I got a call last month from my brother. He said that my Mom was having a few health problems. Mom is 87 and has never really been sick. It’s been a double whammy: atrial fibrillation and macular degeneration. Her eye blew out first and she didn’t tell anyone. I think she was hoping that she’s wake up it would be gone and things would go back to the way they were. That didn’t happen and then she began to worry. Stress drove her blood pressure up to the point where her heart beat was irregular. When she finally went to the hospital, she’d been in afib for several days so she was weak and confused.
My Dad died twelve years ago and Mom lives alone in the house they’d lived in for thirty plus years. Mom had been a nurse so she knows to take care of herself. She’s a natural care giver and she’s taken care of all of us throughout our lives. So, when she became ill, she was not ready to slow down. She wanted to be as active and independent as she’d always been. The meds she takes knocked her on her butt so each sibling is taking time being with her because she can’t be alone.
I live in Chicago. My sister lives in Colorado. My youngest brother lives in California. My other brother lives in the same town as Mom. Because he lives so close to her, my brother took on a boat load of responsibilities….like shoveling her driveway after a blizzard; taking care of moles and rabbits in her yard (I don’t know the details and don’t want to know). He took care of a squirrel that had gotten into the house by masking off the hallway and chasing it out the front door. He’s a gem of a son and brother, but it’s not good for him to take on all the caregiving. We decided to take turns staying with her until she gets into her new normal. She’s made the decision to move into assisted living facilities. She’s on a waiting list. Mom’s been very businesslike about all the details. She had lots of time to write everything out and has made it very clear that she doesn’t want a yard sale of any sort. She’s not taking many pieces of furniture with her. She cleaned out most of the closets at least once. She’s ready to move.
My mother was a business woman. She and my father ran a pharmacy for fifty-one years. She is very organized, outgoing and a very snappy dresser. She understands strategy and planning. She’s been planning for this phase of her life so she has the will etc. completed. There are some things that just don’t make it to your life plan. Partially losing eyesight is one of them. It just happens.
The eye problem is devastating because she reads two novels a week. My sister bought her a Kindle-Fire and it’s opened up a whole new world for her. Not only can she adjust the fonts so she can see to read, but she has the audio book option as well. She’s also discovered the world of streaming video and “Angry Birds” or “Mad Birds” as she calls them.
So far this narrative has been rational and mature. But the emotions of this whole situation has made me scared and pushed me to face mortality…my Mom’s and my own. It sucks. Rationally, I understand that the body wears out but the emotional side of all this is very hard. I want to make everything OK for her. I’m used to having things my way. I own a successful business…having some control and being able to get and keep clients is what I’m used to. The business of Mom is very different. I try to handle like a business to keep my emotions in check so I don’t completely fall apart. My therapist says these experiences are opportunities to learn about our histories and forge a new relationship with a parent. That’s what I’ve done for the last month. I’ve gotten to know a new Mother. She’s told me stories about her Mother and Father that I’d never hear before. We watched old Christmas videos from 20 years ago. We’ve gone through scrapbooks and yearbooks. I’m rediscovering what an amazing woman my Mother is. I’m also learning how remarkable my siblings are and what great adults we turned out to be. Our family has rallied around Mom showing the unconditional love and courage we’ve learned from her. I love you, Mom!