Yep, the "I'm doing good enough to go home," dialogue has resurfaced again.
Right at this moment I bravely or stupidly put her in the car service vehicle all by herself. I sit outside here in front of my building without the relief I expected to feel.
Her caretaker is meeting her at today's bridge game location. It'll be alright, she's routinely told me. Since my work day begins later today I figured this was a good day to start teaching my mom how to do this.
To be honest, I feel so out of touch with my emotions. For example, I naively thought I was okay with this, agreeing to even allow my mom to meet the caretaker at other locations. I have just been making schedules for my mom and myself, making our meals, getting summer clothes together for her, cleaning in small sprints, missing every call with my own friends...I just go go go.
This put her in the car herself business came out of necessity due to her caretaker's wee little attendance problem. She does show up, just not always on time. And it's often my mom who loses out. A few times she's arrived at bridge too late to play. I watched her one of those times sit pathetically by having to only watch others play the game while she obediently kept quiet. I felt sorry for her.
I still have to go to work though, and the caretaker does run late at times or mixes up dates and addresses and...huge sigh.
I want to stop penalizing my mom for this issue. So I decided to just have the caretaker meet her there. Last week as the caretaker, late, raced to our home, I prepared my mom to meet her at the senior center, to leave the apartment and get in the car alone. However, If I had to grade my mom's efforts, that day she received a B-. She did dress, leave the apartment, had her walker, purse, money (I packed it before I left), and keys. She boarded the elevator, then the caretaker arrived just in time to meet the elevator on the ground floor. The car was already waiting for them. It worked out just fine. But when I got home, the front door of the apartment was unlocked. So not a perfect grade.
I know I have to be brave enough to let her learn, I guess, but I am not that brave. I think.
Last night I couldn't go back to sleep. I'd naively began to believe my mom was truly getting better and could do all of this on her own. Then at 12:39AM She came to my room to wake me because I forgot to give her a Melatonin supplement and an Aleve pill (which is actually a vitamin I swapped for Aleve).
I was grouchy times 10. I had been sleeping peacefully up until that moment. After she woke me, I stupidly said, "You need to use some common sense. An Aleve and a Melatonin shouldn't make you wake me up in the middle of the night."
As soon as I heard myself tell her to use common sense that was when I was reminded of who I'm dealing with and her biological short comings.
Afterwards as I laid in bed last night then WIDE AWAKE, I kept thinking about this coming Friday. The caretaker can't make it. This Friday's game is one of my mom's favorite places. Again I have a late start to my work day so I could take my mom or see her off on her own this Friday. But ugh!!!!!
And that's when I reached out to another potential caretaker, finally. We talk tomorrow.
So right now my mom is on her way to a game, riding in a car all alone, meeting her caretaker there. She dressed early, and even flat ironed her own bangs. We exited the apartment together. She learned how to actually lock the door. She boarded and exited the elevator as well as the front of the building with no help from me. Then she got outside and immediately got on her cellphone, called a neighbor back home, telling her what she had just done and how she's proving to me that she could go back home and do it all on her own. As she talked about the service car picking her up, it was then that I learned she didn't even know the name of the service.
The taxi arrived and she kept talking. The taxi honked and pulled in front of the building stopping. She kept talking. The driver got out of the car. She kept talking.
Get off the phone and concentrate.
Get off the phone.
I took the phone.
I don't know who this is but she has to focus.
I hung up the phone.
Go find out who he's here for.
She walked towards the driver leaving her purse and her walker behind.
Are you here for M------*?
He replied with a mangled pronunciation of her first name.
Then she actually threw her arms up to hug him. He looked at me. I gave a stupid sheepish emarrassed eh, smiled and shrugged my shoulders.
She got in the car putting her cushion down first. He put her walker in the back of the vehicle. She buckled up. He got in the car. Then holy shit she opened the damn door just before he pulled off to tell me one last thing.
Don't open that door!!!
I want to remind you about...
Close that door!!!
I just want to remind you...
