Pills too bitter to swallow

My mother had a fall three weeks ago and broke her
I did not realize that a broken arm could result in such
bruising but my mother’s arm is still purple with spilled blood.  She has been in hospital since the
fall, and despite early concerns about internal bleeding she’s doing well and
will soon be transferred to a place where they offer transitional care, not so
much rehabilitation but care that’s aimed at getting her back onto her feet
before she can return to her retirement village.
Without two good arms, my mother cannot push her walker
and without a walker it’s not safe for her to walk. 
When I was fifteen years old my mother asked the priest at
our local church, Our Lady of the Assumption, to offer suggestions about how
she might best help her daughters to adjust to the difficulties of our life at home with our drunk father. 
The priest suggested visits to the elderly as an
Every weekend I visited Mrs White at the old people’s
White-haired Mrs White who
smelled of age and lavender sat beside her bed in bedclothes covered by a
matinee jacket of pale pink nylon. 
She was a gruff old thing but mellowed over the time of my visits into
someone who seemed to look forward to them.
She never said as much but I knew I had broken through
when she asked me one day to buy her something for her indigestion.
‘Terrible, dear. 
It puts me off my food.’
Mrs White gave me a handful of coins and full instructions.   She wanted De Witte’s antacid in
a blue roll, each piece shaped like a lolly, or preferably in powder form which
was easier to swallow.
My mother now has a terrible time swallowing the multiple
pills the nurses feed her every day. 
To watch the struggle is agony. 
My mother cannot get the pills past her throat without a battle.  She swishes them around her mouth and
sometimes chews on them to make them smaller.  She barely grimaces but it’s easy to see she does not enjoy
them.  I can only imagine the
If the nurses are not careful my mother has developed a
strategy whereby she tucks a pill into the side of her mouth and waits till the
nurse is out of sight then spits it onto the ground. 
My older sister finds these pills on the floor.  My older sister is attentive to these
things and complains to the staff. 
I reckon my mother does not realize that these pills help to keep her
alive.  She sees them as a nuisance,
only to be tolerated in the presence of others.
Similarly with food. 
The nurses have told my mother she ought to cut down on her sugar.  She takes at least two spoons in every
cup of tea and coffee.
‘At my age,’ my mother says. ‘I don’t care.  Why should I?’
The nurse explains to my mother that the sugar gives her a
quick energy hit that does not leave room for  any hunger for the more sustaining
nutrients, the protein and vitamins from meat and vegetables.
At the moment my mother prefers anything sweet, small tubs
of ice cream, stewed fruit, custard, but for the rest she cannot be
 ‘I’m 94,’ she
says.  ‘I can do as I please.’
If only her body would let her.  And her mind.
There is something willful about my mother in her old age,
something that is a contrast to the strictures of the past, her concern about sin
and the need to do good, which brings me back to my do-gooding days of visiting
Mrs White at the old people’s home.
In the end I arrived one day and Mrs White was gone.  She had died, quietly just like that, and
I could not bring myself to form another relationship with another old person,
knowing that there was such a likelihood of death.
Those were the days when I had decided I would like to die
at sixty; sixty seemed a decent age to go. 
Then two days ago I played ball with my six year old
grandson in our backyard and rejoiced at my stamina despite reaching
Once with the arrogance of my youth I could be cavalier
about the notion that there is a good age at which to die, but not any more.