|Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.
Bess, I've been thinking about you all weekend. I'd hope to hear that things turned out in a way that they were meant to. I'm glad to hear that they are well taken care of and that things are moving in a direction that's best for them.
That nursing home is about 2 minutes from my house...I've heard very nice things about it. I hope they make the right decisions-glad your visit was ok. jane
By 3:38 PM, at
I, too, thought about, and prayed for, you and your family all weekend, and continue to do so.
Aging parents and their care always has the potential to be stressful and upsetting. Fortunately my Mum decided where she would go, and when. Now there is just Dad and I think he is thinking hard, too.
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Sunday, February 25, 2007 When my mother in law, who was born in 1907, began to age, but long before she was unable to enjoy life, make plenty of good choices, or get along on her own for the most part, she fell and broke her arm. It never regained any real strength. It was her left arm so she could still dress herself, write letters, pretty much do anything except carry a laden tray. Immediately that cut out the top layer of high end continuing care homes in the Richmond area. The one where all her cronies, widowed with grown children, lived. The one that took you to the symphony matinees, the museum openings, the teas at ... well, I don’t suppose I know where old ladies have teas any more, now that Miller & Rhodes is closed, but I know there is some place.
If you already live at W. C., even if you’ve only lived there for a day, and fall and become unable to carry a tray in the dining room, and they will take care of you to the last moment of life. But that first day you have to be able to walk in and carry a tray. And Mom couldn’t do that. Not that she wanted to in 1990, when she fell. Oh no. It was a 3 year struggle to wrench the car keys from her. She lived with her daughter till said daughter married, and then with us till she became bed ridden. By then she didn’t know or really care who took care of her any more.
But from 1990 on I began begging my parents, who were born in the early 1920’s, to make some choices about where they would like to live while they could still walk in and carry trays. While they could choose the place that felt the best, smelled the best, offered the most. Believe me, there are a lot of choices for senior living and there are more of them every day. For years, on every visit, I’d ask them what they’d like and they would look at me with such expressions, or sit mum, or get angry. There came a day when I was singing that repetitious song and I looked in their faces and saw they’d already made their decisions. Dad would keep riding horses till one of them threw him hard enough to kill him, and Mama would move in with me. Case closed.
So the years have passed. I’ve never quit pressing. They’ve grown older, more infirm, truly sick, wheelchair bound. They’ve had surgeries for knees and feet and brain tumors. I have sped to the city from work, from home, from the gym, in answer to the real emergencies. I’ve murmured soothing comforting nothings over the phone for the imagined ones. I have also had many hours of true support from BD who has helped me make the existential leap from thinking I not only must do something but also will be judged by society, like some school child, on how successful my actions are - to understanding that they have chosen every day of their lives to live in, to trip over whatever discomfort, pain, anger, confusion or even real danger they now suffer. At the deepest level, where it counts, I no longer worry, even feel, that the quality of their old age is a reflection on me. Had they let me, I could have made it much nicer, but they wouldn’t and that was and has always been, their choice.
By now, social services would have stepped up behind me as well as whatever other legal arms that insist that old people be taken care of, and they would have been pressured into assisted living, only love intervened. Love in the form of a blissfully happy marriage between my sister and an old family friend of Dad’s - really, of the whole family. He was widowed. She was long divorced. They both came as guests to celebrate the YD’s wedding in ‘05. Six months later she was living 20 minutes from my parents and last fall they got married.
As is in any family, we sisters each inherited different things from our parents. We also each identified more with one parent than another. P got her phenomenal artistic talent from Mama and her engineering skills from Mama’s Dad. From our dad she inherited an incredible work-a-holic ethic. Ethic? Ha! Hunger. It didn’t show up when she was little - when she was as fey and whimsical as Tinkerbell. But by the time she was 20 and in charge of her own life, she was the absolutely workin’est woman I’ve ever seen. Exactly like Dad, who worked 3 jobs most of my life and, when he retired, started up a little business - to keep him busy. Caring for invalid and semi-invalid parents requires a whole lotta work and she is not just temperamentally equipped to do that, but also has a deep hunger to fill - to care for the sick parents she has been too far away from to do so in the past. Because of her, our parents have been able to spend this last 18 months in their own home, in spite of a host of illnesses that have threatened and even struck.