Close that door. You want to talk to me call me.
The driver pulled off, made a u-turn, and they were on their way. My heart pounding in my throat. My stomach in knots. I'm there visualizing her opening the door on the highway or something.
Minutes later my mom calls me. It's the driver on the phone:
She's going to Queens?
You should have the address.
I did but it just vanished from my screen.
Damn. I gave him the address and cross streets again then realized I sent her off without giving her the information. Of course whenever I've travelled with her, all systems worked perfectly. Traffic delays happened all the time but all systems worked.
She was supposed to arrive at 11:30. Of course they're not there yet. But thankfully I'm not panicking yet.
I hope the interview with the other caretaker goes well tomorrow.
Oh, by the way, when I returned to the apartment, the flat iron was still on. A part of me wants to say I will never put her in another car service car alone ever again, but it's hard doing this alone.
When I returned home from work and class last night, and she was already home from her adventure, she asked me about going to bridge the next day. Starting that day the caretaker is no longer available to take her and while my work start time is later in the day again, I wouldn't be able to bring her home or even be home to meet her. I had to tell her no. That she wouldn't be going that day. I felt bad. She looked like and pleaded like a little kid begging to go play. And I had to say no.
I had to. I had visions of the unlocked door, the flat iron, how she walked to the driver (a stranger) throwing her arms up around him, how she walked away from her purse on the street. How she threw open the car door right before pulling off. How easily she gets distracted. How she can't figure out which car is for her. How she can't help the driver with directions. I can't let her go completely alone, which informs me (teaches me) that I can't allow this person to go home alone to her house in a different state and do all of any of this alone.
I was grumpy last night when I got home. I gave her her dinner and nighttime favorite pills (Melatonin and Aleve - wink wink), then grumpily marched back to my room getting out of sight. This morning I think I understand what emotion I was really feeling. She really is like a helpless little kid, and I really have to say no, at times, to her wanting to go play because I finally became an adult somewhere along the way and have to be responsible for the two of us. Also I truly feel so bad for having to say no every time I do.
I think I hid my sorrow for her under my grumpiness. I see its connection to my evening now: I ate two big bags of potato chips last night; I was exceptionally tired when I had a short work day and class. I am actually angry with myself for waiting this long to try to hire another caretaker. I have hated how the caretaker has been late often which has made my mom or me late, and buys her candy bars all the time, and cancels days of the week that are directly connected to my mom's favorite activities thus leaving me having to say no to my mom when she just wants to go play.
During this new journey...ugh...there's so much sh*t to learn about every thing.
Looking at her in this moment, I see the person who still loves love. She loves a good love story. She loves to see love win, to see love work out, to see people falling in love. It's kind of cute.
But the strange thing that hits me is how I have to guide her hand, so to speak, to this.
Okay, I've ranted in the past about being absolutely done with game shows. Well it took me a long long time in figuring out how to gain ownership over TV time. So it has happened where I have come home from work and declared MY TIME. I now do that on the weekends too.
I often watch home improvement shows and of course House Hunters. So my tuning to those shows seemed to introduce her to something new. At least that's what I thought. But now I actually think that sometimes it became her bargaining chip to get me to sit and watch television with her. It's like, "Look. See. I've got your show on. Now you have to sit with me and watch."
Okay, it was kind of cute so I sat and watched. But the cuteness quickly faded when it was a show that she turned to after midnight then knocked on my bedroom door begging me to come watch TV with her because House Hunters is on!!!!
Then I guided her TV viewing once again tuning in to The Golden Girls late night since that's when her game show channel plays shows and infomercials she doesn't like. A funny thing began happening though when I began changing the channels. Eventually she too began changing the channels.
It's a little thing I know but sometimes it surprises me to catch her watching something other than her favorite game show channel. Sometimes she does this because there's a marathon of a game show she doesn't like. But truthfully speaking the confused over medicated person who arrived in December 2017 would have still sat through those shows. They pacified her.
