Being a parent and healing a scrape or a disappointment with just a funny word or a hug, you can begin to feel ‘magical’ in some ways…as if you have some superior power that allows you to soothe wounds like mere mortals cannot.
Then one day you face the aging of your parents, one or both, and realize that you don’t have shit for magical powers.
Lately it’s been a tough road for both me and my brother. Our dad had a heart attack, the fifth in about a month, one week ago. This was the worst one thus far. Dad is not a candidate for surgery, due to his other medical conditions, and therefore is presented with only one option…medication to try to abate the chest pains and keep him comfortable.
Our mother fell yesterday, slipping on a hardwood floor, and wound up with bruising, cuts, and scrapes. My sister in law, who was with mom at the time, called me because Mom was refuting the need for medical attention. I had to slip into ‘bully’ mode and tell her in no uncertain terms that she needed to be looked at and I was not taking no for an answer. She acquiesced after a bit of argument and fortunately did not suffer any broken bones.
Today she presented with symptoms very similar to ones she had in January which necessitated a four day hospital stay to regulate her blood pressure. It seems as though that particular ailment has risen up once again and Mom was flat out refusing to go to the hospital yet again. Fortunately I (and my brother as alternate) have medical power of attorney and can compel her to go to the hospital. That was a ‘blessing’ today, as she flat out refused to go to the hospital, even with a seriously low blood pressure.
Mom has been steadily declining in the past few months. It’s become increasingly obvious that she needs more direct care than she has living independently. It has become time to investigate assisted living for her, which I know will be the battle to end all battles with her. Mom is a fiercely independent person, and has been determined to live as such until her death. Unfortunately the ravages of old age and dementia think otherwise, and Mom’s situation is becoming more difficult, and more unmanageable without someone paying attention to her 24/7. It seems like the next step I need to take is one of the hardest….assuming guardianship of her, no matter how difficult it is, and making her decisions for her….whereas she is no longer really capable of making them for herself.
My brother and I are being hit with a double whammy with our parents. One has a diagnosis that indicates that there’s no telling when the ‘next’ cardiac episode will hit, which will likely be fatal, but trying to avoid taking all ‘hope’ away for him….and the other is faced with the complete loss of her independence. One is ‘agreeing’ to the treatment being presented, the other is fighting it every step of the way. Neither situation is particularly easy.
With my dad, I can watch him exit this life knowing that we’ve healed all the wounds. It doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, whereas I feel that in ways I’ve only really had him for ten years now, since we began our journey of working through all the prior scars and disappointments. We’ve said our ‘I’m sorry’….we’ve said our ‘I love you’….and I know without a doubt that my dad loves me. Hopefully he knows the same in return.
With my mom, I know this will not go easily. I know that being called ‘rotten little bastard’ several months ago when convincing her to move from her house to an apartment near me will likely pale in comparison to what will come out when the ‘assisted living’ conversation is had. I know she doesn’t mean it…I know she’s scared, and confused, and frustrated….I know that no matter how many times I try to convince her to age gracefully and with dignity that there is no dignity for her in this. I know that the loss of control…the cloud that hovers above her mind each and every day, is perhaps the worst indignity she has ever faced.
But I know it’s necessary to do what is ahead to keep her safe and keep her comfortable…or as comfortable as possible.
With my mom, there’s so much there that I don’t think will ever be resolved. So many things that, unlike with my dad, I cannot discuss with her because it just leads to further challenges and heartache. There are so many days that things are inside my head screaming for release with her…and yet I just keep them inside. I wish I knew how to ‘magically’ fix this for her. I wish there was some word I could say or some gesture I could make to take this all away for her. I feel like a complete failure to her some days whereas we, years ago, had a conversation about my taking care of her in her last years. I made that offer before I married and had kids…before I had a fuller life and a family of my own to take care of. I made that offer before I knew, fully, what it would entail. I do the best I can for her. I will continue to do so. But I cannot live up to what we discussed. Necessity dictates that I do otherwise.