Monday, Sept. 18, 2006
Dear Diary:

When her doctor left her after rounds on last Wednesday, he told my mom-in-law later that he did not think he would see her alive on Thursday. But the last ditch effort he made to flush her body of everything, through IV fluids and a line inserted from her nose through to her stomach worked.

She's baaaaaaaaaaaack.

Forget those silver-haired Marcus Welby like doctors. If I'm every seriously sick I'm going for a young, never say quit, shiny, new Doogie Howser type doc because that's the guy who refused to give up on her. He pestered gerontologists and oncologists for every possible solution, every possible treatment for the mystery of why she had crashed and burned so abruptly.

I would love to be able to say that it's all hunky dorey but it's not. My mom-in-law's strength is non existent. Just sitting up in a chair tires her, but the hospital already has physiotherapists working with her to get her walking.

She probably has another two to three weeks in the hospital. Her doctor will only discharge her when she is strong enough to motor around with a walker and to take over the basic preparation of her own meals.

My mom-in-law wanted to leave the hospital for a convalescent home so she could kick back a bit. He doesn't want her to do that. He's made her see that she has to take her life back, do as much on her own as she can as soon as she can. He has energized her in a way that we, her family, could not.

Plus, when they took my mom-in-law out of the isolation ward a few days ago, they put her in a room with Celestine.

Celestine is 95, mother of seven. She has three older sisters, the oldest 101 and still going strong. Celestine was widowed young and raised her own seven kids plus two orphaned kids by herself, working as everything from a seamstress to a laundress. Whatever kept food on the table.

The hospital room she shares with my mom-in-law bustles because her huge, extended family comes in to visit and encourage her. She is adored. Her hands are seldom still—there's always a crochet hook in them as she makes endless little caps for newborns in the hospital here.

Despite the language barrier between the two women—neither speaks the other's language and they have to rely on their children to communicate—my mom-in-law has definitely been influenced by Celestine's positive attitude. Seeing someone who has lived well into their nineties and still does many things for herself has made my mom-in-law rethink her own attitudes.

Not that my mom-in-law has turned into Little Mary Sunshine. You might think that after not eating for almost two weeks that eating anything would be greatly appreciated by my mom-in-law. You might think that, but you would be very, very wrong.

Each day they add a new item to her diet, each day she complains about the item. She started out on a liquid diet and the hospital has been gradually introducing soft food. Today she got puréed everything—some sort of vegetable soup, squash, mixed vegetables, fruit and some sort of mystery meat paste. She spent the whole meal grumbling bitterly about the food's blandness and how disgusting the meat was.

I have never been so happy to hear someone grump in my life.

Canadian Thanksgiving falls on Oct. 9 this year, just a few days before my mom-in-law's birthday. She is already planning the meal and much like Napoleon marshalling her troops, she is assigning food responsibilities out into the family as we stop in to visit her.

Last week I was wondering if I was going to have to organize a wake. Now, instead, it will be a feast of thanks and a birthday party. Ten years ago this year we celebrated a grim Thanksgiving because only weeks before my father-in-law had died. Last week I was very afraid that history was about to repeat itself. Instead, we get a chance to count our blessings. Life turns on a dime.

I would like to thank the three loyal readers who left comments of encouragement and hope. It meant a lot during a very dark time.

--Marn

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