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Yesterday was a very sad day for me. It started in the afternoon, when I was supposed to meet my mom at 1:30, to take her to a town about an hour and a half away, for a glaucoma specialist’s appointment. When I got there, she was very frustrated and upset,  because she couldn’t get her medication list finished. The computer was acting crazy, she was late putting her clothes on, and she seemed on the verge of tears. (My mom does not cry easily or often.)

I tried to soothe her, and get her in the car, because she needed me to take her by the bank on the way. She was a bundle of nerves, and when she gets like that, I have to fight very hard to keep everything together. I kept reassuring her that we would make it on time, and headed for the bank.

But when we got to the bank, she realized that she had forgotten her glasses. She is almost blind in one eye, due to diabetic complications, and since we were going to an eye doctor, we both realized that we must go back and get the glasses. She agreed to wait in the car, while I made the search inside. I found them on her dresser in the bedroom, and started out to the car, when suddenly she appeared in the house. She said that she wanted to get a bracelet she had just purchased, and we picked up a couple of oatmeal cookies from the kitchen, to keep her blood sugar from going low on the way.

Rushing to get in the car, I knew we were going to be a little late now, but again, I reassured her that we would just call on my cell phone when we got close, and let them know. She was a nervous wreck all the way, looking at her bracelet constantly, which was in the place her watch usually was. (But she had forgotten her watch.) My mom always does this-constantly looking at her watch, as if looking enough times will cause us not to be late, or perhaps it is a passive- aggressive way of letting me know that I was not on time (which lately seems to be a pattern with me, though this day I was on schedule, but she was not.)

Just a few miles down the road, she started to cry. She said she felt like she was losing it, and that her mind had been adversely affected lately. We had recently talked to the doctor about the confusion that has set in. (She took Aricept for awhile, but the side effects were horrible, and she had to quit. She was given another drug for memory problems, but has not yet started taking it.) She is very aware that her mind is not functioning as it once did, and this causes her great sorrow. She is very afraid of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

So here I am, driving as fast as I can get away with, and now she is crying. I reached over and patted her neck and head, and told her that I understood her frustration, and knew that she didn’t feel well, and tried to reassure her again that everything would be okay. (I was not at all convinced myself that it would be, but I said it anyway.) Then she told me that she feels like she is going to fall down every time she stands up, and I asked her to please use her walker, but she won’t-except to go to the mailbox. (She insists on going to the mailbox-it is the highlight of her day.)  I understand how important the mail is to her. But I just don’t get that she won’t use her walker in the house, because if she falls and hurts herself, her life will change forever, and so will mine. But she is quite stubborn.

I told her that if she continues to be dizzy, we need to go back to the doctor, and have her checked again, but he already knows that she is off balance, and blames it to some degree, on her blood pressure falling when she stands, but I know that it is more than that.

So as we are barrelling toward the doctor’s office, and she is trying to scratch down her list of the remaining medications that she was not able to write down earlier, because the computer went insane. She spills a couple of the bottles into the floorboard, as we gobble down our oatmeal cookies.

It was a tense and harrowing ride to our destination. Traffic was bad, and we were racing the clock.

We called to let them know we would be a little late, and when we arrived, I let her out at a bench near the entrance, while I parked the car. I ran all the way back from the car, afraid to leave her alone for very long, and also painfully aware of the time.

It seems that I am always breathless since my dad died, and I have taken over the care of my mom. I am always running, or dashing about, or lifting things that I shouldn’t be lifting.

I won’t bore you with the details of the visit, but she was happy that this doctor felt that possibly next year, he might be able to remove a cataract. Another doctor had told us that the improvement would be so slight, as to not be worth the risk. (So at least that brightened her day a bit.)

We ate at a cafeteria, with a man carrying her tray, as I carried mine. (This left her to do her usual acrobatic wobble all the way to the table, with my heart skipping beats as I watched.) I always hold her hand everywhere we go, as she is very off balance, and can’t see well.

We went to one store, and then as when we drove back to our town, she said that she needed a few groceries, and so we did grocery shopping at the lovely hour of 10 p.m. (My mom can no longer drive due to her condition. This also was a very tragic loss of independence for her.)

Whenever I help her with groceries, I put all of her groceries on the conveyor belt, and usually back into the basket after they are bagged, unless the clerk does. Then I have to help her with her credit card, as she gets confused, as to how to run it through the machine properly. (But then don’t we all at times? They’re all slightly different.)

 I do the same for my groceries, and then I get her into the car, and I stand in the cold or the downpour, to load all of our groceries into the trunk. (Bear with me here.)

