My mother checked herself out of the Manor a month of so after she arrived by ambulance from Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Omaha. I’m not sure why, but I will fracture at least two reasons: that she wanted something to leave us kids, for living at the Manor would exhaust whatever savings was left after Dad died, and that she was worried about my brother. There were probably many more. Another reason will be the same reason that I will, if I’m able, not to resign myself to the inevitable, that lack of will, that lack of movement, the interminable wait, the descent into sleepiness from which one never wakes.
Early November 7, 1996, Manning Hospital called my sister’s house where I stayed almost every time I drove over from Blair to see Mom in the hospital. I think we had gone the seven miles east to Manning Hospital the night before to see her. That road I have been on a couple of times since Mom’s death, but I will still mark the progress from Manilla to Manning, first Aspinwall, then a farmstead on the right with silos that has always indicated abundance to me, the Manning Golf Course, and over the last hill, a gas station that usually has only a customer or two.
I’m sure it was not that prior evening, but it was during one of the other times when both of us made what seemed like an arduous trek up the stairs to the second floor where Mom lay in a coma, I mentioned to my sister about the numerous times we have been in hospitals; and there have been many times: the white walls, the silence particular to some rural hospitals, such as Manning’s, the antiseptic smell that moves from one room to another, the putrid smell of illness, the blank stares of patients, televisions not really loud enough to hear what’s being said or too loud for the person in the next room. On the landing between floors, with my sister on my left, I can still see her reaction, the same resignation as I had at that time, the repetitious action that we both knew would end soon.
Then I owned a small motel in Blair, Nebraska, a business for which I signed a purchase agreement before April 1995, thinking that after I take over, I can be closer to the folks. I closed on the motel November 1, 1995; but by that time my father had been dead for not quite two months. Part of the reason for my purchase then was moot. I wish in so many ways that I had let the woman keep the earnest money, and walk away from the deal. But I didn’t. At that time I didn’t know what else I was going to do with my life. I stayed, and from that time until Mom was taken ill, sometime in July, 1996, my mother came to visit me and I, her. The last time she came to visit, my older sister Betty and her husband Juan brought her. They had returned to Iowa for a visit. All throughout the time they were in Manilla, Mom was sick, but she never told anyone. It wasn’t until after they left, that Mom called me and said that she was going to the hospital for she was bleeding. There the doctors discovered that Mom had ulcerative colitis, tough for anyone to deal with, much less a women in her early 80s.
The ambulance took Mom to Manning Hospital that day. Solid foods were impossible for her to eat. There she began to sleep more and more. I don’t remember how long she was there before we moved her to Saint Joseph’s. At Saint Joseph’s her brothers and sisters came to visit. I think her twin even came from Washington, although I’m not sure. What I don’t remember about that time speaks volumes of all that was happening. I do remember one of her brothers who has now since passed being very upset that we didn’t take her there sooner. But Mom insisted that the doctor in Manning would help her, as he always had. But this time, he couldn’t. I don’t think initially Mom wanted to go to Saint Joseph’s because of the expense, the cost, in addition to the loyalty that she had for the Manning doctor. But the doctors at Saint Joseph’s got the bleeding stopped and released her to the Manor.
I don’t think it was me who took her home from the Manor, but I do remember one of the times that we talked while she was there. She was dressed, with her shoes on, laying down on the bed when I came in. I remember her saying that she’s going home. I do remember trying to convince her not to, to stay and heal, but it wasn’t long that she was home. In a short time, however, the ambulance was called again and Mom was taken to Manning once more, where she died after being in a semi-comatose state for almost two months.