By Rick Hinton
I’d like to think I’m a funny guy. My sense of humor has always helped me to get through tough situations. In 2013 my mother contracted Spinal Meningitis. She was alone in her house in southern Kentucky, thinking she had the flu. Her back and neck hurt… along with fever, chills, nausea, vomiting and lethargy. She didn’t want to bother me with it, so she didn’t call. She was confined to the sunroom of her home for several days until my Aunt June found her. Then I was called. The small hospital in Russell Springs couldn’t handle the situation. She was transported to Lexington, Ky. I called my brother Kerry in Florida and we met there.
She was unconscious with tubes running into her nose and mouth. I looked down upon her, not knowing how to react or what to do. My safeguard humor kicked in. I envisioned my brother and I posing on each side of the bed, with her in the center. That thought just as quickly left. I’m glad it did! She regained consciousness, seeming to be on the mend but while trying to get out of bed one morning, suffered a stroke from which she never recovered. She’d made me her power of attorney after the ordeal with my father’s parents. And… having one request: “Don’t ever put me in a nursing home… just take me into the backyard and shoot me!” I lived in Indiana and she in Kentucky. How would I deal with it all? I put her in a nursing home.
Long story short: I was not happy with the care she was getting. Weekly trips to Kentucky were draining my energy, being overwhelmed by the logistics of my mom’s insurance, social security, utility bills and nursing home costs. She refused the rehabilitation that may very well have enabled her to walk again. I became not only her son but now also her caregiver and coach. Things were not looking so good. She was declining, so I made a decision. I brought her home. Home to die!
My sister-in-law Lynn, from Florida, agreed to be her live-in caregiver. We converted the sunroom (the very room she spent three days when she came down with her illness) into her “hospital” room. The TV was in her forward sight. We wanted to make her comfortable, not expecting her to be around long. She proved us wrong!
My mother’s speech was difficult to understand after the stroke. Then, she started slipping into dementia. I believe she knew she was in her house but now certain of that. Yet, there were those lucid moments, where she became my mother again for a brief spell and we discussed “business.” I was there literally every weekend, noticing that the house’s atmosphere had changed drastically. It was a heavy cloud permeating the interior. It was hard to breathe. I continued to communicate with her, using a sense of humor as a buffer from me going crazy. However, our conversations — and the house — got stranger…