Lily is exceedingly organized, and as she heads back to Panama, she’s ready to take up the planning for my November 14th visit to the city. She said good-bye to her cousin and family in Managua, after a wonderful trip.
For those of you who’ve been to Panama and know David, our driver, Lily’s cousin in Nicaragua is David’s sister.
Lily’s first order of business will be to ask Minga if she wants to stay with me in the hotel, as a break from her daughter’s busy household and a chance for Minga and me to speak quietly and at length, without distractions.
I’m prepared to have a firmer voice with Minga’s family than I would have if I’d gone right away, when her kidneys first failed. It’s delicate and awkward, because I am not blood family and I’m not there all the time, giving the care that Minga now needs. Her family is, and will be.
I suspect I know what Minga wants: to go home and have dialysis there in whatever way possible. That means peritoneal dialysis, done manually. I do need to talk with her, to hear her say that’s what she wants. To want to go home is not a knock on her daughter Ita, who has kindly taken her in and is coordinating the trips to the ambulatory dialysis center in Panama City. Rather, it’s a reflection of the fact that Minga is a village woman, and being uprooted from her home, from the street down which neighbors pass by and greet her all day, from her church, from her local market, is simply too stressful.
Minga and I call ourselves “sisters of the heart”. She’s unusual in Panamanian families in having no siblings, although having reached the age of 76, she might well have outlived any siblings if she’d had them. She is alone, and vulnerable, and in the midst of nine adult offspring who have different opinions about what she should do. And, their feelings are entangled with their own need: none is ready to lose her. I get that. Hopefully I can be patient, and compassionate, and non-judgmental. But someone needs to amplify Minga’s voice. I’m prepared for that to be me.