Trip to Say Goodbye - 8
Cathy got up early on Monday and went for a five mile run up to Mount Tabor. She didn't get a very
good view of Mt. Hood and was disappointed about that.
The men decided to get in another game of golf..
Larry was keen to get back on the road by lunchtime, and I was staying for a few more days on
my own. Mary K offered to take me shopping so we were doing that when a call came saying the men were back, and Larry wanted to leave, so we had to return early. I did mange to get a few bargains however.
We all convinced Larry that it would be nice to take a different route back, so the plan was
for them to spend that night in central Oregon, having seen Mt. Hood (pictured above) at close range, and aiming for a visit to Crater Lake National Park the next morning.
Mary K and I went to visit Kathleen. The regular physical therapist was with her, trying to get her to walk a few steps, and she did eventually do so. She did speak too, but not in any meaningful way. He would say, “Talk to me Kathleen. Are you feeling like taking a few steps?” and she would say nothing. He would say louder. “I want you to say it in words,” and she would reply, “Are you feeling like taking a few steps?”
I wore some rather old shorts to the hospital. The weather was so hot nearly everyone was in shorts all the time, so I didn't look as ridiculous as I felt. These shorts were ones I had made out of fabric that Kathleen had bought and put under her bed “for future use ” and then gave to me. I thought that
somehow seeing the fabric might make some connection in her brain.
After the physio left and Mary K had fed Kathleen a reasonable amount of lunch, we decided to take her to the dining room where the more mobile patients had just finished their meal. There was an upright piano just like the one we had had at home. Both Kathleen and I played it. So we dug around and found some music that I knew she would remember. I played, and Mary K sang along, and after a few songs, I could hear Kathleen humming away. I felt that was an enormous break through. But she was tired and shortly after that the nurses put her down for a nap and we left.
I'd heard a ripping sound when I bent over at one stage, and was so embarrassed to find later that my much too small shorts had well and truly split by about 4 inches in the crotch area. But the others all claimed they hadn't noticed.
The meal that night was at Margaret's – using up the leftovers from the party.
This was my last full day in Portland, as I was flying out at 8 a.m. the next day. I wanted to spend it as much as possible with Kathleen.
I got up early, and decided to sit outside in the early morning sun. However, somehow I managed to trip on Margaret's two steps from the house, and lay sprawled on the path outside. I decided not to tell anyone, as a visit to a hospital for an xray (I thought my collar bone was probably broken) was the last thing I wanted to do and it might delay my trip home. My right shoulder and forearm really hurt, but by making sure no weight was on that arm, I wasn't in too much pain. My right buttock was black and blue, and my right knee hurt when I put weight on that leg , but that was nothing that I couldn't cope with.
Margaret took me to the nursing home, but she had loads of things to do getting ready for them to be going off to their holiday house for the Fourth of July long weekend.
Kathleen looked brighter, but still was not conversing or giving meaningful looks or even smiles. Margaret had brought in a radio, so that she would be able to listen to her favourite operas and classical music – if someone set it up for her. She wasn't in any way capable of controlling a radio or TV herself.
Before long Mary K came, and asked if she and Margaret could have a consultation with a doctor who they knew made the rounds on Tuesdays. Eventually it was arranged, and they met up with him at lunch time. He said there was really nothing more that medicine could do for Kathleen. She was
failing, and although she might get slightly better on occasion, she would gradually just continue to go down hill. Mary K asked if she was well enough to be allowed to go back to her small nursing home where she would feel more comfortable, and he agreed, as long as the woman in charge came and assessed her physical situation and felt able to take her on, considering her limited capacity.
After he had gone, Margaret needed to leave, and Mary K and I decided to take Kathleen outside in the sunshine in her wheelchair. We went all around the building, and ended up sitting in a grassy place for awhile, just enjoying the calm and quiet atmosphere. When we returned to the building, the phyio whom Kathleen had seen on Monday and all of the previous week was there again. Because Mary K was off doing something else, I was alone in the room with Kathleen. He was somewhat worried about me being there. “Are you one of her children too?” he asked.
“No, her sister,” I replied, although as she is 17 years older than me, technically, I could have been.
He did some exercises with her. Then he said to her, “Do you know that lady over there?” She nodded.
“Who is she?”
“What is her name?”
I almost cried I was so pleased. I wondered when in the last four days she had recognised me.
He then said, “Do you know who I am?” She said nothing, so he repeated it, “What is my
name?” Still nothing. “Do you know who I am?” and she shook her head.
The meal that night was at Mary K's again – and I asked if she would invite Mark too, as I hadn't had much chance to visit with him at the party. When Mark was a year old, Katheen and he made a trip to visit with us in Bismarck. They stayed a month, because they had to wait for her husband's next pay check for the return flight money. Judy and I, aged 9 and 8 were left to babysit him on one occasion, and we thought he might enjoy bouncing on our bed. Unfortunately he fell off, hit his head on the wooden floor and cried for ages. We never told anyone.
Our family made three trips out to Portland to visit them over the next nine years, and the next time we saw them all, was at my wedding. Mark was 14. Janet, at 12, was one of the punch pourers at the reception. Margaret, who was 4, was so impressed by my white dress that she tried to put her chocolately fingers all over it.
Then when Mark was 18, he came to England with his parents, (they left the other children at home alone) but Kathleen and Neal went off to visit friends in Yugoslavia, and Mark stayed back with my husband and me and our two kids. Mark and I had long meaningful talks about life and love, and got to know each other pretty well.
Now back to the prsent, we had sloppy Joes to eat at Mary K's , and just had a pleasant time sitting in the yard and visiting, knowing that it would be the last time, perhaps forever, that I would be seeing them.
So my visit was complete. I'd said Good Bye. Margaret drove me to the airport the next day at 6 a.m., and both my flights were on time, although they were very long and tedious. And I was very pleased indeed when I arrived back in Manchester.
Kathleen may well live for months yet, or she might die tomorrow, but my last memory of her will be of her humming to my music and saying my name.