The voice on the other end of the phone is that of a child in distress. "I c-c-c-can't do this. I I I just caaaaaaan't." she cries.
My heart goes out to her. She has been pushing for this for seven months. Begging and cajoling, cantankerous and fighting for her right to do this. And now the time is upon her. Everything has finally been arranged. All the obstacles have been overcome. She is finally getting what so desperately wanted... to go to the nursing home.
A part of me deep underneath is a little angry that she is acting like such a baby. But, I know, I truly know, how terrifically overwhelmed she must really be feeling to face that which she has feared all her life, even though this has most recently been her wish. She says she is a burden to Dad.
At 82, she is 85% blind with Macular Degeneration. She is becoming deaf. She has heart disease, high blood pressure and congestive heart failure. She has had three strokes already. Sometimes it seems she's not all there. She has arthritis so bad that just watching her attempt to walk upright with her walker is painful. Tiny little inch-by-inch steps, she can barely lift her feet off the ground, her hips so bad that it looks as though her knees are fused together, her ankles splayed outwards to hold her up. She cannot take care of herself. She has not been able to for a long time. Dad, at 87 has had his hands full trying to count out her pills day by day. His hands that are so arthritic and deformed, he cannot button a shirt or do any fine handwork. How he picks up each pill and puts it in the containers for the week is a mystery to me. He does not complain. He is devoted to her making up for all those lost years when he worked double shifts.
Mom is taking 37 pills per day. Dad has a chart on the wall to remind him which pill is to be taken at what time of day, with or without food. He recently got out of the hospital with pneumonia, a repcurrent complication he has faced these last few years because of his COPD. I'm glad all the arrangements have been made, and Dad will be relieved of his charge. (July 28, 2002) ~~~~~
"All he does is watch the TV! And now, he's asleep on my bed again!" She is indignant sitting in her wheelchair watching him snore. "I don't know why he even bothers to come to visit!" I'm not surprised that Dad has gone to such lengths in the smoggy Los Angeles August heat. "Because he loves you, Mom, and I'm sure his misses you."
"This place is a Hell Hole!" she mutters in resignation.
By this, I know she is done complaining and I steer her into a direction of a younger time, where the thoughts are happier, a time when we lived near the lake, a time when life was full for her. I love these parts of our conversations. She always brings forth a new tidbit of information that opens the door to the past. She reminisces, calmer now. (August 20, 2002) ~~~~~
"Now what?" I'm thinking she cussed out an aide, or threw something.
"She called 911"
"She called 911, and told them she was in terrible pain and needed help!"
"Oh, my God!"
I am stunned. I can't believe what I am hearing. I'm annoyed at myself that I didn't take her problem more seriously. I'm annoyed the nursing home didn't keep track of things, or take her seriously. On the other hand, I am so proud of Mom. She's sharp as a tack. She's not losing it, after all! What a clever woman to take the initiative to call 911, and get the help she needed. I'm so glad the emergency team took her seriously. That's my Mom, Mrs. Feisty!
I'm laughing now as I picture the ambulance screaming into the parking lot, the emergency team entering the nursing home, asking where is room 134. I can see the shock on the faces of the aides. I can see the administrator swallowing his bile, as he realizes he will be reported to the state for neglect.
My sister laughs, too. "The nursing home administrator called Dad and told him to come in after she is released and take her home." (August 28, 2002) ~~~~~
Dad lived until age 90. Mom survived one year without him. But that is another story