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Sunday, April 1, 2012

So, so tired

I wish I could sleep for a month. Deeply, dreamlessly, and awaken rejuvenated and ready for BBW, without a care in the world. Then again, I wish I'd won the Mega Millions lottery too. John and I actually bought lotto tickets on Friday, and neither one of us ever does.

Anyway. Yesterday is behind me. All things considered, it went as well as it could. As luck would have it, yesterday John's family was busy moving his mother into her new assisted-living place, and John has been exempted from the physical labor because of his ongoing knee problems (I guess something good comes from everything). On Friday night, he told me that we were invited to have Saturday lunch with his mom, sister and niece... BUT. The but? It was completely up to me. If it was too much for me -- both families in one day -- then we could pass, no problem. Probably needless to say, I very gratefully passed.

My stepdad had come around during the week; he agreed to meet us at the facility. We arrived around 3:45 and found him in the lobby. We then walked into the halls, looking into the activity rooms. In one of them, several people were sitting around a long table, talking and playing games. I looked them over, but didn't see my mother; I did notice a shrunken, motionless figure slumped in a wheelchair, back to us. M then said, "Here she is," and the figure's head turned slightly.

No. That wasn't my mother. It couldn't be.

It was.

She was dressed and had a jaunty black hat on her head. My mother never wore hats. M explained that he had bought several of them for her, so she could hide her hair, which was now fully gray and shapeless. She'd always been so meticulous about her hair, having it styled and colored well into her 80s. He knew she'd want to hide it when it looked like this, even thought she couldn't say so.

She said "Hi." We asked her how she was, and she said, "Fine." M asked if she knew me; she said "of course." But otherwise, she just sat and stared, unmoving. We wheeled her back to her room and sat around her; I sat on the floor beside her wheelchair. She had pillows piled on her lap and her arms laid on top of them. They never moved. Her legs never moved. The only thing that moved was her eyes, blinking and blinking, occasionally looking around but mostly staring. Once in a while, they would flicker over to me. I'd beam at her and say, "Hi, mama!" Her lips would twitch slightly upward. Then she'd go back to staring. Sometimes her eyes closed. Occasionally she drooled.

I stroked her arms and her hands. Her hands were cold. M was very sweet to her, cooing over her and getting up every few minutes to lean down to her and give her a kiss. She always kissed back.

Her heart is still fine, as well as her lungs and other organs. But she can't walk and she eats maybe every other day. Baby food. They get her in and out of bed, they change her, dress and undress her, feed her. Keep her comfortable, treat her gently and kindly, attach a smiley-faced sunflower on a bendy stem to her wheelchair. Fill her with pills. My stepdad visits her every day.

When it was time for dinner, before we wheeled her to the dining room, I asked if I could have a few minutes alone with her. When M and John left the room, I lost it. I told her I was sorry, that I knew I'd been a disappointment to her and I wished I could have been what she wanted. I told her I loved her. I kissed her hand and her cheek; I lay my face on her arm and bawled.

She started to say something. "Don't... don't think you have to..." And then she stopped. Stared off into space again. "What is it, Mom? What were you trying to tell me?" I asked again and again. She said no more. But somewhere in that shell, there was still a bit of her left. When I said, "Mom, please look at me," she did.

M and John came back, and we took her to the dining room. At her table place was a plate with three cups of mush on it: one white, one green, one orange. But she wouldn't take any of it when M tried to spoon it into her mouth. She did, however, drink a full glass of orange juice through a straw he held for her.

Back in her room, the three of us talked and caught up. John did most of the talking with M; I spent most of the time just watching her. I couldn't believe how still she was. My mother had never been able to sit still; she was always moving, always futzing with something, cleaning, adjusting, straightening, putting away. I could go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, put water on to boil, then take a cup from the cupboard and a spoon from the drawer. If I walked out of the kitchen and then came back in when I thought the water was ready, she'd have put the cup and spoon away.

M asked what our plans were. I just wanted to go back home, but he suggested we might want to eat out here before we drive back, since it was about dinnertime and we had a long drive. I took the plunge and asked if he'd like to eat with us. He hesitated for a second, then said, "Sure, OK."

We said goodbye to her. I leaned over to give her a kiss, as I'd seen M do. She kissed back.

I insisted on paying for dinner. I didn't want M spending any money on me. When we were done eating and it was time to leave, M said it was up to me if I wanted to come visit her again, but if I did, I should give him a call and he'd be happy to meet me there. Then he said, "I know you think I hate you, but I don't." Feeling John squeeze my hand under the table, I looked away and said, "Well, you don't like me very much, either."

"I do like you. And in many ways, I admire you." (whaaaaa????) "But I don't like some of the things you've done."

Fair enough, I guess. I tried to tell him how I was feeling, tried to explain the depression, the fear, the panic attacks. But he just kept saying, "That's a rationale. We all have things we don't want to do. In those situations, you think of others, not yourself."

Thank goodness John doesn't say things like that to me. But it's OK. Like I said, overall, it went as well as it could. We hugged goodbye, and M said, "Next time dinner is on me." So at least he wants a next time. I figured he'd pretty much washed his hands of me. He's really something else, my stepfather. Ninety-four years old, still sharp as a tack, still driving, still completely lucid and functional. But he doesn't feel well. And I suspect it's sheer force of will that keeps him alive, so he won't leave my mother.

