My mother has Leukemia. We discovered this, very abruptly, at one o’clock in the afternoon on Christmas Eve. The nurse told my dad to take her to the nearest hospital immediately so they could begin chemotherapy, and an hour later, she was one of the many people waiting on a stretcher for the very limited medical staff available due to the massive influx of Covid19 patients. She didn’t get a bed until much later on Christmas Day.
She’s in the same hospital I was for my spinal surgery a year ago.
Her particular variety is Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) which is fast-moving. At her age, she has a less than 10% chance of making it out of the hospital at all. My dad is the only one allowed to visit her, and he can only do that for fours hours maximum per day. My parents’ house is over an hour away from the hospital, so he’s driving two round trips every day. We offered to cover an extended stay hotel room, but he doesn’t want to risk Covid exposure by adding a new location to his routine. He wouldn’t be able to visit her at all if he gets sick, because her immune system is basically non-existent.
I don’t talk much about my mother, because if you’ve met me, you’ve met a younger version of my mom. She’s likely neurodivergent, but has never sought formal diagnosis, which is probably just as well, because at her age, she’s more likely to be dismissed as a “crazy old woman” rather than be taken seriously.
Nobody has ever taken her seriously, and her mask was that of a clown for the longest time. When she started to get too tired to keep it up, people thought she was just no fun any more. They called her anti-social. They made fun of her for not being able to make chit-chat with strangers at the grocery stores, or responding bluntly to people trying to sell her things. These are familiar, normal autistic behaviors. She was being authentic.
“Where’s the old Jeannine?”
She’s right there, you’ve just never met her.
Since I can’t visit my mom in the hospital, I’m doing the only thing I can. I’m using my mask to cheer her up, making her laugh until she pees her hospital gown, and talking to her like she’s not crazy. Because she’s not crazy.
She says she gets confused sometimes, and that she feels like she’s losing her mind. I tell her that the world is a confusing place, and that if she loses her mind, maybe it’ll bump into mine somewhere. – K