I just run back and forth from Louisville to Elizabethtown these days. Mom is better, then she’s worse.
I’m letting go of my anger with her. Letting the love override everything else. Mom is who she is and I’m not going to be able to change her. She’s never been a fighter and, although I want to scream, “Dammit, Mom, fight this!”, it’s just not who she is.
Little Sister (Donna) called last Saturday and said Mom was going downhill fast and the doctor told her she ought to notify the family. I went down there last Saturday and she was pitiful. Tiny little thing lying in that big hospital bed. She’s barely a bump in the covers. She wouldn’t open her eyes on Saturday and seemed to drift in and out of awareness. She was responsive to questions and seemed to be with us…then she’d do something totally off the wall. Her hands were fluttering in her lap and I asked her if she needed something. She said she was trying to get some money out of her purse so I could go get us something to eat. I explained to her that she was on a feeding tube and couldn’t have anything by mouth and she was confused about that. Finally started fumbling around and I asked her what she wanted and she asked me to “Put this money back in my purse.” I just said okay. Even though she didn’t have her purse or anything else.
DH took me down there. I was upset and he didn’t want me to drive. Little sister was there. Big brother had been there for two or three hours with Kim (his girlfriend, who’s confined to a wheelchair after her stroke.)
I stayed a couple of hours and then went to her house to collect the things I’d left down there. Obviously, I won’t be taking care of her at the house anymore. I came home but told Mom I’d be back the next day.
Sunday, I packed an overnight bag and went back. I planned on staying at the house overnight so I could see her on Sunday and Monday. When I got to the hospital, around 2:00, she was about the same as the day before. Maybe a little bit better. She seemed more cognizant of what was going on. She still kept her eyes closed but would open them and greet anyone who came in.
I hate hospital rooms. She’s in a semi-private room and there was just too much joy and activity going on with the woman on the other side. It’s difficult to watch Mom struggling and then have people playing cards and laughing in the same room. I’m happy for them but it’s difficult when all I want to do is cry. And it’s uncomfortable. The people on the other side had taken the chair from Mom’s side of the room and I could only stand there. Big brother was there and stayed for a couple of hours. He’d left Kim with a sitter. I finally got a chair moved into the room but it was such a tight squeeze that I had to turn my legs to the side because there wasn’t room for my knees between the chair and the bed. I stayed three hours, told Mom I was going to go see little sister and take my bags to her house and then return.
I drove over to Donna’s and we talked for a while. She helped me with understanding Mom. I said, “Donna, think about it, how many times in her entire life have you seen Mom overjoyed about anything? I mean, laughing to the point of peeing in her pants?”
Donna said, “I’ve seen her smile but I’ve never seen her like that. She’s always too concerned about what everyone else will think and too timid to do anything that might bring attention to herself.”
I said, “Why on earth is she like that? She talks about how mean Grandma was to her. How she was bullied by her brothers. How Daddy was always to blame for her unhappiness. But Grandma was wonderful. Sweet and loving and full of joy. Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Charles were just normal people. I can’t imagine that they did any more bullying than any other sibling does. And Daddy…I remember all the times Daddy would try to get her to dance and she wouldn’t. How he’d cut up with her but she couldn’t take a joke and always turned a little joke into some kind of personal affront. What on earth could have made her like that?”
And Donna said, “I’ve thought about it and I think there’s just something wrong with her. Something she can’t help. Some kind of paranoia that makes her look at everything in a negative light. And I think David is a lot like her. Maybe that’s why they can live together so well.”
Funny…I never thought of it like that. Maybe she really can’t help being the way she is. If we act that way, we’d probably be seeing a shrink on a regular basis but, women who are 87 years old probably didn’t have that option. You don’t see someone as depressed if that’s the only way you’ve ever known them. The symptoms, which seem so obvious now, were just inherent in her personality. And I’ve always thought, “That’s just Mom. She’s so negative about everything”. I never really thought about a personality disorder. She can be so sweet and charming with everyone and then, after they’re gone, complain about them and twist everything they said into something unrecognizable. I never thought that maybe that’s the only thing she really saw. Never considered that all the negativity she saw in people was how she really saw them and not just something she liked to complain about.
And so, I’ve forgiven her. And I think I needed to. I need to stop wondering why she won’t fight for herself and just accept that she can’t. She isn’t able. She’ll do everything in her power to help one of her children but then complain about it later. And we all just thought about how she always likes to make herself look like such a martyr. But perhaps she was born a martyr and never was able to rise above it.
I dropped my bag and my coffeepot off at Mom’s and headed back to the hospital. Although I’d only been gone about an hour and a half, I walked in and had a dozen people asking me, “Are you Patty? She’s been calling and calling for you and we didn’t know what she wanted.” About that time, my phone rang and Donna said, “The hospital just called and said Mom keeps calling for you so you’d better get back up there.”
And, as soon as I let Mom know that I was back, she visibly relaxed and seemed more restful. She said, “I didn’t know where you were. Are you going to stay with me tonight?” And I told her I would. Told her not to worry, that her children would be there for her. That one of us would always be with her.
I stayed another four hours and then I told her I had to get some rest. I said, “I’ll be back in the morning, Mama. You just need to get a good night’s sleep.”
She said, “I know. I understand. Just leave your door cracked so you can hear me if I need something.” And I assured her that I would. I gave my cell phone number to the nurses and said, “Call me if she gets scared or aggitated and I’ll drive back up here. I don’t want her upset and feeling alone.”
I didn’t get to sleep until well after midnight but I was back in her room by 8:00 yesterday morning. She was much more alert. Little sister was there and she brought her bluetooth. She placed it in Mom’s ear and called my brother and Mom smiled as she talked to him. She really enjoyed that. Donna called our little brother in New Orleans and Mom enjoyed talking to him, too. Donna and I stayed with her a couple of hours and then Donna left. DH called me and I put my phone on speaker and held it next to Mom’s ear and she talked to Donnie for a few minutes. The physical therapist came in and got her up and in a chair for a couple of hours. It was tiring for her but she kept her eyes open and talked with me. She was very aware of everything going on but she’s confused about why she’s in the hospital and how long she’s been there.
I finally told her I needed to go home but I’d be back today and I’d bring DS, David, to see her today. She took my hand and said, “You’re a good daughter, Patty. I appreciate everything you’re doing and I know it’s hard on you.”
I said, “I had a good mother. She taught me well. She taught all her children well. She taught them about love and sacrifice and those are the most important things a mother can teach her children.” And then I kissed her and said I’d see her tomorrow.
I don’t know how many more tomorrow’s she’ll have. But I’m at peace with her. I’ve forgiven her for not fighting for herself. If she doesn’t eat, she doesn’t eat. If she gives up, she gives up. It’s not my decision to make for her. I’m not going to fuss at her and tell her she has to do this and she has to do that. I’ve accepted that she’s not able to do the things so many of us take for granted. She won’t die fighting for her life, she’ll slip away quietly and her light will just fade away. Out of respect for her, I’ll let her finish her life the way she’s lived it. I know she’ll find Joy and Happiness in the afterlife and I think it’s way overdue.
She isn’t perfect but who is? In her own way, she made her daughters strong. Even if it was by us seeing how she let life beat her down and being determined not to follow that road. She raised gentle, living sons who see women and children as fragile beings needing protection. And I don’t guess that’s a bad thing. Even if the women and children in their lives are strong, we all need a little protection at one time or another.
And now, I have to get moving. I’m going back to Elizabethtown for the day.