I'm going to sit here quietly and just stare at the computer screen. Mom and Dad are…well, it might be an argument if Dad was capable of keeping a train of thought going for more than a couple of minutes.
Sometimes morphine is a bit of a blessing.
Dad has gotten a bit of a wild hair this morning, insisting that he and mom should go downstate today or tomorrow to visit his brother, who is a CPA and always does Mom and Dad's taxes for them. Mom is resisting—rightly, I think; Dad can't stay awake for more than a couple of hours at a time, and really doesn't have the strength to make such a trip.We've taken turns on things the past few days, Mom and I have. Fixing breakfast for Dad, bringing him drinks when he's thirsty, helping him get to the back porch so he can take in a bit of sunshine and fresh air.
Those are the easy ones.
The tough ones are when we have to sit up with him at night, monitoring his breathing. Dad's morphine drip had to be adjusted again this week. He now receives 15mg of morphine per hour, and each button-push for an additional dose gives him an additional 2mg.
Mom keeps a record of Dad's days—what he eats, when he sleeps, and what medications he takes. She keeps a yellow sticky note on the current page with the numbers "20-22" circled, and some instructions written in below it.
"20-22" is what's Dad respiration rate is supposed to be. We know from the nurses that it can drop down a bit, but right below those numbers is another set: 10-14. If his respiration rate stays consistently between ten and fourteen breaths per minute, Dad isn't getting enough oxygen and we'll need to call the nursing staff.
The day that Dad's morphine levels were raised was a difficult one for Mom and I. Dad was already worn out from having taken a trip to Little Rock, and we knew that the morphine would make him sleep even more deeply than usual.
Around eleven p.m., he started crying out in pain. The morphine makes Dad a bit vague even when awake, and it was difficult for us to tell if he was awake or crying out in his sleep. Mom massaged Dad's back, and I sat by, unable to do anything.
When he eventually settled back down into the recliner, I noticed that he wasn't breathing well. He would exhale, and then his chest would go strangely still for several seconds before he would inhale again in a stuttered gust. He would then exhale, and his chest would go still again for long, long seconds before he would breathe again.
Mom sat on the couch. I sat on the floor by Dad's chair, looking anxiously at the seconds number on my watch. His breathing rate dropped as low as 10, but then evened out around 16. Low, but still acceptable.
With time, he began to settle back down into a more normal sleep, and Mom told me to go to bed.
I went back to my room, picked up my cell phone, and realized that it was midnight. I called a friend out on the west coast, a friend whom I knew would still be awake, and we talked for almost an hour.
You learn to do a lot of things without external emotion. I've managed a lot of that this week. Right now, the tears won't come; it's hard to describe the feeling of almost zombielike numbness that comes over you after a while. But it at least allows you to function, and to get past things that would otherwise be too difficult to deal with.
Tonight I'll go stay with Eleanor. Colter's band is playing in Little Rock, and I want to see him perform. I'll sleep on her couch tonight and get up early tomorrow morning to head for home. Tonight's activities will have to serve as something like a bridge between this life and my 'other' life: a chance to re-acclimate myself to a world that I really haven't had much contact with since arriving here.
I've promised Mom that I'll be back out here in a couple of weeks. That'll give me some time to decompress before everything has to start up again.
Meanwhile, Dad continues to fuss. I fear it's going to be one of those mornings.