A little bit more than a week has passed since the morning I received that phone call from my dad: ”You have to call a doctor, I think your mum is having a stroke.”
I am aware of the fact that my parents are aging. I know the only certain thing in life is death. And for years I´ve been working actively closing any unfinished business I might have with my parents in order to be ready for the day they will leave. But nothing you do can ever prepare you for that kind of phone call. And I never expected it to happen while they were visiting me here in Mexico.
As my wise friend Amy said: ”Going through a parent´s death is a universal thing that we will all eventuelly have to experience, but the process is very individual.”
Observing my mum having three micro strokes three days in a row, definitely classifies as one of the scariest experiences in my life. Watching her change personality, loose control over her speech and movements, having to help her dress and convince her that going to the hospital is necessary when she herself didn´t get what was going on, was absolutely terrifying. Not knowing for sure what was happening, not having access to the right equipment at the hospital, the uncertainty of the whole situation (Is she having a stroke or is it something else? Is she dying or isn´t she? Will she recover or not? Should we and can we move her to Oaxaca?) created a stress I can´t express with words.
Seeing my dad´s big brown eyes fill with tears, his body tense as he was doing his best to keep calm, was heartbreaking.
And I thought to myself that it was a good thing it happened here after all. I could accompany both of them through the whole process. They didn´t have to do it on their own which they would have, had it happened in Sweden or (God forbid!) on the flight back home.
I also felt an incredible gratitude towards the younger me who, for several years, chose to work with old people. I know how to dress a confused old lady. I know how to speak gently in the midst of a crisis. I know how to keep my mind focused even though everything around me seems to be falling apart.
The first morning it happened, my dad and I turned into the Rescue Team. We focused and pulled through, thinking my mum was going to die any minute. But in the evening she was all normal again and could leave the hospital. The doctor told us he thought it was a micro coagulum in the heart strangeling the flow of oxygen to the brain. Depending on her state they might or might not be able to fly back to Europe as planned the next day. We had tacos for dinner and it felt really weird, because I could never had imagined ever having dinner again with my mum.
The second morning when my dad called and said ”It´s started again.”, my whole body started shaking. I remember thinking that it was too much, that I wouldn´t be able to go through it again. But we all did, even though my parents lost their flight back home. The doctor thought it might be something like an epileptic attack, but without the convulsions. Once again, my mum recovered and we had that dinner I never thought I´d have with her again. We knew now that they wouldn´t be able to leave Mexico yet.
The third morning when my dad called, my mum had gotten a lot worse. We looked at each other. She was in really bad shape. We were sure she was going to die. Like I had the previous mornings, I said to my dad, that if she was leaving us now, at least she´d be fine and she would never notice. Happy as a clam, very calm and actually quite cute, my mum didn´t seem to suffer at all. Is there a better way to check out?
It was decided that my mum was to be sent off to Oaxaca in an ambulance. She needed a hospital better equipped than the one we have here on the coast. Slowly but surely she recovered consciousness again, but at this point it was obvious: my mum had had three micro strokes known as TIA. She might be out of danger – or these strokes might just warning signals for a bigger one. Would she die on her way up? There was no knowing.
Saying goodbye to her in that ambulance was one of the hardest things I´ve ever done. I knew I might not see her again and I knew I had to voice that.
I told her just that, that maybe this was the last time we saw each other. That I wanted her to know that she´s been a great mum. That if it was time for her to leave us, we´d be okay and that she had my blessing. And we cried and cried.
Watching the ambulance leave for a more than 8 hour long ride, made me collapse. All that tension that had been building up during three days, came tumbling down. I sat in my car, bent over the steering wheel, and cried for a very long time.
A couple of days later, the crisis is finally over. My mother´s doing really well and there´s no risk for a bigger stroke. She´ll be able to travel back to Europe in a couple of days, and Teo and I are going up to Oaxaca to hang out with my parents before they leave. It feels incredible! I´ll be able to see both of them again, talk with them, have breakfast, lunch and dinner and hug them goodbye in a non-traumatic way.
Eight days later, I´m still totally drained: emotionally mentally and physically. But I´m fine, and so are my parents.
I know 52 years of being together creates a bond I myself will never experience with a partner. But my parents have been with me my whole life time, and I would like that relationship to last a little longer. There´s so much to appreciate, so much to be grateful for and so much fun to have. It´s a fact that we´re all slowly dying. Let´s enjoy life until it´s over.