I arrived worn out last night from my visit to Austria. But then again, after going from folks in hospital beds to sick beds to death beds, who wouldn’t be.
But the tears of joy, my little sister cried, when she first saw me turning up in the hospital are worth every minute of it. Surprisingly, she was up and walking down the corridor, just as I was entering her ward, looking for the room number, I have been given at the reception. And she looked much like she always does, although her movements were slowed down a little. Due to the long scar running up her middle. And what we came to call “christmas decoration” later on. An outlet sewn to the main artery on the side of her throat, out of which six little flexible tubes tangled, each closed with a colourful clip. It was still left from the 8 hour operation almost two weeks ago to give doctors easy access to her blood stream – an outlet and inlet for drugs and blood and stuff. She said, she was sceduled to have it taken out the very afternoon I turned up, and I instantly said, by tradition, christmas decoration has to come off January 6th at the latest and weren’t they a bit slow.
Thus, we started off with a laughing note on an otherwise horrible topic. But she is strong and has lots of fight in her. Determined to heal. I hope, she is able to keep that as long as necessary.
Because reality is bitter. While she still was hoping, with that one big operation, treatment would be almost over, just while I was there, post operation screening results came in, looking not so good. The cancer was not just in her reproductive organs, but has already spread into the lymph glands, thus very likly having scattered the bad cells via bloodstream all over her body. Whereas doctors could not find another tumour anywhere else, they already set her up for chemo and irradiation therapy. This will take place at the university hospital in Graz, though, at a later time. I take it, after she has healed from the recent operation and her bladder functions again. Which is another worry right now. They had to cut a lot of nerves, including those to her bladder, so now she has to retrain the organ to function again. But it refuses to work on its own and on top, she caught an infection in that area, as is almost unavoidable under those circumstances. As a rsult, her kidneys start to act up.
I have to say, staff at Leoben hospital are excellent and lovely. My sister agrees. She says, she feels so well looked after and would much rather have all her treatment at this place. Unfortunately, they are not equipped for what my sister needs. I just hope, it will be the same in Graz.
But I hope for so much more. Even if staff in Graz were grim, if they were able to succeed in finishing off that cancer, I’d send them an “I love you” note. For the time being, all I could do, was just being there. It was hard, having to leave my sister yesterday to catch my flight back to Berlin. It took some strength to keep back the tears until I was out of her room, yesterday. I just wanted to bundle her up and take her with me. Keeping her close in my arms forever.
I have, of course, also visited my mom, who currently has a severe flu and is looked after by my aunt and other friends of hers. Resisting pretty much every form of help, my aunt informed me, asking me to talk some sense into that woman. Which of course was to no avail. But she did take the time to complain about everything. House repair worries. Various incidents occurring in her or other people’s life, that are annoying or unjust (or not, I can’t really tell). Regretting, she is not able to see my sister, as she doesn’t want to bring her flu to a hospital room. Forgetting, that she still runs a fever and is not able to stay up for any longer than two hours in one go. Fretting over her own situation and everything that went bad with my dad’s care last year. I had to constantly remind her, that this is over now. With dad being at a good place now and well taken care of. I just took it as her way to come to terms with her own situation. I can understand her being in a bad mental shape. What with her husband slowly dying and one of her kids now threatened with a dangerous illness. Especially, when you are not well yourself, this is bound to swamp you with negativity. So I just let her talk it all off, trying not to inrupt. Which is hard, because her stories meander so much. To places and times and people, I know nothing off. And frankly, often don’t have anything to do with what she tries to say, as far as I was able to gather. But this really is a minor nuisance.
Of course, I also visited my dad. The family run home for the elderly, he lives in now, is what one dreams of. It sits at the bottom of a remote mountain slope, overlooking Mur valley. He has his own, beautiful room with a big panorama window opening out to the now frozen river Mur, overlooking the river, the pastures and the mountains beyond. Everything is cosy and clean. Staff are nice and caring well for my dad and the just three other old folks living there. They have the entire ground floor to themselves, with a kitchen and living room to share. Each room is equipped with everything needed to care for old folks, each has their own, private bathroom, again furnished for the special needs of pretty much immobile patients.With the owners also living in that house, there is always someone there to look after the patients, entertain them and provide food and care. As our family’s income is quite limited, they even lowered the monthly rate they are due, to suit my parent’s purse. The owner said to my mom, that they can manage with the funding, they receive from my dad and there are other families around, who are able to give more toward the care of their old, so this is ok. I took a mental note to send them some money at least once a year to make up a little for whatever income gap they were prepared to accept.
The only thing, that was not ok, was seeing my dad. Not able to parttake in life anymore, yet unable to die. He opened his eyes, but I can not say, that he recogniced me. He can not speak anymore. They kept telling me, that on good days, he does talk. Very little, but he does. Obviously, I was there on a not so good day. But I trust, this is true. My cousin, who was nice enough to take me there, as this house is hidden at a remote place and hard to find, was also agreeing. Last time he was there to visit a few weeks back, he was able to chat with my dad. He says, he is slow to find the words and talks very little, but he is relating his thoughts or attempting some small talk. Sometimes also saying things, noone understands. On the occasion of my visit, they got him dressed and out of his bed into a wheelchair.We sat for two hours. I take the fact, that he hardly ever took his eyes off me and didn’t fall asleep as a sign of his appreciation and love.Whether he gathered, who I am and what his thoughts were, is beyond me.
I have to say, this was surprisingly difficult. As if I had said my personal goodbyes last year, I found it hard to open that chapter once more and visit him again, to my own surprise. Last time I saw him, he was in such a bad way, noone expected my dad to live to his 86th birthday in March last year. But over the course of last year he has gotten better again. My family reports, that he has been mentioning my mom and dad’s upcoming 50th wedding anniversary this February, recently. He has said to my mom, that he will have to fret through to make this mark. So he still has plans and resolves. The nurses report, that he does gather, what goes on around him quite often. So he still has a life, even if it takes place not at his own home and is very limited between his sheets and a wheelchair. And they say, he enjoys his food and is quite fond of sweet dishes. Plus, I have to say, he likes coffee. The nurse did offer me a cup of cappuccino and when it came, I offered dad a sip. This ended with him having most of it. Out of a real cup I held to his lips. Almost without accidents, but for a few drops spilling from a corner of his drooping mouth. Nothing, a napkin couldn’t take care of. His drinks are usually served in a feeder cup. This was noted all around with appreciation. Such seem to be the successes one is happy about at this stage. But then again, it was real cappuccino. Compared to the weak decaf filter coffee, my mom cooks up and they also might get in this home every day, this counts for something.
So, I should be happy, in that respect. Who am I to think about my own sensitivities, as long as my immediate family is cared for and well looked after, as much as I could see. I really should be thankful and content, taking everything into consideration. However, I am not. But that’s beside the point, isn’t it? After all, I would hate to behave just like my mom…. So I resolve to accept one funeral in the nearer future. Only one. Please.