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.
Raised on a farm and now in her element.
It's Tuesday, and it's a good day. Actually it just doesn't feel all that bad right now. She repeated back to me what I have been saying for a while now:
So, I'm not going back home. I can stay here or a nursing home back home.
It's not a permanent statement. She does return to the I'm going home statement but I am growing stronger in return, and whatever vulnerability she spied within or upon me months ago (weeks ago) isn't here today. I can see it in her face as she looks at me. She's in there reading me, studying me, and giving in -- for now.
Last week it all began when I learned that for this week two days of Bridge are cancelled because the place is closed.
What to do? What to do? Ugh!!!
I looked into boat rides around the island but the affordable ones were 30 to 90 minutes long, and that's it!!! But of course there are bridge repairs today also so the three hour cruise (Wait, is that a Gilligan's Island lyric? Yikes) is not going around the island.
But then a thought hit me, flowers. So today, Tuesday, I sent her to the Bronx Botanical Gardens. She was in heaven. She loves flowers like a fish loves whatever the hell a fish loves.
I felt like I had done something right especially after watching her sleep all weekend. Was that sleep depression after somewhat realizing she can't go back to life as she knew it, or a deeper depression realizing she likes this arrangement, or a product of the disease, dementia.
Sometimes when she throws one of her tantrums, stomping and demanding to go home, I get an odd feeling telling me she doesn't really want to go back and be on her own. I feel like there is a tiny space deep down inside her that wants things just the way they are. It's just a feeling....or maybe a projection. I mean, she hasn't actually packed her luggage or anything, or even organized her things like she was packing them up.
Sometimes I look at her and I feel so sorry for her. Her brain and body have robbed her of her independence, and robbed her of an ability to reason and to make inferences of the information around her. It sometimes makes her behave poorly causing friction among those present. Sometimes some people absolutely dislike her because of her behavior, and sadly it's easy to see why.
I tell people it is as though the worst of her character survived.
Oh damnit, Wednesday, why'd you have to throw a monkey wrench on my day off? Damn
Today, Wednesday, I sent her to another cancelled game; cancelled for the summer. Ugh!!! I learned today just now as she sits up there with her caretaker. And now her caretaker has to be with her little sourpuss self trying to find ways to lift her out of her grumpy mood, a mood that often gives way to one of those funky tantrums.
Thank you, Jesus, for this woman right here, her caretaker. Wow, He guided her into our lives, or us right to her. Reaching out to one woman, when the time came to find a new caretaker, the lady I reached out to recommended the amazing woman with us today. I knew she was for us the moment I spoke with her.
*Sigh* back to my momma and this day with the monkey-wrench thrown in our plans...
I almost forked out stupid bucks for my mom and her caretaker to catch an overpriced-masquerading-as-discount Broadway matinee but thankfully the god of b*tch-why-in-the-world slapped me out of it. Guess my mom will just have to try out Bingo today.
So, they simply ate lunch at the community center then came back home and the three of us watched a movie together.
A whole day off from work, a whole day to the apartment all by myself, my mom off to play bridge, and then a monkey-wrench. I had considered sending her to the other Botanical Gardens today, but thunderstorms were forecasted for today. Ah, oh well, at least it was kind of nice being home for two and a half hours by myself, and watching a movie with the two of them wasn't all that bad.
That's Gabrielle watching me vent via this blog.
I had an audition this past Saturday morning. I knew it shouldn't last too long. As I prepared my sides the night before, it hit me. Saturday's audition would become my exit strategy to get away. I was going to go out and just do me.
On a regular basis, several times a week, my mom complains that I "never do what (she) wants," or "I never listen to what (she) has to say." These proclamations often come just as I am going to bed, or to the bathroom, or taking out the garbage, about to walk my dog, checking on a load of clothes in the laundromat, or any number of chores or activities.
She truly pouts, throws her hands up and down pounding or smashing them against the bed. She looks like a small child throwing tantrum.
Once upon a time, in the first few months, I used to give her that time or try to explain myself. Then the tantrums worked perfectly on me. But it often ended poorly. It was always a no-win battle for me.
This morning, at 5:25 AM, after hitting snooze for the second time, I finally forced myself to literally roll out of bed, reminding myself that I hadn't put out her medicine and supplements for the day, and that I had to pack her bridge game entry fee money (oh, and remember to give her a twenty so she can give ten to the caretaker who sneaks it back to me so I can repeat it the next day), and pack her Access A Ride money. I also needed to put out her medicinal, um, stuff. Then walk my dog then feed my dog and cat. Plus, I needed to put a snack in her purse for the day.
