Momming My Mom 3

9:10 pm, My Living Room

My husband is at hapkido class and my daughter’s home from work and relaxing in her room. I’m on the loveseat near the bookshelves, scrolling through FaceBook and Instagram posts. I start to nod off, when this thought startles me: I’ve gotta go to Mom’s! Damn! On the heels of that, What will I give her for dinner? Panicking, I grab my keys, run out to the car, and, Boom! A truth smacks me between the eyes. I realize that I provide groceries and meals for two households, and I don’t wan’t to do this anymore…

That day included responding to Mom’s first-thing-in-the-morning distress call. The conversation is always the same. I mean verbatim. (See Momming My Mom, the first in this series of posts.) I got dressed, took my morning pills—self care!—fed and hurriedly walked the dog, grabbed all the stuff, including a new, easy-to-read calendar and a banana for my mom, and got in the car as the phone rang again. Mom’s ring tone. Same convo as before, same reassurances that I was on my way… I rest my forehead on the steering wheel, then start the engine.

I helped Mom up that morning, talking her through her morning pain. Got her washed and dressed and medicated. She does most of it; I assist. Gave her the afore-mentioned banana, and toast, coffee and juice. Introduced her to the new calendar, on which I’d written the two upcoming events of the day: in-home PT at noon and the retina doctor at 2:45. It’s a lot, but I’m used to it, and it went pretty well. Friends and relatives have had it harder, I know. The way-tougher part is the rising flood of emotions swirling in my head.

The whole time I’m helping my dear, understanding Mom, I’m also swallowing a bitter mix of frustration, annoyance, grief, and guilt. Shame, too. The moments when I’ve told Mom the same answer to her same questions for the third time in the last 15 minutes. Every. Single. Day. The times she snaps, I’m trying!” when I’d simply reminded her to try breathing through her nose to get more oxygen in, instead of panting like a dog. (I didn’t actually say that part to her, about panting like a dog.) Then there’s the physically getting things done. I feel like an elderly, tired superhero when I finally get Mom ready, out the door, and actually in the car. She feels exhausted. She doesn’t remember what it took to get her there, so the next time it probably won’t be any easier.

The good news is that she’s getting nerve blocks in her shoulder in preparation for an ablation of that nerve. The doctor is hopeful that it will do the trick. I’m trying not to think about the effort, as described above, that it takes to get her out the door. The good news is that the added stress has pushed me to finally get back to the paperwork that will, I believe, allow me to get her more help.

Thanks for reading! —Cathy

Momming My Mom 2

I’m Cathy; my mom’s Betty. She was a nurse, a working mom, household boss, spiritual warrior. She’s still some of those things, but now she’s old, and I’m some of those things for her. It’s hard on both of us, at times, and I long for the time when I get her into a senior facility and can live my later-in-life dreams. What I write here will be the high and low and in-between experiences with/for/about my mom, and probably mostly about the unexpected growth I’ve been experiencing along the way.
Thanks for reading. Hope it helps
… 🙃🙏💛

6/23/22 Another Local Café,

Frickin’ Early Morning, B.C. (Before Coffee)
Mom’s Ringtone Sounds:
“Hi, Mom—“
MOM: “I’m. Gasp! In. Gasp! Agony. Gasp! Gasp! Gasp!”
ME: Rolling eyes, because I’m kinda over dealing with this every day: “Oh! Is it pain from your shoulder and down your arm? It is? OK, I’ll get dressed and come over.”
Land line rings; it’s the doctor’s office with the dates for my husband’s upcoming surgery.
ME: “Mom, I’ve got to catch another call; it’s the doctor. I have to take it. I’ll see you very soon!”
MOM Croaking: “OK…”

Except, I didn’t rush over. I emptied the sack of clean laundry I’d done days ago. Found a pair of clean undies in there. Put ‘em on, along with a clean bra, leggings, and comfy shirt. Picked out a necklace with a little heart-shaped charm. Smiled an ironic smile, because my heart really wasn’t in the tasks at hand. Put the necklace on, to remind me I actually have a heart. Because I really wasn’t feeling this day, and it was only 8-ish in the morning.

I’d made the mistake of thinking that if I set the alarm for a little earlier in the morning, I’d get (one of) my most longed-for desires: quiet morning time with coffee, Austin the dog snoozing close, me listening for the whispers of voices in my own head, the ones that would clue me in to the state of my own mind/heart/soul, and open me up to What Cathy Needs. Which turns out to be Help. Help is what I need. What would that help look like, I wonder… I don’t even know for sure. Direction? Action? Definitely Time Off.

I learned a while ago that having something to look forward to keeps me out of the dark hole my mind/body/spirit sinks into while I’m juggling Mom’s needs. I know this, but it took a while for me to act on it. Now I believe I’m turning it into an Art form… Still, I feel pretty guilty when I’m choosing my own needs over Mom’s. People remind of the old ya-gotta-put-the-air mask-on-yourself-first concept. Easier said than done! And I’d bet that anyone who’s done any kind of caregiving (of parents, children, friends, etc.) knows this is so: we’ve taken on a herculean job, and we’re overwhelmed and exhausted. We long for some sort of superhero to swoop in and save us.

