One year ago today, December 23, 2017, at this time, 8:28 AM, I was exhausted and running around deep cleaning-ish my home before my mom arrived to spend her first ever Christmas at my home instead of me going back to my childhood home.
Today, I think back on how it has turned out and the Blessings that would be revealed.
1) I never wanted to move back to my hometown. I fell in love with my current city and did not want to leave. My mom's visit, the 2nd one in 4 months, revealed the danger she was in. It took a while for me to really understand what I was witnessing but it finally occurred to me 4 days after she arrived that living on her own in that house was dangerous to her life in many ways. So I cancelled her flight, and threw away her suitcase.
2) Over the following days I would begin to witness her inability to take all medications safely, in a timely manner, and responsibly. Once I took complete control over her medications, including her over-the-counter drugs, I would notice a transformation taking place. Then finally looking back at those first photos I would come to understand how over medicated she had been when she first arrived.
3) Back home she would often have a refrigerator full of take home boxes of food brought home from days out playing bridge or someone sending her food. Since she has lived with me, I have learned that I have to stay on top of those containers and even feed the food to her at various meals and in small portions. She continues to bring food home daily from the various senior centers and swears I don't have to cook for her because she has that food, but, if I don't stay on top of it all, the food spoils and molds. I have caught her eating the obviously green fuzzy molded food. She doesn't even know it or recognize it. I would grab it from her hands and toss it away. She would be nonplussed. I'd have to fry a quick egg, heat some veggies, or pop a sweet potato in the microwave. I can't help but to think how much spoiled food she'd eaten over the years especially since 2010 after she had a serious accident. In addition, there were mouse droppings in her cabinets back home and in her bed back home (where she ate so many cookies and crackers). I hate to think about the amount of expired food and mouse excrement/fur/dandruff she must have consumed.
4) We fought a lot, and I mean a lot, in those first 6 months when I refused to let her go back home. Truthfully at that time I wasn't sure what to do. Even though weeks and months were passing by, I didn't really know that it was my intention to never send her back home. I think I thought I could help her get better then she could go back home. I remember too then catching her secretly crying on occasions when she thought she was all alone. I felt her sadness at: growing old, losing control, loneliness, loss of friends (from death or from want of avoiding her--her behavior had become a problem thus I spend 2/3rds of our income for a caretaker to be with her 5 days a week). In the beginning of 2018, she used to swear all she needed back home was a housemate and she would be fine. But I, and her caretaker, would notice the huge shifts in her personality and behavior on days I kept to myself spending no time with her (just staying in my bedroom feet away from her now bedroom/living room). It takes a strange toll on her. I absolutely must or someone must spend some time with her when she is home or she will act out the next day like a child determined to get her way by being nasty or bullying other children. (I have now employed wireless headphones when I just can't take another marathon session of Family Feud or some game show or when I just want quiet.) She wears the headphones. I read, or work on my computer, do nothing at all, or even nap. She likes this arrangement, and so do I.
5) We are getting to know each other again. I moved out of my childhood home nearly 30 years ago now (11/30/1990). Each time I would go home to visit, I had the advantage of being back in a fairly familiar place with familiar-ish locations. I could then identify the changes to those places as compared to my memory of them. As for my memory, my mom fit perfectly in those memories so it was fairly easy for me to recognize changes in her while still recognizing her. But I could see on her face how it was growing harder to recognize me. I was growing older, fatter, slimmer, wearing wigs, extensions, hair long, short, permed, or natural. In the time that she has been here, that has changed. She now expects me to make a regular appearance in her day. She regularly recognizes me. If I am late returning home, she calls me. When she lived back home, I would be the one to call her if something devastating happened in the town I lived. She would either never have heard of what happened, or if she did she would often say I figured you were alright. (One such event, where a guy intentionally drove a vehicle over people on the sidewalk killing several, I only missed being there at that exact time because my train slowed down in the subway making me not be in that very spot by a couple of minutes. I arrived literally right after he drove past the spot over several people.) This made me aware of the distance my mother and I had drifted apart.
6) She had predators who were lying to her, deceiving her, had begun stealing money from her and they were the only ones willing to regularly spend time with her because they had something to gain, but she, sadly, believed they loved her. They brought their habits, their stuff into the house and if she had not ended up here they would have soon moved in. They were close to owning her. I overheard a conversation she had with one. This was days after she realized she would not be going back home like she was supposed to. The woman was telling my mom how my mom probably wishes she had never come here, how if she knew I was going to keep her here that she never would have come. The woman would call my mom at all hours of the night even after midnight. If I picked up, she would hang up and call back. She would call my mom Mom and say I love you after each call. My mom was always sneaky with the calls going into another room to talk (hell yeah I quietly followed and stayed in ear shot every damn time and because she is hard of hearing the phone volume is always up so loud that I could easiy hear the entire conversation). In retrospect, of course, I think back to when she was on the phone with the guy once back in her house when he asked her to take him off speaker. Because she is hard of hearing, she mostly had the phone on speaker. By the end of January beginning of February, I changed her phone number and got rid of their numbers from her phone book. My cousin would later tell me how the woman would leave a bunch of messages on the machine back home calling for months. I had her services on "holiday mode" until September of this year. I was never quite sure what to do but I knew she couldn't go back home. Those folks had already gotten ahold of her debit card twice taking out $800 until the bank stopped the card then started again with a newer card until the bank stopped that card. They didn't care that she was eating rotten food or over medicated most of the time. They smoked, drank, and hung out in her house and even began to sell weed from her house. Thank God she ended up here because if we were still back there would I have been able to stop what was building up when no one else could? They would pick her up at all hours of the night. For what? That part I may never learn. Living here I have the door secured at night so that she doesn't wander out in the middle of the night. How could I secure that house at night or when exhausted? How could I stop them when they dropped by with their folks at whatever hours? I would have been way over my head in so many ways, period.
7) I recently found a video on YouTube that showed me who my mom was: https://youtu.be/BvoRzbXK-vk (See below). I am so grateful she ended up visiting me for Christmas last year so that things could turn out the way they did. I am so grateful circumstances caused her, some part of her, to want to leave home and come here. I truly think, believe, some part of her wanted it to turn out exactly as it did with me making her live with me. I sort of feel like she was hopping I would. There's an odd mix of pride I detect as she tells people I have complete control of everything. I also recognize in the conversations with some other elderly folks a sort of wishing that they had what she has. It's like she/they want it and don't want it at the same time. I heard it in the conversation with my uncle the other day who is currently in assisted living. He said people die there regularly because they're old, sick and alone. He told me I should consider something similar for my mom. Our situation is not easy but right now it is good for the both of us. I like having her here. I can see to it that she is safe and happy. Yes, it is hard but it is not impossible.
This apartment is easier to care for than her house but I recognize the benefits of a house. In October my mom finally came to the conclusion she would sell her house and live here with me. This was a huge step for her. I had considered as much back in the spring, talked it over with a few folks but fortunately it was my mom who made the decision without any input from me. Her own independent decision.