It was after 10:00 PM and I was spending a few minutes – alone. Ha-Ha. I know that sounds weird, but when you have someone with you 24/7, you need some space. I recall putting our kids to bed by 7:30pm. In the summertime it was so hard because it was still so light outside and they would complain. Up here in Alaska, it is light in the summertime until 3:00am, when it goes sort of dusk and the sun is fully up by 7 or 8 am anyway. It is why we have black out shades and curtains, just like we got for our kids when we lived in California. And we put our kids to bed early, because they needed sleep, and we needed grown up time. Last night, I was startled by my youngest son walking up to me and saying, “Mom, there is poop all over the bathroom.” Ugh. Did I mention it was 10:00pm? And off I went, to clean up after mom. Yeah; not a 3-year-old, but my 88-year-old, Alzheimer’s-ridden mom. Again.
The hard part about all of this is that it is like potty training a 3-year-old, only we are going backwards. I did not realize what taking in mom would encompass. I knew there would be issues around memory. I knew she would forget things. I just did not realize how pervasive this horrible disease is. Her doctor has told me several times, “Whatever your mom was meant to know, she knows. There is no more teaching. No more learning. It just is.” I did not realize how deep this would go. My mom has had bronchitis for the past three weeks, today, as a matter of fact. It has been three weeks of medications, coughing, more medication, and more coughing. And so many Depends. We added a second pillow to her bed to elevate her head and help during the night to ease her coughing. But during the day, every three or so minutes, she exclaims she has a tickle in her throat and has no idea why she is coughing. Let that sink in for a minute or two…or three. Ha-Ha. Three minutes is the generous turn around time for mom’s world.
One of the hardest parts in all of this, is that someone with a dementing illness focuses on a person and that person becomes their anchor. And when their anchor is missing, they flounder. For mom, her anchor is me. She has forgotten pretty much everyone else in her life, unless they make an appearance, aside from me. If I am not home, she is constantly walking around, looking for me. She will not settle down and relax until I am home. It is a lot like a toddler, always upset until mommy is home. I had one child I could not leave with anyone, for the longest time. He just was not happy unless I was in view or even holding him. Even as he got too big to carry around, he wanted to be carried. Or at least be touching me. It took so long to ease him away, into his own world, apart from me. And now mom is regressing to the point that I am the sole person who can feed her, help her bathe, clean up after her potty messes, etc. I am home for her. What a tremendous burden. And somehow, it is so very different than when I parented my kids. It seems far more onerous and burdensome. And I am not sure why.
The more I have thought about it, the more I am leaning towards introvert. LOL. Those who know me and know how much I love to gab and laugh and hang out, well, they may question this. But you know what? I think this is one of the reasons I have become so emotionally exhausted after hanging out. And I have really noticed it in recent years. I do love to be public, to be in public environments, and to share who I am with people. I can do that pretty easily. But on the flip side, after a day or two of being out and about in public, I am so raw. I am exhausted. My nerves are stretched so taut. And I discovered this about myself when I allowed myself some alone time. When we first moved onto a dairy farm in 1989, I learned something. I learned that I did not want to leave my isolated farm. And pretty soon, I had friends flocking to our house just to hang out. We would have a cup of tea and the windows would be open, and we would relish the sounds of crops being watered, cows lowing in the pens, horses neighing in the distance, or a tractor making its way across the acres. It was heavenly. The scents on a farm are just so relaxing – freshly hewn grasses, or the scent of the trucks arriving with fruit rinds or almonds for the cows. I loved it. The scent of a hay truck filled with green hay was pretty much the best smell I could imagine. I am instantly relaxed when I smell it, even to this day, almost 30 years later.
This morning, we had snow. Sigh. Last night, we had rain. Sigh. I want Spring and green and daylight. Mom has been coughing so much today, and she is sleeping deeply in between all this coughing. It is exhausting for both of us. I did not get too much alone time, and I am feeling emotionally exhausted. Which is something I am truly not used to feeling. I was thinking about fences all night. I know that sounds weird but we walked our property on Saturday (me for the first time since moving in here) and were planning what we were pulling out and what we wanted to plant, and where. We were also discussing what types of fencing we want (because we have no fences, at all) and were planning the exact type of fence to erect and where we wanted to put it. We also discovered we think very differently about fences. Ha-Ha! Even after 33 years of marriage. Who knew??? Ha-Ha-Ha! But when I was thinking and dreaming, my mom was not here any longer. It was weird. I had an empty nest, aside from my husband, in my dreams. We were doing what we wanted with our home, and we were so happy, alone. And so today, examining myself, I am overwhelmed with guilt. LOL.
“If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.” 1 Timothy 5:16
“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8
“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” Psalm 71:9
The Bible has so many instances wherein we are encouraged to care for our elderly. Reconciling that with reality is sometimes hard. Which is why I am blogging today. I am pondering and musing over my duty versus my wants. Ha-Ha. It is an eternal struggle. The Holy Writers of the Bible, we believe, were divinely inspired by God. When the Church, in Her Wisdom, compiled what would and would not be included in Holy Scripture, all of these verses about caring for our own were written and included. And so, in light of my belief that God directed all of this, how can I reconcile my selfish desires for alone time?
Well, I pray. I cling to my faith. And I keep getting back up. I keep caring for my mom. I am resigned to the fact that I am her sole caregiver. I know her days are numbered. She is fading. And it makes me sad that someday, and probably soon, I will have my alone time. I will have an empty nest (that youngest son is itching to be on his own) and probably have days where I am so very lonely. The hilarious juxtaposition of it all. Ha-Ha-Ha.
And sometimes what we want, it slams into us at the most inopportune times. Ha-Ha-Ha. The sun is peeking in and out of the clouds. Mom is coughing. Mom is sleeping. She woke suddenly, looked at me, and said, “I wonder why these men climb these tall towers. Makes no sense to me. Oh look, I like that Kelly and Ryan couple.” And right back to sleep. It is unnerving. It is frightening. This disease is ravaging her body and her mind. And there is nothing I can do to stop it. And I feel so guilty when I wish she would just be quiet or asleep, because some day soon, she is not waking up. Ever again. God, the guilt is bad.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” James 1:14
“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7
“And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:7
And I return again to the Rock of my Faith, the Words of God and His Prophets. They are my solace and wherein my peace lives. And I know I cannot do this without God. I am selfish some days, wanting alone time. I know I need to recharge. And I also know my days caring for my sick mother are not infinite, but will end. And my life will be forever changed, because I will not have my mom in my life. And that makes me so sad.
Living this life is what we all do. I have very few problems in comparison to some. Hawaii is literally melting under lava in some areas. There are people being blown up in the Middle East. There are people starving just miles away. Our government here is failing its citizens. The world is flailing in its own mess. But this is our here and now. It is our life. And so, it is what we all need to do, to get up and do it again and as the ad says to, “Just do it.” And I am. Again today. Cough, awake, weird comments, sleep – on and on it goes. There is sun shining at the moment and it makes me smile. Things are quiet and even the dog is snoring right now. On her back, legs in the air, not a care in the world. I think I will emulate the dog. Ha-Ha.