SHARING A TRANSITIONMouth
Mouth more open now. Twitches,reflexes gone.No more electrolytes. Smell of sweet lactose in the room. Not of cancer. As if I know what that smells like? Just imagining. Relatives only comfortable if they can small talk. They all stay away now.Fear? She wants white sheets , no patterns or colors. Ice water. Eats orange popsicles as if they werre gourmet meals. Apologizes for sucking them so loudly-proper even at the end.Flesh accordions off her bones.The entire skeletal system is unearthed.I walk her skeleton to the bathroom thinking of Alex and Allyson Grey's performance, circumnavigating together a Tibetan prayer wheel with a skeleton strapped to his back. So glad for artists. They give me images that help me get through daily life.The one-half glass of water that she drinks a day gets absorbed quickly and doesn't seem to dump into her stomach with a sound like other things do. A six inch plastic tube in the esophogus inhibits the cancer from closing the pipe off but the disease seems to have been squeezed down into her stomach and up into her throat as if the tube were an extended hour glass, pushing the enemy away from the site into new areas. Last night her features changed in front of my eyes.She andronized, turned grey, became an oldman/woman.Tha pallor was death. Methadon, the drug given to heroin addicts so that they detoxify but get addicted to the cure,is what she takes.She becomes surreal and poetic on it or is it the lack of food that produces poetry? We joke everyday. A comraderie has been established. Her stomach tumor pumps quickly.I wash her bones.She must weigh 60 or less and sometimes acts embarassed for me to see her and then I remind her that I weighed 80. That helps. Equal pitifulness. Her breasts have slipped down her chest and large nipples lie on floating ribs. As she goes, she gives me gifts of towels, red clothes and an orange jumpsuit for my next year color change. Maybe the art interests her?I give her assurance that the way she did her life was just fine.She was the maverick, the loner, had no God and now worries that she missed out. With no authority whatsoever, I assure her that she did just right. Assurance is more powerfull than my shaky truth telling right now because I have no answers myself. My job is to make her comfortable. Touching her brings back my own body-memory.I must have been horrendous too at 80 pounds.I adjust to seeing her atrophied, hairless torso and am fascinated by the way her mouth opens and closes just like a skeletons. Art training as life. Her words are slow and clear having worked professionally for almost 50 years, she still communicates well and her voice is throaty which seems incongruous and strange coming from that shell of a body. Marlena Deitric sounds and sentences come from the void of her memory and she wisdoms,"Life is one big, tall glass of water.", and "My world is simple now; cold water, medicine and peeing."
Being with her is as intense as being tied with an 8 foot rope for a year.Hmmmmmmm my doing? I wished that my whole life would approximate that level of intensity when I got off the rope and my wishes were heard.Should I unwish that one? We have become inseperable, a relationship of two renegade maverick types.I can tell we are alike, eventhough I never really knew her before. We both don't stand on ceremony, we both follow our own drummer, we both deviate when the muse commands, even when it was not fashionable to do so.She has hallucinated light once. I am surprised that she hasn't done these light journeys more often. Said a flashlight was turned on and coming into her window.Hmmmmmmmmmmm even without God, there seems to be the Presence of Light? She is clinical about it, not scared, but it seems that it is happening because her system is breaking down.Is Light a chemical response to death?I tell her to cultivate it, light that is, because my readings and teachers say LIGHT is a good thing and normal thing. I pass along information but not experience.One night she says,"I'm dying." It is late, i'm alone with her. She asks what she should do? Oye what to say? I get in her bed and hold her and ask the Divine for some words.I say,,"Just do it big!" Now where that prophecy came from I will never know but the combo of the closeness and the suggestion catapults her back into her skeleton and she shouts form one to ten loudly and "bigly", mantraing herself into the room again. She doesn't leave that time. Other times when she dies for 5 seconds or so, she calls it a whiteout.
Now won't sit or walk to the bathroom or sleep deeply.Begins to ask for drugs often, admitting shame that she wants them so much. Wish hospice was around then to make this all easier on everyone, but alas,nobody knew about all of that back then. Refuses to take off her turban. Whisps of straw, not hair by now, stick out of it.Still wears rollers and has the same rollers and turban on for four months. Makes me feel like an inept caregiver but you can only do what you can do given the circumstances and wishes of your client,no? Besides, my hair is always a hippie phenomena as well.
Stasis.Condition unchanging.Worse than death? Bed sores on coccyx.Bones scrape against sheets. Atrophy continues. Spinal column slipped out of place. Eyes rimmed and crusty,mucous strings around mouth. Like Job, she is visiteddaily by a new incapacity.
August 12:Still hasn't taken off turban. Last control. Popsicle, pee, pill she says and she is right. That's it now. Four times a day. The same rhythm. I change bed, give bath, over and over.She told me she was a gourmet cook and conoisseur of taste. Now she eats different kinds of popsicles and rates them the way she used to judge and taste one of her cheese cakes. Am pulling back. Necessity. Not there as much. A new person is doing it with us. At first it is difficult letting anyone else take care of her but the transition has been made.I am no longer savior, God or best nurse. She said the other day weighing in at 50 pounds or so, "I don't feel hungry anymore."I bring the radio up so that she can listen to the Sunday concert.The music dislodges feelings and when I go back upstairs she says that it is hard being here all day and having things done for her.I remind her that she told me she took care of both parents at home and she remembers and says that it was easier to give to them than it is to receive now. You got this Linda? I have to start doing receiving performances or I could be in the same boat some day! She sleeps little .I ask her if she is thinking.She says ,no, if she thought she would be morbid because it is frustrating being so dependent. Maybe because ( )is around she is making a new effort to "eat' which means drinking beef juice. She said the other day,"I don't want to starve."
I leave for Californiato teach and do some performances. Before I go she let me change the turban.I also took out a few rollers.She says she wants to be cremated.I am beyond emotion or sentiment. My cool is either shock or exhaustion.___and ___take over, my time is up. She lives with an elegant dignity still, an old world awareness despite pain and drugs and body-morphing.I give up thoughts of being Mother Theresa fulltime and move to my next work. I will send her a postcard. 1986 LINDA MARY MONTANO