Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Losing my patience

I called Mom to check in this morning. I never know if the conversation will be benign...what she had for breakfast is a popular topic...or difficult. This morning was difficult. She received a bill for an office visit to her opthamologist yesterday that kept her up all night worrying.

Truth be told, she is up and down all night anyway going to the bathroom....but that is another blog post.

So..I had a anxious, sleep deprived 90 year old on the phone freaking out over a bill that is due in four days. She wanted me to rush over there and take her to Safeway so she could purchase a money order. She only uses her personal checks for her rent and the phone and light bills. Everything else, such as items purchased from catalogs, her water bill, which goes to an out of state company, and her medical bills are paid with money orders. It makes no sense to me...and it creates more work for me...so naturally, I am not very understanding of her irrational system around who gets a check and who gets a money order. Most likely, she saw something or read something about identify theft and has created this system to protect herself. Or this is just the way she has always been.

We went around and around about this particular crisis. I told her I could not come over today ...that it was not a crisis and I would come over tomorrow. Perhaps she will have forgotten about it by the time we talk this evening.

Mom has always had the habit of making the simplest tasks difficult. After I hung up the phone this morning, I just stood in the laundry room sobbing. I prayed for patience, but just felt engulfed by the weight of responsibility of dealing with Mom's daily needs.

She is old, she is confused, she has never been too good about dealing with the world in a rational manner. Dad was the rational one, the one that took care of the bills...the one with the income that supported them. Now she is muddling through in her own anxious and befuddled manner. It takes so much energy to help her take care of her life. I am exhausted with it...and it is only 10:30am.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In the nick of time

I stopped by Mom's apartment yesterday on my way home from having breakfast with a friend at the Alki Cafe. It was a wonderful way to start the morning...eating biscuits and gravy, seeing a friend, listening to each others stories.

I called Mom from the car and of course she wanted me to come for lunch...but I had other items on my agenda today. I did decide to stop by to drop off some homemade chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

Just as I walked in the door and rounded the corner into her sleeping alcove, I discovered Mom trying to lift her heavy brass headboard. How she was able to get it up so high, I have no idea. She yelled for me to come help her. I immediately dropped the cookies and ran to grab the headboard. I told Mom to get out of the way and go sit down.

Once I got her clear of the area, I adjusted the headboard, which she was trying to flip to the other side and reposition on the wall. This was the part where Mom sat on the sofa motioning with her hands to indicate that I needed to move the headboard a little this way or that...she loves being the furniture director. I moved her dresser slightly and put back her bed side table.

What amazes me is the woman who is so weak she can barely get out of her chair suddenly is able to move furniture. Granted, she could have seriously hurt herself if I hadn't walked in just in the nick of time to grab the brass headboard.

So..is she faking when she says she is so weak just to get me to come over and spend time with her? Does she have some powerful life force still left inside that comes to life every now and then? I simply don't know..and both questions can probably be answered with one simple word...YES!

I talked with her about the dangers of what she had been doing with the furniture. She agreed that she couldn't do that kind of thing anymore. But there was a trace of a smile and a bit of a laugh in her eyes when she agreed to the sensible limits I was putting on her behavior. She gets a kick out of pushing her own personal envelope. She is just lucky that my Dad and I have been there over the years to save her from herself.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Long day...

When I called Mom this morning her voice was so weak when she answered the phone. She said she wasn't doing very well...felt very weak. She asked me to come over to take out her garbage. I told her I would be over in an hour.

When I arrived, Mom was sitting in her easy chair fast asleep. I touched her gently on the arm to wake her. She looked really gray ...kind of exhausted. My first thought was that she was dehydrated. She drinks lots of coffee, but not very much water. I got her to drink a glass of water and made her some lunch.

I made a salad, some vegetables and a small salisbury steak for her lunch. I sat with her while she ate. There is no talking while she eats. She just slowly eats her meal. We talked a little bit after she was done and then did the dishes and took her garbage down to the basement.

I waited around for the mail woman to finish filling the boxes. Mom always looks forward to the mail...but today there was nothing. I took her keys back to her, kissed her on the forehead, lightly touched her hair and then left.

It is strange...this woman has been such a difficult person in my life. The process of watching her slowly die, inch by inch is difficult..for her, and for me. I find myself feeling melancholy at the thought of her being gone. At other times I joke about how it will be good when she is gone. All these conflicting emotions are tiring.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bad day in Bedrock

I called Mom this morning to tell her I would be over in the early afternoon instead of the morning to fix her TV. She can't manage to work the two remotes to get the digital channels. My brother and I have both explained it to her, I have labeled the TV remote for on/off and volume control...but she keeps using the digital tuner remote incorrectly.

When I got to Mom's she was in a really bad mood. My brother had been there earlier and fixed her TV but did not talk with her other than to give her a hard time about calling him 4 times yesterday. She admitted that she intentionally messed up the TV today after my brother had left it on a channel with a "black man". Her continued racist comments makes me sick.

I fixed the TV and decided that I was not going to be verbally abused by her just because she doesn't have the relationship she wants to have with my brother. Getting out of there was hard, as she tried to block my exit from the living room with her body. She also stood in the hallway crying and telling me she had something to tell me. This is a standard line with her...so I know she was just trying to manipulate me into staying and hearing her sad story about my brother's behavior.

When I called to check in on her tonight she was still in a foul mood. She told me she was upset because she couldn't get a hold of the manager of an apartment building in Arizona. She is again trying to figure out a way to get back to Arizona. She wants me to bring over Dad's ashes so he can go with her. She also accused me of being after her money..which is a joke. If she lives longer than another year, she is going to be in deep trouble financially. She finished her tirade by saying that she just wants to die.

