13 Aug

Today was a shitty, overwhelming day. There’s no other way to put it.

My mom and I have a long history together when it comes to the dentist. The short version is, for the last several years, I’ve made dental appointments for my mom, taken her to and from them, and paid for them.

About six weeks ago, my mom said she had some tooth pain and I made her appointment to have it addressed. When she got her terminal diagnosis, she had me cancel the appointment. I call her twice a day these days and when I spoke with her yesterday morning, she said the tooth was really bothering her.

I happened to have a dentist appointment today and I was able (after a stressful process that involves my mom’s declining mental facilities and a conflict-not-conflict with a visit from my mom’s hospice nurse) to switch it. The dentist gave my mom my appointment and I’ll go another time.

So this morning, I got to my mom’s house to pick her up. She was dressed and looked pretty good, but something felt a little off. She said she wanted to use her walker. So I helped her to the car — slowly, so, so slowly — put her in, folded up the walker, put it in, and we were off.

My mom is practically agoraphobic and didn’t like the leave the house even before all this. She gets extremely nervous riding in cars. And she was agitated because she couldn’t find her sunglasses and had to wear a pair Michaela left at her house. Fortunately, her hospice comfort kit (magic box of medicines for a variety of conditions) includes Ativan, so I gave her one of those.

I should have taken one, too.

When we got to the dentist, my mom had a really hard time with the walker. I hadn’t realized this was the first time she’s left the house in any way in six weeks. It’s the first time she’s spent any real amount of time out of her bed in weeks. She was so weak! She was stumbling and her hand-eye coordination was poor. She made it from the car to the building, into the elevator, and to the appointment. Then from the dentist office lobby to the dental chair. The whole time, she wasn’t really talking, and when she did say something it was a barely audible mumble. She refused to take her glasses off.

I know my mom is dying, but it really hit me, there in the office. She was so diminished. And, after years of our mother-daughter dentist routine, this is the last time I’m going to take her to the dentist. It’s probably the last time I’ll take her anywhere.

The problem with the tooth is something that would normally call for a root canal to fix. Not a great option for someone who doesn’t have much time left. So the dentist, who I love and who has been our dentist for probably 25 years, did what he could to make my mom more comfortable.

The walk out of the dentist was even worse. My mom’s energy was totally depleted. It felt like she was giving it everything she could, just to make it back to the car. When we got there, she couldn’t fasten her seat belt. I had to do it for her.

I asked her if she wanted to take the scenic route home and she said yes, so we drove through a part of town where we used to live. I stopped in front of our old house — the house we lived in for my whole childhood, the house she and my father rented for decades — and she said, “was that our house?”

I drove the rest of the way home with tears streaming down my face, thankful for sunglasses and that she was so out of it.

When we got to her house, my dad was there and he helped my mom into the house. She went immediately to bed and was asleep in the time it took me to fill my dad in on what had happened.

This is so hard.

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