I don't know how I'm going to do all of this, but it's just really nice to see her so happy, and somehow it all just keeps working out...so :-)
"Your mom wants to get her hair braided this week."
"Okay, I will schedule it for Friday."
"She told me she's getting it done tomorrow."
"Well..okay! Ask her if she wants to miss bridge Thursday or Friday."
"She said Thursday."
"Okay, I'll schedule an appointment and call Access-A-Ride and change it."
"She said she wants to get her nails done too."
"She can go to this place on 8th for her nails. It doesn't cost as much."
"Okay. How long does it take?"
"To be safe, say hour and half."
"I'll set up the rides now."
"I got the rides. So first pick up is at 12 noon. From there next pick up at 2 PM. From there last pick up at 6 PM."
"Sounds good. Oh, she wants to play bridge on Saturday."
"Oh boy. Geesh. What time? I'll schedule the rides. Oh, are you available Saturday?"
"10:30 to 4. Yeah, I can come Saturday."
"Thank you. I have a class on Saturday."
When I got home last night, after two jobs, one audition, and one class, she was in such a super duper good mood. She was so happy. She knew she was getting her hair and nails done, and that she was going to bridge on Saturday. So for the hair and nails, that's about another $200, and another day of day care too. This week is expensive, but she was so super duper happy. I guess I just have to do it. I have to do it. It gets tight financially every single third week of the month. But, prayerfully and thankfully this is the first month in a long time that I have had consistent work with my second job. And, I have made up my mind too, crazy as it may sound, to keep on my journey as an actress as fiercely as possible. I am paying for classes too and a voice over demo. I had a class last night that followed an audition and a class the previous day, with three auditions on Monday, a first rehearsal tonight for a reading, shoot a student film tomorrow evening, and a class on Saturday. What I notice is that the more I keep practicing my art, even in the midst of all this, then the more I am able to become fully apart of the creative building and process, and the more things seem to get done and even miraculously come together.
"Take what you told me and Bless the struggle, Bless the process. Keep moving forward knowing it's the birthing. The struggle is tremendous in the birth canal, during the birth." Well, that's not exactly how it was said, but that was what was mirrored back to me. I had felt inspired to uplift a friend, then she turn around and said my same words back to me, Bless the struggle. I see that now. The lesson I've been taught goes even further. It's to give Glory in the struggle. That if you really want to see what God can do, watch Him take you through this struggle. That our struggles are a time to hold on and watch God do what God does. To do not worry, do not fret. Watch.
Taking care of my mom right now has made me leap into my shoes of responsibility. She is with me and will be with me until her health changes significantly and she absolutely must be in a hospital or facility, or until she makes her final journey from this life onto the next.
So, last night when I came home to someone so very happy, I realized that I don't know how, but it will all work. My journey and hers will work. She has an absolutely beautiful caretaker. I love her and how she loves my mom. And while she takes care of my mom, I get to take care of her, my caretaker. I know that like me she needs a Blessing too, and I hope that we are a Blessing her.
All of this and its connection to my acting career reminds me of how I used to want my acting career to blossom when my stepfather was alive. I wanted him to enjoy bragging about me. Gosh, did he do that. A million years ago I once directed a children's choir for a bit, and when I got home to visit my folks, I heard from all of these people from all over the place talking about I was directing the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir!!!! Uhhhhhh no. Oh my gosh.
But he passed away 22 years ago now. And truth be told for those 22 years and those years prior I lived the life of one who absolutely believed she did not deserve this or that. I preferred to be invisible, to be unseen, yet the artist was still within me. For maybe a decade or more, I would wake up, go to work, come home between shifts, sleep, get up, go back to work, come back home, eat fried this or fried that, watch TV, sleep, then repeat. I used to pray to be invisible, seriously. I was embarrassed by any attention, compliment, anything. I wanted to be invisible. I was embarrassed by my life, my past, my present (I weighed nearly 200 pounds...and I am there now at nearly 200 pounds...but, thankfully, on the down slope). I was perpetually broke, which matched my spirit that was perpetually broken. I just gave up on everything. I just functioned enough. But somehow I kept taking acting classes and playing volleyball. In other words, I engaged a bit. But seriously, I slept a lot during those years. I just came home, ate and slept, ate and slept. I was successfully invisible.
