A Tear in the Curtain

by Jody Cline

Brain damage, they said. Stroke. Organic. No hope.

Just a week before we'd made a typical mother-daughter trip to the mall. She'd helped me purchase Easter basket supplies for the children. She was the mother I could confide in and lean on. And suddenly in an instant of time she slipped through a tear in reality and we desperately tried to bridge the new gap.

The nurse said that she would have to participate in the "program". I wasn't sure she could participate in anything. She didn't know who she was or who we were and some of the time she spoke in Spanish thinking that would help her communication problems. Family was only allowed during certain visiting hours we were told. The next morning I called to check on her and the nurse said urgently, "How soon can you get here? We aren't prepared to manage a patient with her needs. She has been up all night." The rules bent. My heart broke.

I brought family pictures to help make the room seem less institutional. But, then she was convinced that one of the children in the pictures was lost. We didn't know what child she thought was missing. She didn't know why we didn't seem to care more about the missing child. Tearfully she pleaded with us, "Please understand, it is critical, the child got lost between that last hospital and this one. If you would just do something, if we could just get all the right people here we could save this child..." I agonized because my mother was the lost one.

The clothes in the corner when I helped her out of the shower became a puppy and the socks I laid on the bed for her to put on looked like a gorilla, but then no-- she knew they were socks. I asked what she wanted from home, but couldn't seem to bring the sweater she was asking for. She stated rationally that the problem was that her family "Was a bunch of nit-wits!" We clung to that humor to get through the terror.

The new shoes I bought with the birthday money she had given me just two weeks before became bandages in her eyes, and she asked what terrible accident I'd been in. Evening was the worst time when she wouldn't cross the room for fear that "they" would beat her up if she left the safety of her bed. We all became victims of their relentless abuse.

Often she would awake from a nap and know who I was and where she was. At these quiet intense moments she would share deep truths. "Love emanates from within and spreads to the community of those around one." "This must be hell for you." "If I live through this I can live through anything." And then in an instant she would fall into confusion again and the nurse would stare at me understandingly when I would tell of the moments of clarity. They said, "Well, it always helps to have hope."

Postscript: After a month in confusion my mother returned to her former self, confounding the doctors and all diagnoses.

Jody Cline is an artist, mom to five, and career computer techie. Current focus is living creatively, while simplifying life. With the challenges a large family brings, Jody estimates that this focus should carry her well into the next century!

Jody's work has previously appeared in the spring nineteen ninety seven issue

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© Copyright 1997 - Jody Cline. All rights reserved.