“Mami,” I’d whisper in her ear as I hugged and kissed her hello. “You’re in the hospital, Mom. I can’t take you home.”
“The hospital?” She would look around the room. “But I feel fine,” she’d say when she recognized that she was, in fact, in the hospital. Other days, she’d swear she wasn’t in a hospital room. “This is not a hospital room.”
She’d get a little ticked off then. “I don’t care. I want to go home. Why can’t you take me home?”
Some days, I’d let that last question linger for a bit. Let the thought of Mom being home engulf me. I’d imagine her swaying in her recliner in her Florida room, of her having her cafe con leche in the mornings staring out at her orchids in the patio. I wanted to take her home as much as she did. After weeks – months – of being in hospital or rehab with little or no improvement, of struggling with the indignities of constant thirst, being poked with needles and IVs, of having to wear diapers and then having to wait for a nurse or an aide to come and clean her soiled body, her soiled bed, having her home is what we all wanted.
“Mom, I can’t take you home today.” Sometimes, I didnt know if those words actually came out of my mouth.
“Well, I’m going home anyway,” she’d say angrier than before. “I’ll get dressed and call a cochero to take me home.” Thinking she could summon a cochero – horse drawn carriage – like she did when she was a teenager in Bayamo where she lived in Cuba.
“Mami,” I’d reply while holding her hand or brushing back her hair with my fingers. “You can’t go home today. The doctor hasn’t been by to see you yet.”
“But I feel fine. Why do I have to wait for the doctor?”
“Because the hospital wont release you until the doctor says you’re OK.”
“But I feel fine. . .”
“Mom. . .” Id take a deep breath, dreading what I now had to say and knowing where the conversation would take me. It was the same conversation we’d had every day for weeks. “Mom, you aren’t well. You’re in the hospital. You’ve been in the hospital for a while now.”
On most days, I could see what Id just told her sinking in. The tone in her voice would soften.
“Valen, and what’s wrong with me?”
“Mami,” I’d swallow hard, knowing that telling her about her bad mitro cardial valve and the litany of issues related to her heart and cardiac system would most likely be too much for her to understand. “There’s a problem with your blood pressure mom, and you are retaining water.” I’d clench my teeth as I’d say this because I knew what was coming next. Most days I would have to look away so as not to show my heartbreak at the coming question.
“Valen,” she’d ask with the frightened awe and innocent demeanor of a four year old. “Am I going to die?”