Yesterday, I successfully had an audition time changed to between jobs, but I was a half hour late for job number two that I will have to make up tomorrow (oops), but I felt (as teachers do) a bit of a breakthrough with my student--not a mountain or anything like that but a little scooch forward. For my class, I sat there applying lessons (in my head) I had learned from my other acting classes and an agent I met with, in other words a shift happened within me, a shift happened in the artist within me, and when it was my turn to go front and center of the class I recognized that the shift is more than just within the artist within me. I entered a home last night, my home, with a person as giddy as a happy little child. I readied $225 in cash for her next day, I let go of the thought or worry that I now had an additional day to pay the caretaker, and all I felt on the inside was that I don't know how, but it's all going to work out.
Is that my phone vibrating? I think that's what I hear. I pick it up. It's my mom calling. I put it down quickly make my way to her room staggering like a drunk. She's sitting up rocking on the edge of her bed.
I sit next to her. Is it her heart? A stroke? Is she going to throw up?
What's wrong? You need to go to the ER?
Nothing. Just rocks.
Here I might be way wrong, way off the mark. But something hits me in my gut and I walk away.
My phone rings again. Damn. My alarm is set for 5:04 AM. I have to leave for work at 5:45 AM. This time I answer the phone.
Come up here.
The picture becomes clearer for me. I've been there. Those anxiety attacks often strike right in the middle of the night. They're scary. I think this is what this is. When she tried to walk out of my apartment the second time back in December it was around 4-ish in the morning. Her nightmares that she used to talk about that kept her awake nights woke her around the same time.
I want to be sweet, and comforting, and understanding, but I'm sleepy as hell, and cranky because I know I have a hell of a long day, AND we're still in our income holding pattern. And, how many times has she cried "Wolf," so to speak. And how many times has she out right played me. That's a slang thang for taken advantage of. I just can't muster compassion right now. My cup is too too too full.
I turned off the door alarm so that I could sneak outside with my dog, and then sneak away to work. I tiptoed into her room after my bath. She was tucked fully under her covers. I already know how later she will claim she never went back to sleep. She was sleeping at 5:45 AM. But, it may not be a productive sleep. But I remember that after the anxiety attack sleep...oh it was so nice. I would sleep like a baby. That was a good sleep for me.
The timing of this panic attack makes sense. Two nights ago as she followed me through my tiny apartment nagging me about this or that, I shocked myself. I was exhausted. I was worn out. I was stressed out. I shocked myself. I walked up to her, put my hand over her mouth then said:
Listen to me. You want to go home. Fine. In four days, I will buy your ticket home but you're not going home. I sold your house. You're going straight to a nursing home. It's called B---dale. They've been in constant contact with me. And that's exactly where you're going. Keep at this. Keep it up. You've got four days. Four days and you will be in D.
Her nagging stopped; her pouting stopped; her tantrums stopped. She walked around me like a little girl who just got in trouble with her mom sliding along the wall like she was trying to be invisible. It stayed like that for a couple of days. About a day later, I walked in on her talking to someone on the phone telling them I already had her nursing home picked out. I walked away.
Then last night's (rather this morning's) panic attack or anxiety attack. I've had plenty of those babies. And they do love to strike in the middle of the night when everybody else is solidly asleep, and the house is almost supernaturally quiet. You feel more alone than any other time. Your own heartbeat and breathing so loud in your own ears. Yeah, those late night anxiety attacks suck.
I'm are work right now. I tiptoed into her room, set her alarm clock, placed her medicine, and watched her breathe through the blanket tucked around her. Right now, as I think about how she is cared for, as I think about the sacrifices I'm making, how my income goes to her care, how like a ghost I move around her putting things in order, how I check on her more than she knows, how her caretaker reassures me about her regularly, how her friends back home help me take care of her house, and mail meds to me that her doctor already ordered back home, how this invisible team takes care of her, I think of how ridiculously lucky and blessed she is. She has a daughter who does these things for this imperfect person, for this person who was seriously imperfect during her daughter's younger years. She is so fortunate. I don't have what she has now. What will my later years be like without a dominating bully of a daughter?