But even St.P. has her limits, even my parents have them, and it was arranged for me to join her this past week go over the $ with Dad to see what real choices they have. (In fact, they have a wonderful choice and they can afford it and have plenty to spare. It just needs Dad to admit it. He might. He might not.) But if he needs us to sit beside him while he faces the music, we can do so tenderly and gently. I actually sent out a prayer call to friends - that at such and such a time on Friday to please envision my parents in a safe good place or places or at least to see me driving home, happy and confident.
To those wonderful friends who also read this, know that in the strange quirky way of the world - their prayers were answered. The parents are in safe good places - if only temporarily. Dad is in hospital after falling in the night and Mama is at home with Nurse Natalie, who was an angel sent from heaven if any ever was. Young, pretty, engaged to be married to a local boy, with a lilting Caribbean accent, swift, deft and skillful, but most of all, full of conversation. Mama has someone to talk to at last!
Dad has at least signed the papers that will allow his doctors to speak with sister P. He also asked me (yet again) what he should "do about Mama" and again I told him he should sell the big house he can no longer care for, move Mama to the wonderful assisted living place in Sigh, Salisbury, Sigh, and, if he didn’t want to live there, move into a smaller house nearby. There are plenty of them. I also managed to cue in the primary care physician (and dad’s nurse at the hospital) with the sequence of his health crises since he blacked out last September (something I venture to guess not a single of his doctors knows) and before Dad leaves the hospital, the neurologist and the cardiologist will all be called in to consult with primary care doctor and they’ll have the facts. And they’ll report back to P.
We aren’t out of the woods yet. Dad is extraordinarily strong willed. Most of last week he was pretty depressed and focusing pretty much on giving up. But when I left the hospital yesterday he was laughing at Jeff Foxworthy jokes and getting lots of oxygen into his blood clotted lungs. Worst case would be that he recovered enough to insist that everything is fine and my wheelchair bound mother could take care of her self if she would just get up off her lazy .... and things could decay until the next crisis. But there are other outcomes. Who knows? Sister P is the one on the scene, so the major choices are hers. I am just her back up person now. It’s not the role I had thought I would be playing, but I have no ego invested in this. I still have many gifts to bring into play - among them my own sort of efficiency in organizing (ever the librarian) the 4 years of papers, bills, tax forms, prescriptions, DMV registrations (Dad’s car tags expire on Tuesday) stacked in heaps on the dressers and tables at their house. That horrible tin of medicines from the mid 1990’s landed in the trash can first. I know how to tell a thousand jokes and another thousand stories - as you who know me well have suffered through. I may not be able to distinguish all Mama’s 30 daily pills, but I do know her secret fondness for almonds and remember to buy them when I’m at the store.
There is no sane and reasonable - and happy and fun - walk into this last phase of life for my parents. But there never was a smooth or reasonable walk into anything with them. They’ve always been crisis people - adrenaline junkies who didn’t feel normal unless they were fighting the Nazis. Perhaps this is a WWII generation thing, this situation where they are only able to feel alive, to feel real, when rescuing themselves from danger. Or perhaps this is DNA at work, some inherited thing I may pass on to my poor grandchildren.
What I know is that the worst of this episode is over and I thank everyone who meditated, prayed, visualized for me on Friday. Mama is in a place where someone counts out her pills, serves her hot meals, engages her in friendly conversation and where she isn’t afraid. Dad is at peace while young nurses flirt with him. It is all temporary, but at least everything worked out surprisingly easy for me, if not for my parents. And looking back I see that my request really was as much for me as for them. I thank you all. As for the future - well, here is what Mr.Horoscope tells me to expect this week:
Are you not going over old ground? Have you not already run through the arguments that are now being so vociferously discussed and debated? Perhaps so. But this time, you are seeing something new in them. Experience can be a great teacher, but sometimes it can be a deceptive guide. We feel, because we have been somewhere before, that we know all there is to know about a place or a situation. This week, it is right in the midst of the most familiar that you are due to make a most unusual and surprising discovery. Don't be shocked or worried. Just be open-minded and ready to look at an old idea from a slightly different angle.
Labels: Familyposted by Bess | 8:16 AM