Only The Lonely

I said that I had more to write about those three weeks with my mom and I deliver.

It was a trip that was overwhelming with all the things to process. The actual things, the emotional things, the outrageous things, me wrestling with my conflicting things, and then the biggest thing.

The loneliness thing.

My mother had her mother for several years as her bickering buddy, her television watching companion, her people-judging partner, her fellow gossip gal, and dining companion.

They laughed, they bitched, they screamed at each other; but through it all, they weren’t alone.

Until Mimi died.

The one thing in which I differ greatly from my mother is that I am most content to be alone. I believe she has always been a social creature but too afraid to put herself out there. Mimi carried her socially. Was it social anxiety?

Maybe.

Mom had few friends of her own. She liked groups in her youth. A gang of friends with whom to spend time. She had a couple close friends in Germany but after moving to the States they held a fairly infrequent correspondence until that eventually faded away.

In the end, she had her mother, Mimi. They were friends in a loving, and yet, volatile way. Like a Debbie Reynolds-Carrie Fisher way, I suppose. Or maybe mix between a Joan and Christina Crawford way.

Their downs were dramatic for certain.

After Mimi was laid to rest, one would think that mom would have had an Earnshaw epiphany and realized now she had the freedom to really live.

I think she had some of it, but it was my sister who now carried her. Mom was not ever going to be brave enough to independently seek happiness for herself, make new friends, or build a career.

I think after the disease took hold and really presented itself, my sister could no longer carry her socially and the role of patient to caregiver began.

This meant hiring in care workers while my sister worked and it meant hours Mom went without human interaction. She could not drive anymore due to macular degeneration stealing her vision and the LBD made it risky for her to venture out to visit with nearby neighbors. (Although, most nearby she had some bone to pick with at some point.)

You and I both know we can go hours on end without any interaction except for television, books, music or the internet and relish in it.

However, imagine yourself blind and all that self entertainment is dependent upon your sight. Operating remote controls, not knowing what’s going on in a program (if you do manage to fumble your way to a show to watch) due to simply music and no dialogue. Much is lost.

Inevitably, loneliness sets in.

And boredom.

This is now an Eleanor Rigby stanza.

While I was there she had the 7/24 company she hadn’t had in years. We talked and watched shows, listened to audio books and dined together. The one thing I wished we could have done was taken walks together. She simply wasn’t steady enough on her feet to do that, however.

Having to return was the single most conflicting action of my life. I’m needed in my own family but I was beneficial there too. Every time I took a trip to the store I saw opportunities to just uproot and stay there. But it would mean starting over. There are no real job prospects in that area and it would mean forcing the whole family to forsake their paths for my sense of responsibility.

There seemed to be no right answer on this. Deep down, I believe I should have stayed longer. Everything inside me screamed I was failing her, I was failing my sister and I was failing my sense of responsibility toward family.

But I have an immediate family too–you and your father.

I knew when I returned, I wasn’t totally myself because I focused on her loneliness. Leaving her back to the hours on end without interacting with others. She spent some time in a nursing home facility after I left, so she had more contact with others but she fell while there a few times.  The trade off did not seem to balance in my opinion.

I made it a point to call her after I got back and it was a hit or miss when she would answer the phone. When she did, it was clear that our conversations would be superficial and tiring for her as she struggled to complete thoughts. I don’t want to frustrate her at all. So making the calls seems to be reopening a wound over and over for her.

This disease is complicated and difficult to know exactly how to help from this distance to combat the loneliness. I want help but I want her to rest as well.

My advice to you is to treat those who may be suffering from loneliness the way you would wish to be treated if you felt alone. Just be sure that in your efforts you are doing good in the process and not creating more pain. Take care with your intentions and act accordingly.

 

youngerhandholdingolderhand

The Injustice of Aging

You’re young. So very young. This post will seem like a lot of whinging about what a drag it is getting old.  You’ve witnessed several elderly patrons at your place of work fall; and as the compassionate soul you are, you have helped and identified the problems to management to assure the incident is not likely to happen again.  It is that kind of consideration that gives me faith in humanity.

I don’t believe you were aware of all of the things I witnessed while visiting my mom. As well as the things I am ashamed to falling prey as a caregiver having little to no experience with dementia other than my teenage self re-living the same frustrations I did when my great-grandmother came to live with us while she suffered from Alzheimer’s.

Society is bent on valuing youth; because… “The children are our future”. (Also the right end to a pageant question as proven by iCarly.)

However, these bright eyed gifts are molded by their elders. And they deserve some respect and care as they make their journey into the sunset.  This is merely to forewarn you of what lies ahead as you age.

It’s not just the physical or mental deterioration which you must endure on this journey. And might I just say, some of it was a complete surprise.