I get the panic attack, the anxiety attack. It's got to be so seriously scary as we grow older. Mortality looks you in the face and whispers in your ears all the time. Vulnerability and helplessness become life-like entities showing you they're no longer just concepts. They're daemons. They're tormentors. They're joy stealers.
Sunday, August 12th, 2018, I watched 60 Minutes. I haven't watched that in years, but somehow I turned on my computer in time to see that 60 Minutes was doing a follow up segment following a man, a retired policeman, who had decided to take care of his wife who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. I learned a few things. But the thing that struck me the most was the financial burden.
Today, on this morning, as I sit here typing this on a temp job where the office is primarily empty because many people are away on vacation, where I come in at 6:30 AM, usually the first one to arrive to a dark office where the lights are set to go on based on motion, where the elevators doors open to blackness waiting on movement, where it is so quiet and the perfect escape from home, home where I am way way way over my head, I have two missed phone calls both before 7:00 AM. Both are from my mom letting me know I didn't leave her any money this morning for her day. She doesn't know but will soon find out I had to cancel her entire week of activities. She doesn't know I had to ask the caretaker last week if I could pay her at the end of the week this week. She doesn't know that both of our accounts (hers and mine) hit bottom. She doesn't know that I have no clue how to manage this budget.
In the 60 Minutes segment, this retired man in this beautiful home admitted that when he finally hired a caretaker to take care of his wife he spent $40,000 a year on her care. I am on track to spend between $25,000 and $30,000.
This is challenging. Sometimes, I just don't feel like I can do this. I will confess that times like these, where my money has hit rock bottom and I am in a waiting pattern waiting for that next influx of income I just want to quit.
There are resources. I continue to hear from so many people, but here is what I have learned: I have been on the phone with one case worker, two social workers, had one case manager come to my home, and gone to a conference at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital for caretakers of persons with Dementia, my mom does not qualify for any of that financial help. None. Sadly, it would be cheaper and more cost effective for her to be in a nursing home. But I see how she has some semblance of a life here. The people are all new as is the environment but at least she is making new friends and has some independence. Nope, it's not her home. It's not the friends she has known for years. It's not the town she grew to call home in the 1960's. It's a town she tells anyone who will listen that she does not like. My apartment does not have a view. It's a one bedroom apartment, and the living room has been transformed into her room. There's a daybed where there once was a sofa. The book shelves have become her dressers. The hall closet where I used to keep my coats is now her closet.
This week, with our current financial low, I am fighting off those negative voices telling me to quit, to send her home, to give up, to give in. They have painted visions in my head of me packing her stuff up and shoving her off to the airport to fend for herself. She'll figure it out, they whisper. She'll be home and out of your hair. Then truth's voice booms in and paints its picture, She'll be in danger of overdosing. Those predators will pounce on her. She will not survive, and if she does she will lose everything. They will definitely put her away in some institution. And that look you got from those paramedics back in December will be multiplied. And friends and family will definitely have something to say about you, again. The burden and condemnation will multiply greater than you can imagine.
I hate how this has me behaving.
I don't like my behavior during these times, or around her for the most part. She is going to ask for money we don't have and cannot spare, so I am going to stay silent, walk away from her, and hide in plain sight. I'm not going to tell her N is her caretaker; she's someone I pay hourly for 35 hours per week (and sometimes more). My mom is going to beg for more pain medication and extra sleep supplements (the vitamins that I substituted for the Aleve, extra Melatonin), and again I am going to walk away from her, just stand up and walk away while she calls my name begging me to not leave her. Don't do me like this, she'll say. Like this is ignore her requests, but I am going to ignore her. I am not going to respond to her request, period. I learned nothing I say will penetrate her consciousness. I hate how I am though. I mean, I know there is no reasoning with her. Biologically she is incapable of reasoning. But I hate how I am. I literally just walk away.