I don't exactly know when she rediscovered The Hallmark Channel, but currently I am glad she did. Now before I can change the channel she has to finish the story she's following. This finishing business is rather new and has now expanded to include a game show she's watching. Before she allowed me to change the channel regardless of what point they were at in the show.
A part of me feels like what's happening is similar to how you guide a young child to show him or her other things they may like, and then you witness them grow from there.
I see the two sides that's happening: growth in her and that growth's connectedness to me and what I do for her.
Lately (and what I am noticing as a routine pattern) she has returned to asking me to let her go back home.
The pattern is often connected to her lack of having a schedule. Her bridge groups are away this week playing in a four day tournament, and I still have to go to work so this has resurfaced.
She's telling me how she is so much better now. That she's like she used to be. Here I scratch my head but don't bother chiming in. She is better, though. I agree. But I also know why and what I do on a daily basis.
She's not returning to life in her house as she used to know it. It took me a while to bravely voice this aloud to others. Sadly it is all too easy for me to change the subject anytime she brings it up (kind of like how you can easily distract a very young child). This only further reinforces for me the mental state of my mother. She is more like a very young child than an adult, and sending her home alone would be like sending a small child home alone to an empty house. Then there are the relationships with predators that she developed who eagerly await her return home. The best thing I learned to do was to change her cellphone number and to erase their numbers from her phone book. Not even family back home will give her those numbers.
I would say my family knows this change is permanent and gets why. They seem all too relieved that she is here with me. The ones who make it hard and reenergize her want to go home are her friends back home. This even includes the ones who reached out to me out of concern for her well-being. They mostly seem to think she will get better and can go back home. They too have noticed an improvement in her, but seem to equate it with some sort of break from home. These are her friends who are close to her age or older. However her younger friends back home don't expect her to return, nor do they beg me to let her return. I think that is because they themselves are in a similar situation as I am.
There is so much for me to learn on this journey, and on days like today I'm noticing that I don't recognize the lesson until I've encountered it a few times. In other words, I'm a slow learner.
Of course I'm making strides.
I'm off today from work. I would have loved to make myself a priority but it's another Friday without a caretaker. So I'm here in a room with Bridge players most of whom are senior citizens. And it's because I am here that I get to see a necessity for her, socializing doing something that means so much to her.
It's funny how on Bridge days she wakes up bright and early, dresses nicely and is ready to go. While she says she loves church, she may wake supernaturally just in time to watch Joel Osteen, then she often goes right back to bed. She looks happy here at the Senior Center playing Bridge and is even nice towards me. There is also a man here she flirts like crazy with...hahaha. He is attractive though, and a senior citizen. Last week he told me his wife is in a nursing home with Alzheimers. We had a nice little talk.
Here's an other observation. She continues to insist she can go to play Bridge on her own. This past Monday her eyes rimmed with tears that never fell after she learned I would be dropping her off to Bridge but would have to leave from there to go to work.
Is B-- meeting me there?
She relaxed. Her shoulders eased down, and my brave little 83 year old (who's more like a brave 5 year old) wheeled her little walker out the door on her way to play Bridge.
Here she's in her element.
1971-1973 a little blue school bus pulled up to our house, the door opened, I was helped in by my mom while the bus driver sang, "I dream of Jeannie with the light brown hair...," every time I boarded the bus. I loved that song because I loved the show, and I loved being called Jeannie just like the magical TV Jeannie.
2018 a white bus with blue lettering pulls up to my home and this time it is I who helps my mom onto the bus. The driver doesn't sing a song to her about her, but I know that if he did she would be just as giddy as I was so many years ago.