After the superhero rescue fantasy, I thunk myself back into reality. I’ve gotta do it myself, yes with help, but I’m the Chosen One. My personal Higher Power has been telling me for a very long time that this isn’t about just helping Mom. It’s about me learning all sorts of lessons. Growing as a person. My psychic, tarot-reading cousin* says it’s karmic lesson. Blah Blah Blah

Dammit! Time now to go get Mom her pills. And to stop sulking. Pull up my big-girl pants. And fill out the Medicaid form, which will enable moving Mom to a place where she can receive care from others, and I can be mostly just her daughter.

Thank you for reading. —Cathy

*My cousin the psychic & tarot reader:

Momming My Mom

I’m Cathy; my mom’s Betty. She was a nurse, a working mom, household boss, spiritual warrior. She’s still some of those things, but now she’s old, and I’m some of those things for her. It’s hard on both of us, at times, and I long for the time when I get her into a senior facility and can live my later-in-life dreams. What I write here will be the high and low and in-between experiences with/for/about my mom, and probably mostly about the unexpected growth I’ve been experiencing along the way.
Thanks for reading. Hope it helps
… 🙃🙏💛

6/14/22 Local Café
My brother recently bought my mom (and, by association, me) a new, better wheelchair, and it’s been sitting, unboxed, in my living room, next to a stack of the giant, bright blue IKEA bags I loaded with stuff from mom’s apartment to sort through and get rid of. My husband, college-going daughter and I live in a very small townhouse. We have a cute medium-size dog, Austin, whose crate, fuzzy bed and basket of toys also reside in the living room.

I’ve been stressed about the extra clutter from Mom’s stuff, and overwhelmed by all the responsibilities of being the manager of two households and all the loved ones, human and canine. Today, I decided to finally get the wheelchair into our Subaru and bring it to Mom’s. I’d spent most of the morning walking the dog, cleaning up the kitchen, enjoying my small breakfast, working a word puzzle, and sipping coffee. Those things used to be the norm for my mornings; now it feels like luxury.

When I do get the chance, I’m able to eventually see what the next thing I need to do is, you know, organize my thoughts. Today, it was, “Aha! I’m gonna get that wheelchair into the car!” It felt good to actually feel like doing it. And even better to do it.

As I write this, I remember that my mom had called me while I was walking the dog. Her arthritic shoulder hurts a lot in the morning. I told her I’d come over to give meds and breakfast as soon as I got home from walking the dog. But I didn’t.

I thought I’d take 15 minutes for coffee and quiet, but then got caught up in doing just a little more of the chores in my house that I’d been neglecting. It felt so very delicious to be catching up! But, time passed. Oops! I jumped up and took the wheelchair out to the car. OK. Good! But then I got into a long conversation with a neighbor, which also felt delicious. Suddenly, my husband came looking for me. My mom had been calling and calling and calling me, but I’d left my phone in the house. I hurried in and my dear daughter was trying to comfort my mom, who was now in a world of pain. And she’d called 911.

Mom has significant short-term memory loss. She doesn’t remember why her left shoulder hurts so much in the morning, the pain radiating all the way down her arm. She doesn’t know why her body is stiff and sore in all of her limbs when she wakes up, even though she’s 89, and she (and I) deal with it every day. She doesn’t remember that in 8 days she’ll be starting treatments at the local pain management center. To her, she’s suddenly having pain that radiates down her left side. She has trouble catching her breath. This has been happening every day lately, and I go and reassure her that it’s her arthritic, aging body and that, in about 20 minutes, the medicine will take her pain away. (A side note: this happens at varying times of the morning, while she’s still covered by the pain medicine I gave her the night before.)

We’ve been to the ER several times over the past few years, once just recently, and her lungs and heart are OK. We’ve gone to all the physicals, ortho specialists, and all the usual appointments for an elderly person. She had a full nuclear bone scan a few months ago. These moments in the mornings are severe arthritis pain and some panic.

So, this morning, I asked the EMT’s the usual question. Her vitals are fine? Yes. I nodded and explained (again) what’s been happening. They left, and I tended to Mom, soothing her. “I need to see a doctor about this!” she said through her tears. <Sigh> I explained that we have this appointment with a pain management center in 8 days, and that, until then, I’ll come earlier in the morning and make sure she gets her pain meds before the nighttime ones run out.

Now, with all the morning Mom chores done, I’m sitting outside at a nearby café, sipping a large iced coffee, deciding to start a journal of my experiences with Mom. I think it’ll help me process and, maybe, see what I’m thinking and feeling in a different light. I’d so love it if it somehow helps you. Thank you for reading. —Cathy