Cardiac Christmas

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How’s your mom doing?”  “Great.  She is almost 92,  healthy, mentally intact and still going to Zumba”… A common, recent question/answer combination.

My son, Billy, and I made our annual Christmas trip from Massachusetts to New Jersey. On Christmas Eve we took Sally to shop, eat and drink at the Short Hills Mall, and then to church for the Children’s Christmas Pageant. She loves being in the center of the action and, with the help of a cane and an elevator, can negotiate the holiday excitement easily.

4am.  “Lexi, Lexi…”  I hear Sally calling me from her bedroom on the first floor. My first thought was that  something was wrong with our 14 year old dog, Gracie. “I’m having chest pains”, she says.  It’s hard to describe the whirlwind of thoughts that went through my mind in that moment. I went into focused disaster mode… I’d been there before when my husband progressed slowly to his death from Llewy Body disease.

Billy and I followed the ambulance to the ER where I produced Sally’s medical information which included her stellar test results, and a comprehensive list of her only two medications. She’d never been in the hospital before. Despite her significant pain and fear, she managed to comment on the diverse personnel attending her; male nurses, female doctors, and a multitude of nationalities and orientations. When asked if she ever smoked she answered, “Oh, yes. I smoked a lot!”  I had to clarify that Sally smoked sometime between 1945 and 1947, when she was in art school. 

I have a lot of experience with shifting sand under my feet, first with my father, then my husband. When my father was sick in 2011, I traveled to New Jersey every five days. Initially, I tried to maintain my usual schedule at home fitting in cycling, training, racing and work. It quickly became apparent that something had to give, so I let go of my routine. When my husband became ill, and as his disease progressed, I was able to flex as needed and became good at managing his changes, and ultimately, his untimely death. But again, I let go of any routine I had developed since my father’s death.  

The last few years have been pretty smooth sailing; I’m back in a routine and settled into a new home. I am resisting my new reality with my aging mother and what it means for me. Will I be commuting to New Jersey again? Doing my new job? Skiing?… 

Sally is still in the ICU with some complications. I assumed she was going to be fine immediately, but this may not be the case. There are a lot of questions to be answered and decisions to be made. I know I have the ability to be resilient, and I am counting on that now. 

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About the author ~

Lexi is a wondrous work in progress who’s worn multiple hats in her lifetime… financier, aesthetician, master swimmer, accomplished cyclist, snow-shoe-adventure-business owner, spinning instructor, and now, caregiving daughter. She and her puppy, Nelson, live in eastern Massachusetts where she’s just close enough to Nico to don her grandmother hat as well.

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