My Mom called me at work yesterday to tell me she was having trouble breathing. She'd been a bit winded at my house the day before, at least in part because she left her oxygen in her car. So I asked the obvious, "Are you wearing your oxygen?" "Of course I am!" she indignantly replied, as if to imply otherwise was nonsense (umm... see above.). I told her to call her doctor. "Well, what's HE going to do??" What, indeed, I think. As in, what am I supposed to do??
She called. The nurse then called me and informed me that my Mom sounded so short of breath on the phone that she recommended she go to the ER. She called my Mom, told her to go, and oddly, she went without argument.
Heaven bless my sister-in-law, who transported her and kept her company during the six hour wait and assessment. Her observations regarding ER waiting rooms were hysterical - among them noting that after a while, everybody on Judge Judy looks the same. I was able to arrive shortly after they decided Mom needed to be admitted again for congestive heart failure, and sis-in-law made it to work on time. I entertained Mom with a half-dozen games of Skip-Bo. It's a sure sign that you spend too much time in hospitals if you have a card game or two in your purse just in case.
While they were wheeling my mom up to her room, I got a call from my Dad's number, but couldn't take it until I got Mom settled. When I picked up the voice mail I was appalled, though not surprised to hear my stepmother telling me that my Dad had just been admitted to their local hospital, four hours away, for recurrent pneumonia.
Neither admission was a true crisis. But the ongoing decline in health of both of my parents is, clearly, a sad thing for me. Mom is on a 5 minute memory reset - I must have told her 4 times at least why she couldn't eat in the ER (waiting to have a test) and each time had to tell her what the test was for. She tried to call the nurse each time, and it was clear that they had also had the same conversation with her at least a couple of times before I got there. Dad has sounded increasingly winded each time I've spoken to him lately. I'm grateful that his wife is still strong enough to take care of him, since I'm too far away to be any help at all.
My parents are young. Mom is 74, Dad 76. I know I'm lucky, at 54, to have them at all. But lately it feels like they are racing each other to the finish line. I'm not sure at all what the winner gets, but I'm thinking it's lose/lose for me.