Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Report from Pillville: Caregiving/One Year of Living with My Mother
"Let us just make it through one year" was my mantra in the first months after I brought my mother to California to live with me. I couldn't quite imagine then how I would survive in my new role as caregiver. Not to mention my mother. She seemed so impossibly frail that I wanted to hover behind her whenever she crossed the room.
She still smoked then, and despite convincing myself that finding the house with the perfect patio would enable a truce between the smoker (her) and the adamant cigarette hater (me), the fact was that the smoke from the patio wafted up and into my bedroom windows. Smoking on the bench along the side of the house was no better--it only insured that the laundry room smelled like an ash tray.
Medical issues intervened last November. Vascular surgery on her feet and legs to restore some measure of circulation was punctuated by an order from her doctor to quit. She did. I can't help wondering if the doctors who removed tumors from her lungs on two separate occassions might have wrought the same result if they'd had the balls to issue an edict back in1970-something or in 2009. If they had, it's quite possible that my mom, soon to be 89, would still be living on her own.
While quitting smoking has not been a panacea for everything that ails my mother, it does seem that she's more even-tempered. We nearly came to blows over my dishtowels a few months back. She likes the large white flour sack towels. I prefer smaller, colorful towels. Every night as she dried the dishes there'd be cursing. When I figured out what was going on, I stuffed the pretty towels into a bottom drawer. Every dislike in those first months seemed to be punctuated with drama. Lamps, phones, soap, lotion, the arrangement of her furniture--none of it was right.
I had my own fits over things, too. Why didn't she have a coherent list of her medications which actually matched the names of the meds on the pill bottles? Why had she brought boxes of pens and pencils and weird scrub brushes and a drawer of old tweezers but not her C-PAP machine? All of it seems trivial now.
One year to the day after the unlikely merger of the states of Pillville and Margaritaville, we're both still on our feet. My mother might be stronger and healthier. She might make her weird muttering/growling noises less often. Then again, I have been with her almost every day for the past year and I have absolutely no perspective. Her hearing has further deteriorated--so the latest hearing test claims, and I believe there's a bit of cognitive slipping and sliding. But the thing is, I'm an inmate here in this pretty asylum, and you're crazier than I am if you think I'm in control.