She says she’s tired.
That’s the first thing she says
when we arrive and she’s lying
in a hospital bed hooked up
to the dialysis machine.
Her hands, gnarled from years
of cleaning and cooking,
hands that held me when I was small,
smaller than she is now,
reach out for something invisible.
Her eyes are closed,
and she’s tired.

That’s the only thing lucid
she says in the time we sit with her,
after they’ve brought her back
to her own bed in her own room,
after three hours on the machine that works
for kidneys too tired to clean
her blood anymore.

She asks if Harry is still out there,
Harry, her younger brother who lives
in Chicago. She won’t eat her food, claims she’s
had dinner already, but that’s not true.
She’s upset by the number of times
they take her temperature, won’t stop
talking, complaining, the thin plastic
thermometer bobbing under her tongue.
She’s convinced the pills they give her
are giving her these crazy dreams,
making her mind go too fast.

My mother asks the nurse what they are.
“Tylenol.” “Tylenol with codeine?”
“No, just Tylenol.”

Tylenol, and vitamins, and other pills
to bring down her blood pressure,
which is still too high. “But it’s lower now,”
she says. “I don’t want anymore pills.”
She wants to go home. Blindly dials numbers
on the hospital phone that doesn’t call out.

“Who are you calling?” my mother asks,
and she snaps at her—“I’m 96 years old.
Do I ask you who you call?” She says she’s calling
Bill, her cousin, dead for decades.
He’ll come and get her. He’ll take her home.

“I’m tired,” she says.
And I know this is true.
She mouths more words to people
who aren’t there and falls asleep.

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