Emma moves as if through thick soup all the time now. I thought it would pass. Her condition has precipitously declined in the past two weeks. Even with her walker, she steps gingerly and slowly as if she were navigating slick cobbles in a forest brook. She leans heavily on her walker – the kind with two wheels in the front and two legs in the back to which we affixed tennis balls – and drags it when she turns, scrapes it across the wood floor, like fingernails across a chalkboard. I checked the wheels to make sure they were turning freely; they were. I was thinking of adding ball bearings.
Emma’s hospice doctor visited. “She will move more and more slowly,” he predicted, holding a crystal ball on his lap – well, so it would seem, for his prediction pulled into the station on schedule. Her engines were already slow, had moved at that speed of slow for months; she was on a plateau. That’s how it goes. She’ll be the same for a long time and then something happens – no one seems to know what – and she declines: she may fall, or a sudden decline may trigger the fall – it’s the chicken vs. the egg thing. In any event, she is cruising for a fall now, so I have to watch her closely.
She is more confused about what to do next, or which way to turn, which foot to place first. She wants to sit down everywhere. She takes longer to process instructions and actions, if she completes the action at all, if she even receives the impulses.
She is hard of hearing: “Did she hear me?” I wonder. Or, more likely it appears that her brittle and crumbling synapses are taking longer and longer to toss the message across the void, that forest brook, as it were, so the one on the far side can catch it; or perhaps the forest is empty – no birds singing their messages, no nerve impulses, no neurotransmitters released, the synapses have disintegrated. I cannot reach her.