That's Mr. B and his ex-wife in the picture.
Mr. B is my 83 year old neighbor. He lives alone in a city where he has no family. Another neighbor introduced us about maybe 10 years ago. He was going to visit his mother down south and needed someone to watch his cat. I did it. Ms. R, our neighbor, volunteered me. She used to check up on him every week. But pancreatic cancer took her away from us about two years ago. Before she left this world, she asked me to keep an eye on him. He has my number and calls when he needs something. I usually run down to him and help him out. When his cat died, he called me to put the cat's body in the pet carrier case. *Sigh. Then he adopted another cat.
This weekend I dropped by to put down roach gel. He called me on Friday of last week to put his groceries away. He has been feeling a bit winded lately and needs more help. I had to have a friend drop by since I was at work. She texted me the next day to say his home was infested with roaches. *Sigh and Eek*.
I dropped by his home Saturday to tackle those roaches. Oh my gosh. So, while there, I picked up a bit, took out a huge bag of garbage, took mental note of how much more needed to be cleaned, then cooked him a pot of spaghetti, and left calling him throughout the evening to check on him asking if he ate. He hadn't been eating lately and had lost a lot of weight between when I last saw him (early spring) and a month ago (when he called me to drop by).
Then I realized the juxtaposition here. Here was Mr. B, one year younger than my mom, alone in his home, no one other than myself to drop by, and lonely. He has a new young three year old cat, but he is lonely, and his home is slowly transforming into something disgusting with evidence of the beginnings of hoarding. Spending Saturday with Mr. B made me realize how good my mom has it. Yep, she's a pain in my arse. She drives me up a wall. She nags and whines like a little obnoxious kid (she's really friggin' good at that sh*t). And she is safe, well fed, clean, has lots of activities, has a caretaker who is with her five days a week; who also took her to her home for an entire weekend taking her to a concert in the park, and to church. I stopped taking my mom to church by the way. The struggle with monitoring her behavior takes away from what church gave/gives me. I don't know if it is with me that she acts out the most or if I just have a very low tolerance threshold. It's probably both.
But I am grateful that I can help my mom, even if it is from a distance (ish). I feel for Mr. B. His ex is in town this week. She dropped by the Sunday after I spent time with him. When I dropped by to say hi to her, she was drenched in sweat and the apartment smelled like bleach. She had been cleaning up a storm, literally. She had dumped all of that collected junk he had begun hoarding. She told me too there was a collection of dead cockroaches. The stuff worked. Seeing the work she put into his apartment made me realize the difference between those who love you unconditionally and those who drop by to check on you on occasion (me). Those who love you go the extra mile (some do). She sort of reminded me of myself as I listened to and watched her with Mr. B. She cares about his well-being but is smart enough to keep space between his well-being and her own mental health.
I needed to write this today. I felt anxiety percolating, wanting to burst through, and anxiety knows I ain't going back there. I ain't letting anxiety win. I will let it in, if I must, but I will not be threatened by it. I've already been there. Once is enough.
Update & witness to a Blessing:
N, my mom's caretaker, just texted me to say she is going to keep my mom's schedule. That she recognizes what I'm going through, and where I am, and that she will keep the routine for my mom. This literally means she is going to pay this out of her pocket; that she is going to work spending her own money. She paid for my mom to get her hair done last week. Of course I am going to pay her back this week. I want to. I want to be as much of a Blessing to her as she is to my mom, and to me. This is validation for me. See last night, I sat in the dark in my bedroom, hiding from my mom, thinking the same thing over and over: I quit. I tip-toed out of the apartment this morning avoiding my mom's calls knowing where we are right now, knowing that her week was going to be screwed, and then this. What does it validate for me? It reminds me to hang in there. It reminds me to trust this journey and the Blessings that always come in the nick of time. II hear that whisper from the Universe, from God, from the Angles that quietly says, Don't quit.