Life is a Mystery

15 March 2011

Remembering: Aiming for Home

This was a week of struggling to get Oma strong enough to go home, while also preparing the way for her to be there.

March 13th:

I think Noelle was essentially correct in saying that there was “no significant improvement” yesterday. However, Oma did hit some significant milestones yesterday. She stood up for the first time this week. Twice. She sat at a table. She sat up to try to eat. These were all exhausting for her, though. Her body is clearly improving, but her state of mind is not making the same progress. Her language was a bit less clear yesterday than the day before. And she shows little interest in moving toward health and away from the end, in my view anyway. Even though the doctor has said she could come home next week I would be very surprised if that was the case. However, I would be equally surprised to find she has died next week.

Still, each day has been a journey, for her and us. So I can’t really predict a thing. Oma is doing both well, and horribly poorly, depending on your perspective. We smile and weep in equal measure. I wonder what today will bring.

March 15th:

Conversations? You can hardly call them that. Tommy [a family friend and her lawyer] refuses to talk to her because she is not coherent enough to make binding decisions. Dagmar has tried, but not really gotten through. Oma has made decisions, we all more or less know them, but she failed to assign anyone the power to carry them out.

For a few days it seemed she just wanted to go, meaning to die. But today (and yesterday too, maybe) she began to accept that she was not dying and had to either eat and go home or not eat and end up in some kind of nursing facility. The latter is her nightmare, so she has started eating. Today she rifled through her purse with Dagmar and complained about various things, even ticking Dagmar off. For me, seeing the tension rise between mother and daughter was a sign that mother is on the mend.

This won’t be simple. She needs quite a lot of care still. Dagmar is arranging 24 hour in-house care for Oma. Those folks will do another eval on Wednesday to be sure they can pull it off.

This evening when we stopped by to see her she was sound asleep. Sleep has been very difficult for her, so this was another good sign. We let her rest peacefully in bed. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Natalie had even introduced Oma to an iPod. Ipod Oma told us she loved the Chopin √Čtudes, so we tried to make sure she could hear a bit of her favorite music.

Dagmar worked hard on logistics (finding a bed for the house, considering a renovation of the downstairs bathroom, finding nursing care) and legalities (getting a lawyer and notary to document Oma handing off legal authority to Dagmar, making sure Oma’s will was in place and up-to-date, seeing that Oma’s wishes for end-of-life care were clear). These were arduous and painful tasks made more challenging by the unfamiliar bureaucracy of Austria.

Meanwhile, we had moments of Vienna.Musikverein Nathaniel and I did get to see the Tonk√ľnstler orchestra play at the Musikverein. We sat in the front row!

I also began to realize that two weeks was not going to be enough time in Vienna. While I had to return Nathaniel to school, I also started looking at a return to Vienna in April, possibly with Alex. I was pretty sure Oma would still need us.

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Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 / efc@clst.org