For example:

As you age, your digestion changes once again. To the point where you are slower to digest and certain complex foodstuffs you are not able to break down as you could in your youth. (becoming lactose intolerant was a shocker to me)

Your ability to see at night deteriorates as well. I recall my grandmother on my father’s side having me take the wheel after sunset in Laredo ( a town with which I was wholly unfamiliar)  because she could no longer see to drive. She drove a huge boat of a vehicle too.

Your kidneys are not as efficient as they once were. So they slow in the processing of wastes and you swell a lot if you tax them. (Think cankles and puffy feet) It’s actually painful.

Skin issues become a thing. Fungal infections, boils, yeast, suspicious growths, moles, skin tags, wrinkles, wens. Jesus I thought the dermatology visits were over when acne was resolved.

And this doesn’t affect you since you’re a guy… but the many plagues of menopause are shocking. Burning mouth syndrome, hot and cold flashes, mood swings far worse than PMS mood swings, the hemorrhagic instability of the in utero sloughing process. The sudden transformation into a carnival sideshow freak crossed with Frieda Kahlo. My beard if left to grow would be better than yours. I would stake a bet on it.

Your mind is not as sharp to grasp and hold onto items in short term memory. As you age it progresses while mid sentence. You cannot finish a fucking sentence while talking! Imagine the shame and embarrassment of that.  Some of it is funny like the “Where’s my [thing I cannot find but is on me the whole time]?” or the “What did I come in this room for anyway?” scenarios. Others are scary like losing a chunk of time and space while driving a route you’ve driven over and over. Or scary like attempting to place [some object] into [place where it does not belong].  And yet other are scary like not remembering if you had shampooed or rinsed your hair while you are in the shower. Or super scary like standing in that shower and not knowing what to do at all. You are simply frozen in indecision.

Aside from the obvious aging issues of diseases tied with old age, lifestyle based illness, poor reactions to viruses you once could recover with ease in your youth there is more.

There is harassment, discrimination and abuse.

Refer to this handy chart: 2018-08-17_14-56-49

I got to see some of this first hand while staying with my mother.

For the Financial Abuse:

  • The phone calls trying to scam her of money or scam her medicare coverage for services she did not need.
  • Care workers stealing from her instead of doing the work they were hired to do.
  • Neighbors charging her exorbitant amounts for services they had no need to do.
  • Pharmacy delivery people taking blank checks or forcing my mother to sign checks she clearly could not sign for the deliveries. (who knows how much they were taking out of her account)

For the Psychological:

  • Careworkers guilting my mother into allowing for them to not doing their job because she was not as bad off as they were.
  • My own response to frustrations of the symptoms of her disease as if I felt she was purposefully being uncooperative when clearly I did not understand how her functioning degrades as she grows more tired during the day.
  • Neighbors verbally harassing my mother over things she cannot control.

For the neglect:

  • Careworkers not showing up, showing up late, sleeping on shift, not doing the tasks for which they were assigned.
  • My mother not getting the right meds at the right time of day due to the mismanagement of her prescriptions in the pillbox
  • The horrible food choices delivered to her door once per day only 4 days a week. Never in a timely manner.
  • Not discarding spoiled or discarded food which might lead her to consume such by accident.

Luckily for my mother, I never once saw her physically abused. But that is not to say it didn’t happen in the nursing home. I have no proof of it.

There aren’t many protections or safeguards from elder abuse other than vigilant family members and case workers. As you grow older it becomes increasingly important to have a network of younger family and professionals who have your back. Don’t think you can go this alone.

And if you are obliged to become a caregiver to either me or your father, know these things:

  • It is exhausting.
  • It requires selfless giving, unlimited patience, compassion and non-judgement.
  • You become the parent of your parents.
  • There is support for caregivers when it gets to be too much.
  • It is a-okay to say you cannot do it and arrange for in home care or nursing home care.
  • If you choose to get outside help, you must never trust they have your parents’ best interests in their purview. Assume they are all out to take advantage of you or their situation to their benefit. Stay vigilant and always check up on their service.

The Final Curtain

Today I had a bit of a scare; just as I was informed that my father-in-law fell whilst out walking Daisy. Turns out it might have been another heart event. He’s in the hospital undergoing tests. Within an hour, I myself, felt a familiar dizziness followed by clammy hands which made me very concerned that I too, was having another heart event.  I couldn’t say for sure that I had chest pains or any of the other pains that go alongside the classic symptoms of a heart issue, but the wooziness and the clammy hands seemed very familiar to the ones from the past; which, over time, ultimately led me to the emergency room having the stents put inside me.