As I sat on the train at 6:25 AM on my way to today's job, I received a text from one of my mom's newest east coast bridge partners letting me know that the next day's schedule changed. So (*sigh*) sometime during my work day today I would have to spend at least fifteen minutes changing her schedule. I'd have to get that done before 5:00. I am suddenly remembering that I also need to schedule a second MRI, pay her water bill (which is now late), send money to her neighbor via my cousin to pay for lawn care. I need to find out about getting someone to look at her roof. I must pay the newest co-pay for her latest doctor's visit. Oh, shoot, I must make that eye doctor appointment as well as a breast exam and bring up having her stomach examined. I...I think that's it for now.
Yeah, I never do anything for her. Sigh...
Yeah, I have to apologize for all my tantrums I ever had as a kid, as well as every time I told her she didn't love me.
I wonder if she felt her money slipping away when I was little like I feel it slip away today. She's so expensive...
I finally bought myself new clothes and have decided to work on my materials needed for my career. I realized I had been neglecting myself like crazy while I spent time "never listening or doing anything" for her.
Things have been somewhat calmer lately. She recognizes that I don't answer her when she speaks about going back home. I have continued to keep her weekday schedule pretty full with bridge games, which are only about 3 and 1/2 hours long. After that she comes back home and settles down.
Did I tell you that I finally fully hired the newer caretaker? No???
Oh my goodness. That was the hardest thing in my life. I let the first one go. Listen, at the end of a work day, a couple of colleagues sat me down to coach me on the process of letting someone go. It ain't no ways easy.
I got spiritual help too. On my way home from work that day, I walked a different street. One that did not carry me by the bank to deposit my check. Riding on the train, I remembered. So I get off the train a stop early, walked to the back exit (which I seldom do at this exit), and at the top of the escalator near the turnstiles a prayer station had been temporarily erected. I never visited those set up around the city before. They pop up every now and then.
That day as I walked towards the exit, I continued along the path that led toward the prayer station almost marvelling at my legs that seemed to be marching all on their own with my body in tow.
My legs seemed to march me right toward one woman in particular. She rose to greet me and immediately took my hands in hers.
How can I help you, my sister
I need prayer.
How can I pray for you.
I need to fire someone, and I want to pray for her. Then the tears came so quickly.
Then she prayed. I've never done that before -- prayed in a public place --been so exposed and so vulnerable and so public.
Afterwards, when I called her, my caretaker, she didn't answer the phone. She wouldn't. I left a message, and I sent her a severance pay. All I could think about was I know all too well what it's like to no longer have money coming in that you expected to have coming in.
I love our new caretaker. The lesson I learned with the previous one was to be brave enough to communicate my limits before things spiral to a point of no return.
So I hide in plain sight. What's that all about?
Oftentimes when I need a break from my mom, I escape to my bedroom. She's sometimes not too good about being alone. So, it's at those times that I have to hide from her. Sometimes I sit on my sofa that is parallel to my bed with the lights off. Last night I scooted down my bed just about half way down and put my pillow on top of my head. Either way, my mom stands in my doorway of my small bedroom calling my name over and over. It's a strange thing. On my sofa I look right at her with just the bathroom light filtering into my room, and she never sees me. The bed is in right in front of the door, and even then as she stands there she still does not see me.
All this does is teach me. No matter how many times she insists that she can go home and be on her own, that she's better, my ability to hide in plain sight right in front of her on a regular basis tells me otherwise. I look forward to the day that I can afford to pay the caretaker to spend an entire day with her, on multiple days, beyond bridge.
She has taken her to get her nails done after a bridge game, but I wish to have more of that. I realize my mom is with her caretaker about the same time I am at work. She comes home then I come home. I don't often get a break. That's why I have had to resort to hiding in plain sight. Last night after a ten hour work day followed by a three and a half hour class and a brief half hour rehearsal with my scene partner, I was Tired. It was 10:50 PM by the time I got home. I would have to leave by 6:15 AM the next morning. I had to get her money together and her medicine together for the following day. And I needed to just go to bed. She was not ready for me to go to bed. I did what I had to do for her and for me, then I went into my bedroom, turned off the light and hid in plain sight with my door wide open. I watched as she stood at my door calling my name in the dark room, then tried the front door of the apartment (which has an alarm and two door stops so that I won't be surprised by another late night wandering). I watched her trying to locate me in my small one bedroom apartment. I watched and realized I was watching the teacher (she is a retired school teacher) teach me how necessary it is for me to take care of this person for the rest of her life.
So last post I said I was willing to give it a try. I was willing to boldly trust. I revisited Norman Vincent Peale's anecdote about the trapeze artist and his teacher, and taking a lesson from that said I too would "throw (my) heart over the (trapeze) bar" so that my body would follow. And as soon as I said that so much followed.
