Saturday, September 5, 2009

I'm So Not a Saint (written February 2009)

I called my sister this morning and told her she could pick her Mother up from the Pontiac Homeless Shelter. It was the first really bad day with my Mom and I was through. Just like that. I didn't even have the patience to enroll her in a facility, the paperwork would have taken much too long. A curbside drop off at a temporary safe haven was all I could handle. I figured someone would help her inside. My sister would get there when she could.

One of the most awkward conversations about caring for my Mom is when people tell me I'm a saint. It happens a lot. I wish it were true. I mean just about anyone would like a free ticket into heaven, right? All along I've said I'm not that amazing. Today I proved it. One bad day and seriously, I quit.

When you hear what pushed me over the edge, have a tissue ready -- not because it's sad, pathetic or heart wrenching -- no, it was so ridiculous it made my sister cry laughing.

We were standing in the bathroom and I gave my Mom a squirt of Dial soap to wash her hands, that ingrate looked at me with absolute disdain and said "Thanks big spender." I'll admit, I only gave her a dab, but that's all she can handle. If I gave her any more she'd never be able to rinse the suds off. That was it. The last straw. The audacity. After all I'd done for her. I gave her the entire bottle, told her to take as much as she wanted (it had 25% extra) and I stormed out. She could go inflict her cruel comments on someone else. The minute I uttered the story out loud, I broke into hysterical laughter. I enjoyed the comic relief, but it didn't change the situation, I was still fed up and my Mom could move out.

The big spender line was the final straw. The truth is frustration had been mounting for over a week. I just didn't recognize the severity until I snapped. My Mom suffers from recurring bladder infections. They are very common in the elderly and very frustrating. First, older people do not show signs of fever, blood in the urine or any other typical symptoms of infection. Instead, they show you their alter ego. A 180-degree change in personality. So my happy go lucky Mom becomes obstinate and ornery. The antibiotics can sometimes make her paranoid, even more disoriented than usual and this week gave her insomnia. That woman was up all night every night and getting into everything. I left her alone for an hour one night thinking if she was bored she just might fall asleep. Oh no, I came in to find her fully clothed, seven layers deep! Seven layers of shirts and six or seven layers of pants all piled on her skinny little body. A nice mix of pajamas and street clothes. The next night she locked herself in the bedroom. I found myself at 3:40 am, laying outside the door in misery, coaching her on how to find the light switch in the pitch dark room, then how to unlock the door. I watched the sun rise two mornings in a row, as she finally fell to sleep.

Desperate to reclaim a schedule, I didn't let her sleep long. I went back in at 10 am to rouse her and wow did that lead to all out fights. I wish the blog had sound effects. Imagine "Get out!" in an Exorcist type tone. And an angry "Leave me alone!"
When she finally gets out of bed, she turns her nose up at every meal, thinks every outfit is ugly and throws "I won't" tantrums that could rival a terrible two's toddler.

So, in my defense, it's been a long, painful week emotionally and physically. But today's the first day I'm really mad. And even though I've claimed all along that I'm no angel, I'm a little shocked at my over the top reaction. Here it is, the first really bad day and I'm not only throwing in the towel, but I'm stuffing it into a Molotov cocktail, ready to let the whole situation explode!

(September 2009 note: I've now survived six bouts with bladder infections. And I mean "survived." For us, they by far present the most challenging obstacles in our mother/daughter relationship. And we've done it without a trip to the homeless shelter. I may not be a saint, but that's truly miracle!)

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