn’t be good.
“Could you come over and make me some toast?” an unheard of request to the most stubbornly independent woman in the county.
My mind quickly returned to the ten days she’d spent in the hospital in early December, where time and time again she’d relapsed with the stomach flu.
“Sure, what’s going on?” I wondered if I should call for help.
As she explained her long night of illness I quickly added a line to the e-mail, telling my friend I’d contact her if our plans could continue. I ran to the bedroom and grabbed jeans and sneakers and the closest top, dressing for sick room, not lunch.
As I drove the 5 rural miles I prayed for skill and kindness as I dealt with an uncomfortable situation. I have a weak stomach and I anticipated a mess when I arrived.
When I arrived, Midge’s hands were shaking with weakness; she lay on the couch, with walker and cane close by. I made her tea, and toasted some bakery bread I’d bought earlier in the week. As I convinced her to eat half a banana and drink some water I wondered how I’d know if she needed to be hospitalized.
I started the washing machine, stripped the bed and gathered up anything that needed to be washed. As the washing machine swished and rinsed I reflected, someday I will need help too. When she finished her breakfast I settled in to chat and fetch anything she might need.
Over the next hours as she napped and began to get stronger I thought of the hard decisions that will need to be made in the future. After a light lunch she encouraged me to go home and “fix your husband’s lunch.” I struggled not to laugh, my husband has happily made his own lunch for the 17 years I’ve worked in education. But years of making her farmer husband’s lunch still are clear in her mind.
As she began to worry that I had work to do at home I agreed to leave for a few hours, and arranged to stop in the late afternoon to deliver a few groceries and check on her.
After a late lunch and shopping with my friend, I returned to make a light dinner. As I refilled her water and laid out a snack for the evening I asked if there was anything else I she needed. Little did I expect the next request to be the most disgusting and dreaded of the day.
“I think I caught another mouse, could you check and reset the trap?"
I felt the blood run from my head. I loathe mice. That is one task I always leave to my husband! If he’s gone on a business trip I throw trap and corpse away. For a moment I thought about pretending the trap was empty. I really hate mice! I never do that task! But now was not the time to explain this. I took a deep breath, smiled and asnwered,“Sure, where is it?”