1) I found myself in the midst of drama at a job. It was frustrating, draining, juvenile, and ugh.
2) Then I heard myself say aloud, "This (place/job location) isn't my goal." And for some reason it settled it. I made up my mind to walk away. I didn't quit the job. I just decided to no longer make that job location a priority.
3) I prayed at a prayer station that miraculously appeared at my subway station and asked for prayer for the woman I would have to let go. The woman who was my mom's first caretaker. Man oh man was that hard--letting someone go from a job. There I was standing in the midst of a busy subway stop during evening rush hour, being prayed over while I let the water works fall. After which I bravely called the old caretaker to agree to what she already suspected. That was hard.
4. A young just out of grad school preacher preached at my church on Sunday. The lesson from the young visiting preacher this past Sunday was all about what we're focusing on. And that lesson is still bouncing around in my head over and over and over. I woke this morning with it dawning on me what it was I thought about first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I thought about those things that irritated me. I then got a glimpse of myself contemplating leaving acting once again and realized then that up to that point I had been spending the majority of my time thinking about anything but my acting career. I am so grateful for that awakening.
I also realized how I seldom learn a lesson the first time. I usually learn eventually...yeah...well.
So, that drama at work was the second time I found myself enmeshed in drama at that same location; second time; second person. Hmmmm...and it occurred to me that I was turning into the people I worked with at that location. People who confused the heck out of me when I first worked there. They easily put in 15 sometimes 18 hours a day!!! How do they spend time with their families, have a life, do anything else. Their entire lives are consumed with that job and there is no advancement. There is no acknowledment or reward or anything. They are unhappy and advancing no where. I was becoming like them. I had put in as many as 14 and 3/4 hours in multiple days within the same week. With that much time put into work, there is very little time left for you/me. Hmmm...
Also, I am beginning to think that it's not so much my mom who must learn but me. I recognize now that I've been hearing that said to me several times. Yes, she swears she's going home. Ugh, tonight I listened to her as she told my cousin how she couldn't wait to get home to have control over her pain meds so that she can take as many as she wants at a time. Yeah, seriously she said that. Visions of that overmedicated woman who first arrived here back in December floated past my eyes.
The student in this journey, with my mom, my work, my career, my art, my creations, my faith, my belief, etc. is me. It's funny how I can sort of see this now. It's kind of like if you've ever seen a ghost. Maybe you have or maybe you're one of those people who hasn't. You sort of see something peripherally at first. You know you can't turn and focus on it...there's that word...FOCUS. Well you can't focus straight on. You sort of have to focus on it peripherally. When you do that though things in front of you sort of vanish and you then get a fairly clear peripheral picture. Hmmmm.... Let me think this one through.
Focus...so I've been holding my attention on those things that are not serving me. Oh, yes, I need income, of course. But I had become stagnant and consumed, gobbled up, swallowed up, but fortunately these nudgings had come along trying hard to redirect my attention away from that straight ahead route that did not serve me whatsoever. But I wasn't getting it. My focus was frozen or dulled or deadened or dying. But fortunately I had a breakthrough, and it happened before, during or right after I decided to be bold in my faith, tossing my heart over the hypothetical trapeze.
So, as for me, this day I intentionally and repeatedly shifted my focus away from that which made me irritated and distracted, and back towards the personal professional journey I set out on. I also shifted my focus away from wanting to get my mom to be or do anything and more towards getting myself to recognizing her limits and that I am actually the student in all of this. Also to recognize that the one who is being or doing is me. I'm not sure any of this makes sense for you, but it does for me.
The lesson was/is focus. So, my heart has been tossed in faith, and now I purposely practice with my intentional focus, my on purpose focus.
This entry is kind of all over the place, but then again maybe all of my entries are all over the place.
This journey has been stressful. I'm talking about this journey with my mom, this journey with quitting my job as a teacher, this journey of returning to acting at my age, this journey of being a responsible grown up.
In the late 80's, I did my first tour (mini tour; minuscule tour) with a tiny but fun production of Little Shoppa Horrors. I was a doo wop street urchin girl. I loved it. This was shortly after I dropped out of a female New Edition wanna be group, which came after I dropped out of Michigan State University.
I was just talking to my current scene partner for my current acting class about how overwhelmingly miserable I was at MSU. Gah, I was big time depressed. But my unsuccessful journey with the female vocal group and the short musical tour lifted me to places I couldn't explain.
On the tour, after a performance, while the cast ate together between cities, the woman who played Audrey told me that in her opinion I was a new soul visiting this earthly plain. Okay, it's a bit spacey. But I admit that I have met those persons who have given me the feeling (from someplace I don't know) that has made me utter the words they're an old soul.
