Her debilitating vertigo has returned. Although she has visited the Balance Institute twice to relieve the dizziness, it isn’t working as well this time.
I arrive in town to take her to her next appointment. Stupidly, I take her out to lunch first.
As they are trying to go through the maneuvers to shift the inner ear crystals, mom throws up. She had never done that before. When they tried again, it happened again. They recommended that she take an anti-nausea pill before her next visit and not to eat before it.
She continued to not feel well. She didn’t want to keep our plan of going out for dinner and just wanted to go to bed early. I got her settled and left. My husband and I were staying at his sister’s home.
At 10:00 that night, she called me. She was feeling dizzy and nauseous and helpless. She didn’t want to get up to use the bathroom.
“I’m coming, mom.”
Seeing her lying sort of half on and half off the bed brought tears to my eyes. I got her up, she used the restroom and I propped up more pillows so she could sit up more easily. They encourage this for the dizziness. I added a plastic grocery bag to the waste basket as an emergency nausea bucket and used a bag of peas on the back of her neck. I only knew to do this because I had watched them do it that day with an icepack. Mom’s refrigerator does not make ice and she no longer bothers with ice trays.
I placed her cell phone on the left side of the bed with the charger on. She is unable to turn to reach the landline on the right side without the dizziness returning.
As all of this was happening, she just kept saying “If it’s going to be like this, I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.”
I stay for a while, and then tell her to call if she needs anything in the night.
The next morning I arrive and notice that her newspaper is still outside. This alarms me. She’s usually up by 7:00 a.m. It was 9:30. I enter her condo tentatively saying “mom…mom?”
On one hand, I know she is fine. But when parents reach a certain age, you can’t help but have that horrifying thought of the alternative creep into your head. I geared myself before going into her bedroom. I was very nervous.
“Mom?” I spoke softly as I pushed opened the door. “Are you awake?”
She was facing me. Her eyes were closed. I immediately looked for body movement. She was breathing.
I exhaled. I tiptoed out and texted my husband Dennis that she was still asleep.
“Well, did you try and wake her? You should try that, you want to make sure she is able to wake up and not in a coma or something.”
“Sh*t” I say out loud. I hadn’t thought of that.
I return to the room and partially opened the blinds. I stand parallel to her shins out of the covers and touched her leg gently.
“Mom? Mom?” Nothing.
I repeat my actions and speak up. It dawned on me that she didn’t have her hearing aids in. I get bolder with rubbing her leg.
One eye suddenly pops open.
“What are you doing here?” she asks.
A Brief Introduction
The idea for writing these experiences down first came to me in the shower, probably because I was thinking about my then 87-year-old mother. She is now almost 89.
Ever since I moved to Florida three and a half years ago, I have been facing a steady headwind of craziness when dealing with my mother. Some of it is completely a result of her age. For instance, last year, she was insistent she was days away from winning The Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes and wanted to work Christmas Eve around that, and then there was the time when the Medical Alert bracelet people contacted my sister asking why our mother kept hitting the button (she wasn’t aware that she was.)
It’s undeniable that the challenges of having an aging parent are constant. There is no way to know what each day may bring. And somewhere down the line, there’s a good chance that they will begin to resist and resent your help as they fiercely hold onto their independence. Mom once grabbed a form I was filling out for her for the pharmacy and said “look who’s in charge now!” and put it in her purse.
Tongues can sharpen on both sides and sometimes adult children must dig as deep as they ever have for the patience it requires. Our parents’ point-of-view is that they have been taking care of themselves for 60+ years. They don’t need our help. But their minds and bodies are not like they were even 10 years ago, and they do. This is the ground that needs navigating. And there’s no other way forward except through it.
And to do that honestly, for me, there needs to be another piece to the story; my own relationship with my mother. The truth is my mother has been a challenge to my sister and I long before she reached her 80’s. Her approach to motherhood shaped and frustrated us. It left emotional walls a mile high.
But as I face her elderly status and decline, I try really hard to scale those walls and not dwell on the oddities that define her. I’ve learned to let it go. The goal is to live without regret when she passes. I want to know that I did absolutely everything for her. Otherwise, I would carry guilt with me for the rest of my life. And that’s the very last thing I want to take with me.
I compiled a lot of stories over time and realized that a blog could be a great way to share them. The intent is to be candid with everything: the government hoops, the medical issues, the irrational behavior, the physical changes, the financial stuff, the detective work, and the humor too.
I’ll post what is already written and continue right into “real-time.” If there is interest, I’ll see if guest writers want to share what they have seen or learned. I know I am just one story in thousands.
In some cases, I have decided to change names including my mom’s. She has never understood “that internet” so it’s just easier to use another name. Otherwise, all experiences and conversations are true.
Next: Family History Cliff Notes