Caregiving Chronicles: I'm grateful for my mom's new brain lesion

It’s been a rough few months for mom (AKA Ardie Ho-Ho).  An MS exacerbation, three weeks of in-patient intensive therapy (PT/OT and Speech), an accidental narcotic overdose (ICU and five more days in-patient) and a second round of mega-steroids during yet another week stay. 

Six weeks of hospital Jell-O out of the last 16.

It’s also been six weeks of me being up close and personal with pretty much every single inch of her body. Hospitals don’t like to give “fall risks” baths. “We’ll give her a dry bath,” they say. 

Have you ever taken a dry bath? Imagine someone wiping your body with slimy baby wipes and sprinkling some dry shampoo onto your greasy noggin. It works on the Siberian Railroad, but if you have an affinity for attractive doctors like someone I know, that plan simply will not do.

So mom and I got all Garden of Eden to get her feeling good about herself and me feeling slightly violated (but I’m cool with it). Most surprising, we got along. Like really got along.

I can be impatient. I’m not proud of this fact, but sometimes wheeling her and all of her crap treasures everything back and forth, calling doctors for feedback, fielding $45K bills (don’t worry, we didn’t pay), and arguing with everyone about everything just makes you become, well, apathetic. No, I was bitchy and resentful, which is entirely unproductive, albeit common, amongst caregivers.  

 I can't pinpoint exactly when it changed from feeling like a job to ‘hanging with Ho-Ho’ during the past few months – but the fact that she’s been exponentially nicer to me since this newest lesion popped up seems to factor into the equation. 

Her gait is the worst it’s ever been; her disease is no doubt quickly progressing. But she doesn’t call me or the police screaming about things being stolen (they aren’t), demanding I do this or that (a woman only needs so much makeup) or to complain. 

It’s like she knew I was at my ultimate breaking point where I might go AWOL. Seriously. 

Now she calls to just say ‘Hi’ and check in. Conversations don't start with, "Annie, I need..." I can’t remember the last time that was the norm – late 1990s, maybe? She laughs. And while her delusions persist, they no longer dominate her every waking moment. We aren't spending Christmas at the psych ward this year (knock on wood).

Is the new lesion to thank for this twisty turn of events? Maybe. 

I used to think that if I could choose the direction of her decline, I would rather she lose her cognitive abilities before her body calls it quits. However, after living with, then helping care for someone suffering from an organic mental illness (with zero insight, mind you), it’s Goddamn exhausting for everyone involved. Especially her.

It's so strange to miss someone when they are sitting in front of you. Also, I love this picture from forever ago.

It's so strange to miss someone when they are sitting in front of you. Also, I love this picture from forever ago.

Over the course of a few months and 10,000 fewer 3 AM phone calls, I can hear my voice softening and my demeanor far more sympathetic. Empathetic even. I am better for her now. Even if it’s only a temporary reprieve, I’ll take it. 

So, while we all continue to mourn the decline of her health, we are certainly celebrating life much more lately. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.

No one ever accused me of being rational. Follow Swirleytime on twitter @swirleytime and Facebook for interesting stories, links and a lot of self-deprecating humor.

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    Annie Swingen

    Chicago-based hyperbole enthusiast. Mom to a kid and sometimes my mom. Overboard (1987) obsessed weirdo. I like the funnies in life.

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