Sometimes, as I step back and watch myself, I too get the feeling of a very new soul to this world.
Okay, here goes...
When I was a kid, I used to imagine that I was this spirit, or whatever, that pleaded with God to let me please come to this world, so when the actress said that to me, it reminded me of that childhood imagination.
Sometimes I would imagine everything was brand new for this new entity, me. This is crazy stuff but I'm just trying to have the courage to let my imagination and courage intertwine right at this moment.
So, sometimes I would imagine God was watching this little brand new soul wandering this way and that way and so often taking the path that led right to a sharp cliff on a steep hill and that was when God's interventions weren't so secretive but obvious.
Afterwork tonight as we walked pass the new World Trade Center, a colleague and I did what New Yorkers must do on and off on a regular basis since that day. We recounted our personal miracles that intervened hours or days or weeks before to direct our paths away from the tragedy.
My miracle, at the time, sat in the form of a rejection letter. I threw it away (I think) years ago after that tragic day. But today I wish I kept it. It was my physical evidence of a miracle.
I remember the shock and disappointment at being rejected for a waitress job for breakfast no less. I never even got invited for an interview. I was simply rejected via the post. For whatever reason, at that time (a couple of months before that day) I kept the letter. No restaurant had ever sent me a rejection letter before. But Windows on Top of the World did, the restaurant that sat on the top of the North Tower.
A delayed train kept me out of harm's way. This was just a few months ago.
And another time...
Several years ago, the starter on my '85 Camry failed to start each time I made up my mind to go visit a new guy I was kind of in to. On three separate days each time I hopped into my car to go visit him my car refused to start. When we'd cancel our plans, the car started up just fine. Not even my stepdad could get the car to start on those days.
There are other happenings over the years but they get even more bizarre.
So, as I prepare myself to face another month of my breaking my mom's heart in her want to go home, I think about another miraculous or serendipitous or coincidental happening. It happened boldly after...
Or maybe I prayed boldly then it happened. I sincerely didn't know what to do after she tried to walk out of my apartment at 2:30 AM on December 26th. So on January 2nd, I prayed: show me what to do.
Hours after that prayer, she tried to walk again. I saw this was for real.
I keep seeing little things now almost every time she brings up going home alone, every time. It's like she is invisibly directed to do just the right wrong thing to get my attention, to make me see.
Right now, I also see the connection in my journey as an actress; the little invisible guiding. So, there are the mounds of rejections. The need to have the survival job(s). The juggle to balance which job or pursuit at what time to give the most of my attention. And finally there's that constant internal silent battle with the want to just quit.
And so tonight I was reminded by my work colleague as we passed the shadows of the past about the miracle that played out in the form of rejection that was so big and bold right then. That sat on my dresser hurting my feelings making me feel inadequate, but how it was really none of those negative things. It was my real life evidence that miracles are real, and today it is a reminder that in the midst of all those rejections on this actor's journey is a collection of miracles.
That in the midst of this uncomfortable journey with my mom is a plethora of miracles for her and me.
My colleague said, really there is nothing for you to worry about since there is always some guidance, so to speak, going on. Perhaps that's true.
So right now I have decided to try a tiny experiment with myself. I am going to practice that's it's true. That I can just trust wholeheartedly in the spiritual realm. Each rejection is by design as is each acceptance.
I needed this now because my inner actress has been feeling a wee bit depressed. She's been rather neglected. She hasn't auditioned since January (well, one last week but I'll get to that).
She was feeling neglected and silly for wanting to even continue this pursuit. She's been forced to play the role of being responsible for the well-being of another, and she's been feeling fairly mediocre at the role.
And as she was sure she was being rejected, a miraculous check arrived just as she wondered if her agents had dropped her. It's just a fluke she said while still on her way to convincing herself to quit. Then a "recast" audition arrived giving her the opportunity to audition for a different role in the same production. The two arrived days apart...out of the blue...exactly when she tried to convince herself she'd been rejected again. Plus a miracle that meant nothing to no one but her: the two arrived in a way that did not force her to have to cancel work. It all just fit perfectly in her schedule as it was..
So I've decided to play a game of trust.
I remember that anecdote shared by Norman Vincent Peale:
"A famous trapeze artist was instructing his students on how to complete a performance on the high bar. After finishing his talk, he asked his students to demonstrate what they had learned. One of his students stood looking up at his precarious perch, pictured himself falling, and become completely frozen in fear.
“I can’t do it. I can’t do it.” he gasped. The instructor put his hand on his shoulder and said these words:
“Throw your heart over the bar and your body will follow.”
So I will give it a go. Tonight, at 1:15 AM, I throw my heart over the bar.
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.
My year of hate
I can't believe how angry I am so much of the time
But what I hate is..."