A heart attack is supposed to loudly announce its presence. Bark orders with a gruff voice. Stomp into the room and raise hell.
You are supposed to be alarmed to it, by the clutching of the chest, wheezing breath, sweat dripping down the face. Dramatic. It is not called an attack for nothing.
The last thing you expect is for it to sneak up like a cowardly thief, slyly stealing a piece of the heart and leaving only a whisper of a footprint in its wake.
Mama had a heart attack, but we don’t know when. They found the remainders of its shadow in one of the multitude of tests they did.
It could have happened whilst I was cutting her nails, that day when she winced in pain.
It could have happened when we were giggling at the dinner table, my sappy Grandpa having just laid a fat kiss on her cheek, and she rolling her eyes at his sentimentality.
It could have happened when she was asleep in her chair, eyes closed, the only sign that she was still alive, the gentle rising and falling of her chest.
She is back in hospital. Her heart is damaged and her lungs are gasping at the effort of taking on the load of an exhausted heart.
She coughs constantly, a grating sound, like her lungs are scraping onto her insides for dear life.
Her dementia has gotten much worse. Her brain, starved of oxygen, has retreated to places she knows well. Memories that are vivid. It stays there for hours.
Yesterday at the hospital, she was stuck in a horrific place. She lay in the hospital bed at Accident and Emergency, insisting on the curtain remaining open, eyes transfixed at the scene in the room. The shop was getting robbed, and she was in the middle of it. Experiencing it for hours. Screaming at me, to get us out. Get us out. Get us out. She grabbed the metal bars on either side of the bed, trying to move them.
She looked at me with accusing eyes. What was wrong with me, why was I not getting us out of there?
She threatened me, pleaded with me, cajoled me, tried to persuade me, and when all else failed, started to heckle.
A woman with 86 years’ worth of heckling experience is not to be messed with.
I relented. I pretended to use all my strength to move those bars aside. I grunted and wiped my brow. I squeezed my eyes and sighed heavily in frustration. She bought it. Almost.
Have some courage Aleya. What is wrong with you? If you can’t even muster this much courage at such a young age, how do you expect to pass your exams?
(My granny has a warped sense of how old we all are. She is still completely impressed that I can drive)
After several hours of this, I thought perhaps if I stop responding, she may calm down. So I am ashamed to say I ignored her.
She looked at me, eyes brimming with betrayal.
You are just going to leave me here like this?
This went on for another couple of hours.
I cracked. My eyes filled with tears. Part despair at my inability to help her. Part loathsome self-pity,.
She scoffed at me.
Huh. You are the one crying, and I am the one trapped here in this nightmare!
Reality is such a slippery thing. The things we know to be truth. Absolute. How dare they turn around and slide through our fingers. It is frightening. The mind can be a terrible, terrible thing.
(I wrote this a few weeks ago. Mama is better. She isn’t the same, but she is better)
(Now listening to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar11TQzVGLc )