Mum settled into the chair and let the nurse poke and prod her skinny arm. Her wrinkled skin hung down, swaying back and forth.
“Are you on any special diet, Priscilla?”
“Am I” Mum exclaimed, ready to recite her litany of woe. She counted them off on her fingers. “I’m diabetic, so have to watch sugars and carbs. Low blood pressure, so no salt. Lactose intolerant, so no dairy. And now my kidney’s – oh, my,” she looked over at me, “what’s that one?”
“Low Potassium and you have to drink a quart of water a day. And no coffee.”
The nurse straightened, staring bug-eyed at Mum like she’d just turned into an alien with three heads. “No wonder you’re so skinny and we can’t get you to gain weight!”
“Tell me about it,” Mum quipped, rolling her large blue eyes behind thick glasses in pale blue frames. “And with you taking my blood every other minute, I’m iron deficient.”
The young nurse looked over at me.
“You should try cooking for her on the holidays,” I said, my heart breaking for my mother-in-law, but trying to keep things light.
“I’ll get you a list of foods to eat and foods to avoid to make it easier for you.”
The nurse left and I stared at Mum, my mouth twisted sideways in a frown. “Like that’s going to help.”
“Circular file,” she agreed, a twinkle back in her eyes.
“What are you smiling about,” she asked.
“Just thinking about you wanting a prize for stumping the nutritionist last week.”
“I’m the prize. The booby prize.”
The doc came in, regurgitated all the things he’d said the last three times and we were soon on our way.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“Right back atcha, Mum.”
“I used to look forward to retirement. If only I’d known it would be thirty years of this!”
A couple months later, she needed surgery. Unsuccessful. She spent a week in a coma, five days more than the nurse had declared she could possibly last. Everyone else had gone home for the night.
I bent over, kissed her forehead and whispered in her ear, “It’s okay to go, Mum. Jesus promises you there’s a banquet table in heaven and you can eat whatever you want.”
A few minutes later she was gone.