In 1990, one of my first jobs when I first moved to New York was as a babysitter. That was when I was first introduced to this thing called playdates: coordinating with others so that kids could meet together to play. As I sit here in church writing this while half listening to the sermon, I'm also coordinating with her caretaker for my mom to go play Bridge this Monday. I sit here this Mother's Day Sunday, motherless, uncelebrated, having never "brought in life," scheduling playdates for the week, and also remembering that I've got to schedule those doctor/dentist/eye doctor appointments, as well as plan when I will get to wash her clothes, especially the new white pants I bought her that she's managed to wear every single day since they arrived, dreading that tomorrow I may end up having to drop her off at her playdate then wait for the caretaker to meet me there before I race off to work, and also calculating how to design our afternoon today before our Mother's Day dinner date with out-of-town relatives tonight, while wondering if I go out and exercise after church or take a nap (I took a nap).
Is this the circle of life, or am I being punked?
For mother's day, in her card, I tucked in $10, enough for a snack from the store after church, or a quick trip to Dunkin' Donuts. The joy on her face took me back to the joy I experienced when I opened my birthday cards when I was little to find money tucked inside.
One great thing coming out of this new life experience is that I suddenly find myself fiercely transforming into a "grownup." It took me 50 years to grow up but the funny thing is that years ago I remember my mom making a very similar statement about growing up at 50..
(By the way, when we got home from the dinner date with family, I washed the white pants in the sink (the top too) because she will probably want to wear them again soon, probably Monday. The time: 11:30 PM.)
She's tucked in for the night. She likes for me to tuck her in and kiss her good night. I'm sitting here now at midnight finishing this blog while keeping her company. It makes her happy if I find time to spend with her each day. She is like a happy kid when I sit here watching TV. I'm happy doing it as long as we don't watch a game show. I've got her watching Modern Family right now. It's like my childhood has returned but the roles are reversed. I'm the mom and she's the kid. My own real life Freaky Friday.
I didn't have kids. I made too many other poor choices. But now since she's here and nobody back home wants to brave the jungle (that is her entry level hoarding) of her bedroom or closet to send her some clothes I have to buy new. But most of her old clothes have holes from moths, cigarette (MJ) burns, or whatever.
She looks cute in her new clothes but she is now my budget. I don't have money for me yet, just her. Sigh. The soles fell off one pair of my work shoes, my pants (the one pair I wear all week) are getting a bit thread bear. I'd love to get a haircut. But she now looks cute.
I am getting better on this budget thing too (patting my own back right now). I'm better at saying no because that money's gotta stretcccchhhhhhhh! Hey, I want...NO! But can I have...NOPE. Do you think I need...NAH.
So for my kid, I mean mom, who's so expensive I'm picking up so many more shifts too. I have to. Because her budget seems to grow with the season. Lawn care season is here now, plus the shingles are falling off her house, and her medical visits come with co-pays, then we've added more hours to her caretaker's hours. Sigh.
Yep, I've finally had to just say no. We eat in this house. No, we don't eat out. I will get your favorite this or that "soon," my new favorite word. "That's nice. I like it too. I'll see what I can do." I like that phrase too.
I want to rant more...this writing stuff is saving my sanity in the midst of this storm. It did it once before. I am hopeful it will do it again.
She's out with her caretaker right now. I can't get over how much I love these moments. I hate that I have to go to work when she's out the apartment. It's so nice and quiet for these brief moments. I even get to watch television in peace, and it can be as scary or violent as I want.
"You're losing weight." The caretaker told me this morning. I am down three and a half pounds (finally...pray it sticks). But with literally running to work, picking up her meds, sneaking in a class rehearsal before work, waking her, dressing her, bathing her, running store errands often at the last minute for her, and the oftentimes physical labor required during work, I find a good sweat running down my back most of the day lately.
New clothes arrive for my kid, uh, my mom this week. At least she can look as cute as she likes.
I keep thinking about some of what people were saying about her when she was still living at home on her own. They often talked about how disheveled and sloppy she was looking. She was. I did notice now when I compare it to how she looks now. I really did stay away for too long and too much of the year. But in early 2017, I went home at least 4 times to clean her home and to check up on her. It was crazy how fast things would revert back after my visits.
I am embarrassed when I look and think back to then...months ago. She asked today, again, when she can tell people back home that she will be home. I changed the subject. Truthfully, she's not going back to how it was.