When  we get home, we always fumble for the door keys, because the sensor light almost never comes on, and I  finally get her safely in. Then I unload all her groceries. One trick she thought of, because I have a torn rotator cuff, is for me to use her walker (which has a seat and a basket) to wheel the things to the front door. We call it “The Cadillac” and it helps me tremendously. (At least it is used for something.) Then we struggle to get the bags into the door, and then to the kitchen. (I usually hand her all the refrigerator items to put where she wants, and then I put away her cupboard things.)

Now you can only imagine how tired I am at the end of these type days, and I still have to drive home, and unload my own groceries. (I just wanted to give you a feel for the way life is for us.) I take her to all her doctor’s appointments, and errands, and I do believe that we have a different doctor for each body part.

She wants to continue to live in her house independently, for as long as possible, and I agree totally, but it is heart wrenching for me to leave her each time, knowing the shape she is in. She recently fell 3 times in one week. She is also an insulin dependent diabetic, and goes low unexpectedly at times. Between my brother and I, we have managed to save her every time so far. Of course, I stay worried.

When I got home, my husband brought the groceries in. He had to stay up later than he wanted, to wait for me to get home. I had called earlier and requested his help, because I was too tired to lug the groceries upstairs to our kitchen. (Yes, an upstairs kitchen.)

I ran straight for the shower, as if I thought I could wash all the sadness and fatigue off, and have it go down the drain with the dirty water, but it didn’t.

When I walked into the kitchen, I began to cry, and (this time) he responded in a way that helped. He just put his arms around me and let me cry. (Perhaps I’ve finally taught him well.) 🙂 I didn’t cry for long, but it helped. I cried for all that I have to go through physically and emotionally since my dad passed. I cried for the person my mother would never again be. I cried because I was afraid of what could happen to her. I cried because I might lose her. I cried because she might live longer than she wants to, and be in pain or blind or crippled.  I cried for how much worse things could get with her. I cried for everything I could think of for about 2 minutes, and then I stopped.

They say (whoever they are), that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle, and if that’s true, I sure wish He didn’t trust me so much. (A friend on the Grief Board first said this a few days ago, and I liked it.)

(If you would like to read about some of the ways I am coping with the care of my widowed mom, here are some articles:) http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/372772/caring_for_an_aging_parent_when_the.html

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/422813/what_widows_need_to_know_how_to_prepare.html

The struggle of living two lives has me totally overwhelmed. I am by nature, an organized person, but at this point my house is a wreck, I’m behind on everything, and I may not even put up a Christmas tree this year. I will decorate the house in other ways, and with a couple of very small trees, but I have to do the family dinner and Christmas party, and it will take me almost until Christmas, to get the house in order, plan the dinner, buy the groceries, wrap the presents, etc.  I don’t have a lot of full days at home, so I have to do a little at a time. (And I have not been well myself for awhile.) When my house is not in order, my brain is not in order either. I hate clutter. But I think the way it is now, is a symptom of the way my life is. (Upside down, and inside out.)

I long for the days when my dad was alive.  He took wonderful care of my mom, as he was so much healthier than her. Why did he have to die? So many men have a triple bypass, and feel like a new person. Sometimes I hate the hospital for all that happened to him there, but of course it does me no good. I can’t bring him back, and I can’t change what happened.

So this is my life now. Endless days of chaos and exhaustion. Recently, I think that I had my first panic attack. I suddenly had the thought that if my mom died, I would be an orphan, and I convinced myself that I would have no one left. It isn’t true, but it felt like it at the time. I do have a brother, though we’re not particularly close, and I have a daughter, (but things have been difficult with her, to say the least), and I have my husband.  That’s about it, except for a male cousin that I was raised with as a child, until I was 7. I realized on my birthday this year, that other than my mom, and husband, (and a sweet cyber greeting from my teenage daughter), no one else remembered or cared. It’s a lonely feeling. My birth father died just before my step dad. He used to faithfully send me a card, and a present or some money. My parents got a divorce when I was 2, and I never got to really know my dad, the way I wanted to.

Okay, I doubt anyone is still with me. I really wrote this one for myself. I had to get some of the feelings out, because they were suffocating me. Thank God for my writing, because without it, I would feel so alone. I really have no one who understands what this has been (and is) like. Just God and me.

My mom and I have become closer though. We haven’t always had a great relationship, but now we are bonded more than ever, by our shared experiences. I love her very much.  Except that now, I am the parent and she is the child, and I long for the days when it wasn’t this way. I just wish I could find some peace…

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One Comment

  1. I remember those days of taking care of my mom. She lived with us for 12 years, right up to when she died. All the trips to the doctors, the hospitals, while raising kids, stepkids, being a wife, and working. CRAZY is what it felt like at times. Ah, but I would do anything to have it all back. I know you know. L.


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