Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lest We Forget

So, my mom is in the hospital.

In the summer of 2003, while my older brother was going through a second divorce and my younger brother was trying to figure out his life post-Air Force, my mother had a heart attack. She underwent triple by-pass surgery. My mom is a tiny woman, a few inches away from official dwarfdom. The thought of her being on an operating table with her chest split open with rib spreaders is devastating to me. Since the operation, she hasn't been the same.
She is very forgetful and will often recount the same story more than once in a conversation. The doctors strongly suspect she has Alzheimer's. I say "suspect," because apparently they can't determine Alzheimer's until after you've died from it. Her sister died of Alzheimer's about two years ago.

There is a plus side to this. When I am home for Christmas, every night is Christmas Eve to her and every morning is Christmas morning. Her condition seems to have brought out a nurturing, maturity from my brothers. I used to regard them as chain-smoking alcoholics who were just riding out the rest of their lives. Not very responsible. For example, when my mother had her heart attack, my sister and I didn't find out about it until a few days later. We gave them hell for that, too. Through caring for my mom, they have grown a bit. I'm more than a little jealous of their relationship with each other and with my mom.

Overnight Monday, she had a small heat attack. I say "small" like it's cute or something. It's certainly not as serious. My brothers, incidentally, called me early in the day and throughout with updates. I spoke with Mom yesterday and she sounded in as good a shape as usual. The doctors are going to catheterize her heart (basically, inserting a small plastic tube into the aorta) and, if need be, do something similar to open up the flow one of the carotid arteries in her neck.

My brothers assure me that it's not going to be a big deal, but still...

With this in the back of my brain, I had a rehearsal last night with a group I'm directing called OLD. (They really need another name, I think. Most of them are in their 40's. One guy is in his 50's. They certainly don't seem old to me.) It's a nice, little show with some really strong songwork - they have literally been working their butts off on a Stomp-like piece. It's been refreshing for me to work with a group of people who are my peers in age. They get my references! My only regret, if I may have one before the show even opens, is not pushing them harder to deal with more mature themes in their scenes. Their songs do a good job of representing the points-of-view of life as seen from someone past the 40 year marker. The scenes are fun, but mostly don't deal with that unique perspective of staring down the last half of your life. Thoughts about mortality, retirement, health, fulfilment on almost every level, all seem amplified in my brain.

In spite of all that's rolling around my cranium, I like my life. I'm not doing it the way my parents did. I'm having fun, in a great relationship, doing my best to take care of myself and others, challenging myself through education and creativity.

There's a line in one of OLD's songs that goes "Old ain't what it used to be, old is what we say it be." I think this is true. And when I think of my mom in the hospital, dealing with her illnesses, it makes me appreciate her, my family and my life here in Chicago even more. I ain't dead, yet. And I ain't old.