I arrived Wednesday and went straight to the hospital. Mom looked pretty good for some one with a brain tumor. The neurosurgeon, is relatively sure my mother has what's called a Meningioma, which is a benign, frontal lobe brain tumor. Apparently, as far as brain tumors go, this is the one to get. It has the highest rate of a full recovery.
Although they can't be sure that the tumor isn't cancerous until after the pathology report, the tumors location indicates that it's a Meningioma.
Mom's surgery was scheduled for 4pm and the orderly arrived just a little after four. My cheerleading squad that consisted of my friend Michelle and my father had already shown up. We followed the orderly as he wheeled Mom towards the OR.
"I hope I recognize you all when I wake up," Mom said.
I accompanied mother to the holding area where we sat for close to two hours. A nurse asked a series of questions and then disappeared.
"Am I the only customer?" My mother asked. Finally, around 5:40, the anesthesiologists arrived and asked the same questions as the nurse. Then Dr. Salerno walked up and I realized who he reminded me of: my friend David who moved to Israel. I felt like the surgery had to go well if my Mom was to be operated on by a doctor who looked like one of my closest friends.
They started with the anesthesia and I walked down a long hallway to meet Michelle and my father in the OR waiting room.
A TV blared. Two small children ran around. Jeopardy bled into American Idol, then a reality show and then ER and we found ourselves the last people there. We changed ER-- a case of art meeting reality. I know how surgery goes and even though the doctor said it would take three to four hours, I knew it would probably take longer and that didn't necessarily mean anything bad.
Close to 11pm, they phoned the desk to tell me that my Mom was fine and the surgery was going well. I felt relieved, but still secretly wondered if they were back there arguing over who'd go out and tell the pregnant chick they just screwed up her Mother.
Michelle hung in until after midnight. I was grateful she came at all and certainly hadn't expected her to stay over six hours. I felt guilty and at the same time insanely blessed to have good friends. My blackberry helped me keep in touch with frantic relatives via email.
Finally, after two am, they called the desk to say the surgery was over and all was well. They had to wake Mom up and then they'd come get us. My father and I went down to ICU and waited until they were ready to let us see her.
As soon as she saw us, Mom started to cry. She looked pale and her head was covered with a white dressing that kind of resembled a turban.
"Go home," she said. "I'm sorry."
"We couldn't," my Dad said.
I smiled. In that moment, I was so proud of her, of us, by how well we'd handled all this.
"You're okay, Mom," I said. "It's good to see you."
They moved her out of ICU on Friday and I returned to New York. I feel terrible separated from my mother but Friday started with a phone call from Eliza where she begged me to pick her up at school. I know some of it was toddler manipulation but I got the message: "Mama, come home." I don't ever want my daughter to think I'm not listening.
I have no idea what I face when Mom gets out of the hospital. She might not be able to drive, she might not be able to live alone for a long time, if ever. Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows that I'm not happy in my current situation so other than the school Eliza attends three days a week, there's no real reason for me to stay in New York. I wonder about dragging Eliza into this situation but my mother really doesn't have anyone to take care of her other than me. She doesn't have a big bank account for private nursing care and her house is probably worth so little at this point, selling isn't an option. I'm all she really has.
I'm not leaving my daughter behind. C gave me some song and dance about her having a life here and how he's her parent too, he's not chopped liver. Believe me, as my father sat with me for all those hours during his ex-wife's surgery, I was reminded of the importance of fathers. But mothers are important too and I've been this kid's primary caregiver all of her life. Though she and C had a good time in my absence, she spent more hours with the babysitter than with C. These days we have day care and playdates and other things we think are so important but Eliza is three, is there anything more important than her family. My mother only lives two hours outside New York and C can go back and forth a lot more easily than I can at 32 weeks pregnant.
But enough about him. My friend Meredith called me from Israel today to check on my Mom and me. this is the first time I've heard her voice since I left her at the airport back in May. Next time I speak to my mother, I'm going to tell her she should get brain tumors more often.