I have a feeling that Mom is going to have a long and difficult journey to death. Her anger and unhappiness keep her firmed rooted in her life. It is the essence of what connects her to her life...no matter how unhappy she is here or anywhere. Moving to Arizona will not make her happy.

Having a better relationship with my brother will not make her happy. Having more of my time will not make her happy. I have no clue what makes her happy other than trying to order me around and eating candy...which is exactly how she behaved with Dad. She has transferred all of her behaviors from her relationship with Dad to me. But I am not Dad, and I have made it clear that I won't put up with her abusive language or behavior. She is kind of stuck..as I am the only person left on earth who is willing to help her.

It is not a job I relish or even enjoy very much...but it is the right thing to do, the humane thing to do. I promised Dad I would take care of her and that is what I am doing to the best of my ability. The trick is not being drowned out by the avalanche of negative emotions and behaviors that come my way.

I just feel like the life has been sucked out of me by her anger and unhappiness. I just needed to write it out on this blog so I can go on with my own day.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Church dinner

I took Mom to the new Wednesday night dinner and church service tonight. She has been looking forward to it since I invited her a week ago. Even thought she is profoundly deaf now, she still had a good time. She got to dress up, get out of the apartment, have a nice meal and be with other people. So many friends came up to greet her and talk with her...it was nice to have others interact with Mom.

She complained that she can't hear when people talk to her or follow the service. She gets embarrassed by her hearing loss. I told her that maybe listening wasn't so important for her. I suggested that perhaps just being out and having a meal with other people is what she could enjoy. She told me that she would be glad to go again if I invite her. I will do just that. It gives her something to look forward to every week.

Once we got back to her apartment, I helped her get undressed and ready for bed. The same routine has not varied since I first started helping her after Dad died in 2007. She has lost most of her modesty and allows me to undo her bra and help her take off her outfits. I always bring her overnight pants and nightgown and help her into them. It is easy to do this....which always surprises me. I thought it would be strange ....or uncomfortable for me. It is actually easy to help because I know it makes it easier for her at the end of the day.

It was a good evening with Mom. I am thankful it worked out.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The pledge of allegiance

I went over to Mom's today to make her breakfast. I arrived about 8:45am to find her starving. I asked her what she had for dinner last night and I could see that she was drawing a complete blank. I asked her gently if she had eaten any dinner and she could not remember if she had or not.

I immediately went to the kitchen and got her a cup of coffee. Her coffee has been part of her routine for many years...so I thought we would start there. I fixed scrambled eggs, bacon, toast with jam, and wedges of "Temptation" melon with blackberries and raspberries. Mom thought everything on the plate looked beautiful and immediately and silently began to eat. She was obviously very hungry as there was nothing left after a few minutes.

While I was washing the dishes, Mom remained in the living room.. I heard her say "I can't remember the Pledge". It took me a minute to register that she meant the Pledge of Allegiance". She got out the first part of the first line and then feel silent. This was a bittersweet moment for me...listening to her struggle to remember something she probably said day after day in school. Now some of those phrases are disappearing. Now she is forgetting to eat.

Here is the complete text: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

After cleaning up the kitchen I made Mom some meals: salads, lunch plates, spaghetti, chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans...anything to cue her to eat. She needed a break from frozen dinners....so hopefully these meals will encourage her to eat every day for a few days.

I took out the garbage and went to the store to pick up a few more items for Mom.

She was again confused about the new digital TV box that my brother installed along with the digital antenna I purchased. I showed her how it all worked again knowing full well she probably will not be able to retain this information anymore. No matter...I found her a program she liked and left it on.

The leave taking is harder and harder. Mom thanked me for spending so much time with her on the holiday. She thanked me for the meals that I set up for her. She thanked me for everything I am doing for her. I hugged her, kissed her forehead and then left her as gently as I could knowing that I would call this afternoon at 4:30pm like I always do.

I felt so sad and depressed as I drove away. Mom has been a difficult person for me since my childhood. She can be stubborn, obstinate, unreasonable, paranoid and very mean. She can also be loving, funny, sensitive and charming. She is really a character and I am beginning to understand that despite all the rough times, I will really miss her when she is gone. I was surprised by this revelation...but on many levels it makes sense. We have been together for many years, we have a lot of history...some of it good and some of it not so good. She is still my only Mom and the only link to certain memories in my childhood. She is also my only link to my relationship with Dad.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Summer in the park with Mom

Today was a good day with Mom. I took her some bank information this morning and then picked her up this afternoon for a picnic at Alki Beach. We sat and talked and ate our sandwiches while the ferry boats and tugs went by on their rounds.

Mom loved the Cobb Salad, deviled eggs, half a turkey sandwich, potato chips, half a Mounds bar and some Sprite Zero. I suspect that she doesn't always eat well these days, so I try to have a couple of meals with her a week. I know that today she had a good lunch and got out in the fresh air for awhile.

When we got back to her place she showed me how my brother had fixed her TV. He had hooked up a new digital tuner with the digital antenna that I purchased for Mom. That is a big weight off of me. She was having such a hard time without TV.

Mom also showed me all her keys, where she keeps them and how she as no idea what most of them go to at this stage. She laughed and said I was going to have a heck of a time after she is gone.

Mom's feet were pretty bad today. I suspect she has diabetic neuropathy in both feet now.

The words of a song my Dad used to play keep going through my head. The song is called "September Song" by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson. Here are the last two stanzas:

Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game

Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
September, November
And these few precious days I'll spend with you
These precious days I'll spend with you

Mom can be a handful, but I still love her. I have a front row seat to her demise and eventual death. It is intense, it is a privilege, it is sometimes very hard, but I will see her through to the end of her life.