Monday, November 5, 2012

Bumma does her civic duty (Reprinted from November 12, 2006)

I mentioned last week that bumma wasn't feeling well. She's her usual self now, sometimes incredibly pert, sometimes lost in memories, but up and about, and interacting with the world. When I wrote last week that she wasn't well, I was afraid that by the end of the day I'd have to come back and tell the bumma fans around the world that our bumma had left the building. But-- she pulled through and seems fine now. I've talked with my brothers and with her doctor and with her, and we all know that she could have moments left or years. There is no telling. But considering her ability to confound, I expect that it may be on the years end of things. Last week, however, I honestly didn't know.Monday evening, we'd had an interesting supper table discussion about the elections the next day. All three voting adults and the nearly voting age boyczuk are thoroughly disgusted with the leadership in our country. Not that the Democrats offer a much better solution, but at this point, you grasp at anything. We all had the same strategy-- throw the bums out. And if the two candidates for an office were equally scummy, vote for the one that wasn't an incumbent, or who wasn't supported by the incumbent. A few weeks back, a neighbor has offered to help bumma get an absentee ballot so that she didn't have to go to the polls-- but she declined the offer, saying she wanted to go and pull the lever on the voting machine to see her vote count. She was afraid that an absentee ballot wouldn't make a difference. About 8 o'clock, she trotted off to her room and soon after her light went out.Apparently, though, more than her reading light went out. At 8 am when she still hadn't emerged from her room, I went in to check on her. (We call these checks "Bumma breathing checks", in a tongue in cheek way, but seriously, sometimes I wonder if that's how I'm going to find out she's passed on-- when the little lump under the covers doesn't rise and fall with her breathing. She sleeps curled up in an impossible position, beyond fetal-- more like a breech birth and Gumby rolled together. It's hard to sort out where her head is let alone other parts. Plus she usually throws the pillow over her head, so I always worry that she'll smother herself. 8:30, 9, 9:30. 10. No bumma. At 10:30 I could detect that she had shifted positions though-- her foot was hanging off the bed, roughly parallel to her head. (Figure that one out if you dare.) She didn't actually wake up until 12:30. The way I found out she was awake, was I heard a crash, and found her on the floor. She said she was just standing there, not trying to walk or move, and that she had her walker right there. She hadn't hit her head, didn't black out, was just terribly shaken. (She falls a lot. It's a constant battle with her to have her use her walker. More often than not, she just kind of waves in the breeze, unsteady, with her walker a good 6 or 8 feet away. I tell her all the time that I'll take care of her if she breaks something, but that I'd rather not have to.) Her speech was slurry, her eyes dull, the left side of her face looked loose and funny to me. I went to call 911 and she stopped me.
"My dear, don't look so distressed. I have to die sometime."

Yeah? Well, not on my watch, toots!

Anyhow, long story short, she refused medical care. Flat out, point blank. Reminded me that I had health care power of attorney only if she was unable to make decisions, and she still could make decisions. She just wanted to be home. I helped her back to bed and then sat with her, keeping a close eye on her vitals and her cognitive function, and applying ice to the various tender spots she'd banged when she fell this time. She drifted off to sleep, and I called my husband, her doctor again and wrote my brothers. I figured she'd had a stroke. I honestly didn't know where this was going, and thought that she very well could check out. (Please, I was distressed enough at her refusal of care. It goes against everything I was taught. But I was in touch with her physician throughout this, and did the best I could, and still honor my mother's wishes. She even reminded me of the living will she has on file and what her wishes are regarding end of life care.)

But then about 3:30 she woke up. Her eyes were clearer and her speech normal.

"Am I too late?"

"Too late for what, bumma?"

"Too late to vote. To do my civic duty."

We got her dressed and into the car. I drove to the polls, and then took her voter registration card inside, past the huge lines of people who had turned out, in the rain, to vote. We found out last year that something called "curbside voting" exists, where the ballot is brought out to a disabled person so that they can vote. And that's what they did. They brought the computer voting machine out to bumma, and she voted from the car. It had been raining all day, but in the time that it took for the poll workers to come out to bumma, the skies cleared. The poll workers thanked her for coming out (by law, two have to go out to the car for curbside voting) and she thanked them for their work and for helping her to cast her vote by bringing the ballot to the car. It was really very sweet.

As I got in the car she turned to me and said, "It's too important a thing to skip. I believe my one vote makes a difference. Let's go home."

In follow-up, I got her to her doctor on the pretext of getting a flu shot, which she hadn't yet gotten. She told me that getting the flu shot was the "height of optimism" that she'd live long enough to get the flu. Hmph. Her doctor knew she'd refused care and only had my descriptions to go on, but he knows me and knows my nursing background. We figured that it had been a TIA (transient ischemic attack or "mini stroke") that had cleared, and when she came for her flu shot, he did a quick head to toe check without her really being aware he was assessing her. I watched as he greeted her by taking both her hands and squeezing them gently as he said hello-- she squeezed back and that day, unlike Tuesday, her grip was equal. He put her through the paces without her ever realizing she was being checked out. It was masterful.

So...that's the quick version of it all. Our bumma pulled a new trick out of her bag and scared the bejesus out of me. But she seems to be okay now, just a little tired. I truly believe that voting saved her life. Now I can only hope that it saves the country as well.

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