I managed to ignore the howls for the better part of an hour. I was still awake, having been surfing the web, and was getting ready to go into my nightly read-until-I-can't-keep-my-eyes-open mode. I had figured the howling from my grandmother's bedroom was keeping everyone else up, and there was little I could do to help.
But I couldn't ignore them any longer. So I got up, went to the bathroom to pee, went to the kitchen and drank four glasses of water, filled up a fifth glass with extra ice and water, and walked down the hall to my grandmother's room. The maid was up and attending to my grandmother, but my aunt was in her room valiantly trying to get what sleep she could. So I asked my grandmother what was wrong.
"Here," she said, gesturing to her chest.
"Your chest hurts?"
"It hurts from here to here and here," she said, using my upper arm and chest to indicate where she hurt.
I asked her what kind of pain it was, whether a burning pain (she often suffers from heartburn) or a crushing pain (an indication of something more serious). She didn't seem to understand the question. But she was quite lucid explaining to me that she felt pain, and again pointing to my arm and chest.
"Relief," she said. She usually says this when she is having heartburn. Which is all the time, really, since she was in the hospital a couple of months ago due to life-threatening problems with her esophagus and the rest of her gastro-intestinal system.
"Do you want Mylanta?"
"Mylanta. Do you want us to give you some Mylanta, to relieve the pain."
"Okay, we'll give you some Mylanta, for relief."
Then, after a lengthy pause during which the maid looked for the Mylanta and my aunt came into the bedroom to find out what was going on, "It got better."
"It doesn't hurt me anymore." We hadn't given her anything yet.
"You don't have anymore pain?"
She may have had heartburn, although it has been hours since she's eaten; but she may simply have been looking for attention. She never sleeps more than an hour or two at a time, and she is afraid to be alone. She often cries, knowing that we find it difficult to ignore her. My aunt has hired a couple of maids, one who works Sunday evening through Saturday evening and another who works Saturday evening to Sunday evening, whose sole responsibility is to take care of my grandmother, see to her every need, keep her company, etc. The poor maids get very little sleep.
After some thought, my aunt instructed the maid to give my grandmother 15 drops of a medicine that relaxes her when she gets into these anxious moods. So, we sat my grandmother up, which involves swinging her legs over the side of the bed and then lifting her up by the upper back/shoulder blades until she is able to sit on her own. I sat by her side for a little while, holding her hand and stroking her shoulders. The maid gave her the medicine. My grandmother and I talked a little bit more:
"It's medicine. Medicine tastes bad, but it will make you feel better."
"I'm dizzy." I looked at the maid, but she said my grandmother often complained of dizziness when she sat up suddenly in the middle of the night.
The maid gave her some water, which is mixed into some clear, flavorless gelatine so that the water will have more weight and get down past her windpipe before she takes a breath and starts to choke. "Do you feel better?"
"Do you want to lay down?"
She started to cry again. "What's wrong?" No answer. "Does it hurt again?"
"You should try to sleep."
"You should try to get some sleep. Maybe you'll feel better and the pain won't come back if you get some sleep. And that way Meña [the maid] can get some sleep, too. What do you say? Do you want to try to get some sleep?" [mumbled reply] "What was that? I couldn't understand you."
"I'm going to lay down."
"Good night, Mama Carmela."
"Thank you. Good night." And so I left, went to the bathroom again, returned to the kitchen to refill my glass of water and ice, returned to my room, and logged back on. It's been almost an hour now since I started this post, and I haven't heard anymore howling. Maybe she managed to get to sleep after all.