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A.E.: A Place Where My Mom Feels Safe

Posted: 05/08/07 02:37 PM ET

It's 80 degrees in Washington today; 85 in Tucson. That five degree difference is as close as I am going to get to my mother today. She is alone in a hospital trying to figure out why she is in that paper gown, starting at those same dull green walls once again. I spoke with her early morning nurse, morning nurse and doctor today - explaining her story. Yes, she is mentally ill. Yes, she has multiple sclerosis. Yes, her pain is real and yes, I live out of state. The same story every time - yet she is never tired of telling her side.

We still aren't sure what happened this time. A call from her caretaker's boss. "you jinxed it" she said. "Carol is outside of your mom's apartment and your mom is on the ground, half dressed and talking to herself. And she isn't responding to Carol banging on the window." A few calls later I decide that we ought to call the police. Once they were let in, they found her recently filled prescriptions - including a bottle of morphine filled the previous day and 109 pills missing. Rushed to the hospital, charcoal down the throat and no memory of anything.

"Why are you in the hospital?" I ask her this morning. Her voice waivers, she is still feeling the effects of the drugs. "My nose hurts...I hurt my nose," she says. Endearing, pathetic, surreal. I miss her. Or I miss missing her. I am not sure anymore of how I feel.

I expected something like this. But the words - one-hundred and nine pills of morphine - hit me in the base of my stomach. I started to gag. I fell to the ground. I failed her. I should be closer - this isn't a case of forgetting how many pills she took, or trying to manage her pain; "she is tired," said her aide. And I can't blame her.

Less than two weeks from mother's day and I sit in a coffee shop in what feels like a million miles away from her hospital room. She has been moved from the ECU, to the step-down unit to the psych ward. It's a familiar place now. No shoe laces, no jewelry (which is the hardest for this proud, beautiful woman.) They tell me I can't send a scarf as a gift because, "you know, she might hurt herself." They read her mail. She stares at the television, knowing that she is an educated, articulate woman trapped by no fault of her own. We both feel so empty.

She will be released, again. The will put her back on court order, on another batch of antipsychotics and she will be both enraged and discouraged. I think that her spirit is the only thing that has kept her alive for her 48 year on earth. We all agree that she can no longer live independently. But where will she go? She is too young. She can ambulate and dress herself. She has two master's degrees and a debilitating disease. She makes too much money (1782/month to be exact). She doesn't qualify for help - too much of one thing, to little of another. She is tired. I hope that by next mother's day she will be in a place where she feels safe, and I can sleep.