John asked me if I wanted to see her again. I thought about it, then told him that in a way, seeing her like this was almost easier than it had been before, when she was still mobile and speaking. When I'd be forced to carry on a conversation with her, but really couldn't, since she kept repeating the same thing she'd just said five minutes ago, 10 minutes ago, etc. When I didn't know from one minute to the next if she was going to fall over, void her bladder (or worse), or ask me how my brother was. When I didn't know if she'd be sweet and docile, or full of rage and bitter hostility. Now... it's pretty straightforward. Heartbreaking, but straightforward.

I did the right thing. M told John that he doesn't think he can forgive me for being out of touch for a year. But at least I was in touch now. I'm trying my best. Some will judge me, others will not. I don't feel guilty. I'm just sad.

Now I will sleep. And tomorrow, I will see ST. Life does go on. Life, love and yes, spanking.


  1. (sighs) -- sends hugs.

    That's tough. Been there in a 'somewhat' similar situation with my Dad. Yeah, some things are just too hard to take, and when that happens, I go into my bat cave and shut the world out. Like you, I found out that even though it helps us to 'forget', there's still something that gnaws at us deep down and puts us in between that rock and a hard place.. and that's what makes us feel ill (in a way).

    I'm glad you had a glimmer of a response from your Mom. Even if you just go back to see her, and you sit there, and just read a book to her, that is something, and it is just the something that might help you and "M" see this through.


  2. This made me cry, I'm so sorry you're going through it. I understand as I also have a very hard time seeing people that way. I had a similar situation when my father was dying, only I didn't go at the end, I couldn't, good for you for being strong enough.

    Hope you feel better soon though, we are looking forward to seeing you Wednesday. :-)

  3. Oh darling. SO hard. I'm sorry. It's tough. All I've got is two word sentences, evidently.

  4. You did the right thing. I'm sad too, for you and M, and for John and his mom.


  5. No one can be a disappointment, Erica, who shows such love and courage, in the most heartbreaking circumstance. You mad a huge difference for you mom, your stepdad, and yourself. Sending my love.

  6. I cried for you too, Erica. Such a sad time for you, but you became a mench. Good for you! Looking forward to BBW. See you there.


  7. Zelle -- if she weren't 75 miles away, I'd go and sit with her regularly, even just for a few minutes. But even M knows what a bitch that drive is and he doesn't expect it, thank goodness. You know, there are some of life's rites of passage that I could freaking well do without.

    Lily -- I'm so sorry. And if you couldn't, you couldn't, and that's that. If it hadn't been for John, I don't think I could have, either. YES, Wednesday! I'll be much better then. :-)

    Craig -- s'OK. Two words can speak volumes. Like "thank you."

    Hermione -- it's damn sad, for sure. Trying to focus on some positive things and maintain balance.

    Wolfie -- love back to you.

    Ben -- thank you. Time will tell how much of a mensch I am, I suppose. See you in a few weeks.

  8. Hi Erica-I was sad when i read this :-( but i am glad your mom responded to you some :-)You did the best you could and i am VERY proud of you, this kind of situation is very hard, i would of cried my eye's out too :-( I am happy that your stepdad is coming around, Best of luck alway's to you and John and your mom and stepdad :-)Sending much Love and hug's to you,from your naughty girl Jade XOXO

  9. Jade -- I'm glad she responded too, even if it was just a little bit.

    Al -- thank you.

  10. Dear Erica, Thank you for shareing this poinient love story between you and your mother. Yes, my hankerchief caught a tear or two, as I read it XXX, luv.

  11. I admire your strength for following through. It surely would have been easier to just bail. No criticism at your stepfather,he's clearly a very decent man, but it's ALWAYS been hard for me to take when older distant relatives put the onus on the younger ones to make the phone call, write the letters, visit, etc. THAT works both ways!

  12. Six -- thank YOU.

    Kelly -- I agree. What can I say... I guess when you reach a certain age, you get a pass? It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't hate the phone as much as I do. If he had email, I'd write to him all the time.

  13. I read this when you posted it and could not comment. I had to read it again and then once more. I have similar issues with my Mama as you did, though different in context.

    After Katrina she had a stroke and then another, This once incredibly vibrant and beautiful woman changed before my eyes, in a instant it felt. I remember thinking and saying the same thing as she was in the Hospital. That I was sorry I wasn't enough. Because its the one the thing I always have wondered, what could I have done to make her love me more. I think she love me in the best way she knew how.

    Maybe your Mother did the same. I bet she loved you deeply, held pride in you as you grew, but was unable to voice it in language you could understand. Or maybe this is my selfish hope.

    Still it hurts like all fuck to see them frail and broken. You did it. You went and you connected. Don't ever listen to people who tell you, you are wrong for not being connected. We all walk our own path. We deal with what we can.


  14. Newt -- I just don't know. Perhaps I never will. It's hard to see past all the criticism, the "shoulds," the comparisons, the clear message that I was NOT enough. But I know she did the best she knew how. She had no one to learn from; her parents were a nightmare.

    Thank you. Yes. We do what we can.

  15. I'm glad that things went as well as could be expected. It is so hard to see loved ones in such a state, no matter their age.

    But it's Monday now so I'm sure you've had a nice distraction and at least temporary lift to your mood as I'm writing this. :-)

  16. Lea -- ST was just what the doctor ordered, for sure.

  17. Such a sad and tough time for you Erica, I'm sorry but I think you did the right thing in going to see your mother.


  18. Ronnie -- I did. At least I can hold onto that.