The cost was outrageous and I vowed that I could not go through that hardship again. As it was far too expensive and I am in a current massive debt as a result of having to defer my budgeted obligations to credit while paying of medical bills. I figured if this happened again I might just as well let nature take its course and take me.

As I sat at work today, deciding whether or not to take the nitroglycerin pill (which I ultimately did) I was wrestling with my selfishness to survive and my need to accept my fate. I do feel much better, but after several internet searches, I found this could be the warning shots to the actual attack. As I read those words I thought, “Well, this is a very inconvenient time. I just committed to several things. Work is a mess. I just started binge-watching a new series and the next season starts soon. I have a commitment very early tomorrow morning for charity work. I have a lunch date Sunday.”

I want to know for sure if I am having the warnings of a heart event. Have the off again/on again neck and shoulder pains over the past month also been warnings? Why isn’t there a quick way to be sure like an at home test? Blood pressure cannot be a good predictor. Why isn’t there a home scanner that can say, “You are having a heart attack, please act accordingly.”?

I do feel tired now, and I have that shitty post nitro headache due to the blood vessel dilation. But my hands are no longer clammy. Could it have been a panic attack because of the news of my father-in-law? I might never know. Because anyone reading this would say, er rather…scream “Dammit! Go to the hospital!”

They say this because they care. Maybe. Or are they just selfish because they want me around and do not want to accept that nature has other plans? It is quite the dilemma when seeing someone whose hard living and is the cause of their poor health. I made this bed and I must lie in it. I do what I am willing to try to exist longer, but I also know there’s a shitload more wrong with me than just my heart/vascular. So why try? If my heart doesn’t get me, will the genetic predisposition of RCC get me?

Remember when I said the only person who can fail you is you? I am your example. I love sweets too much, creamy casseroles, the occasional cheeseburger and smoking. I gave up the alcohol because of the heart event and pizza and fried, fatty foods. You know –  the real obvious things. I turned to smoothies and more vegetarian fare. I drink loads of water. But I cannot seem to break all my vices. I need just one soother to my stressors.

My maternal grandmother had a friend, Bette who smoked.

A lot.

Ultimately she was diagnosed with emphysema; but she did not quit smoking. We were seated at her kitchen table where she explained that she enjoyed smoking and it was too late to quit now. Her fate was sealed. Why face death miserably in withdrawal when you can face it doing the very thing you enjoy?

I can understand her point of view. As it is also mine.

A ton of people will be judgemental about my decisions, but there are a lot people on this earth cheating the inevitable every day because they want more time that nature really does not want to give them.  Our earth is overpopulated. We need to recognize when our time is up and take a bow. Be thankful for the life we had, the people we met along the journey and hope that we left a nice enough legacy to keep them thinking happy thoughts of us long after we’re gone.

I will leave you with this little gem.  And don’t listen to the Elvis version because it sucks.

View From Your Mother

The other day a hashtag was launched #SignsYourChildIsSmarterThanYou and it was a lovely thought provoking exercise in all the ways I think you are better as a person than I am.

It didn’t take me long to rattle off the qualities of you in which I feel you have learned more about life than I have.

  • He believes service should not require acknowledgement
  • He’s is comfortable being alone. Doesn’t feel the need to be “with” someone all the time.
  • He knows the difference between “needs” and “wants”
  • He only spends time on what is worth his time. Anything out of his control he dismisses
  • He has no vices
  • He has a savings account larger than mine

I don’t often get the chance to tell you the ways you impress and amaze me, but even if I did, I think you would brush it off. If there are moments in which you second guess yourself know that there are these points in which I think you’ve matured as a person that took me decades to achieve. And you only got there in 18 years! It is amazing. I cannot take credit for these fully, but I know your father and I laid the foundation in how we chose to educate you and the time spent with you and the people we allowed in your life to influence you.

The rest of life’s journey you will be making the choices in which you further grow as a person. Where you are now gives me every confidence you are well on your way to become the best person you can be.

 

Judgement Meme

To those sporting those Judgiepants…

Prejudice noun /ˈprejədəs/

Prejudgment, or forming an opinion before becoming aware of the relevant facts of a case.

So many types to mention but I want to address the one most are guilty of every day. One of which does not come up when you google ‘Types of Prejudice’. I reckon I consider this type as Prejudice of Condition.

Lately, I have observed this prejudice first hand. But I was not a stranger to it in the past. Back then it enraged me. Now? Not so much. But it does disappoint me.

So what is prejudice of condition? Let’s explore some examples.

Take Sally for example, she wears decent clothes, holds a steady job; but recently, has indicated that she is having cash problems. Those around her judge her statement as disingenuous as she always has what appears to be nice clothes, perfectly manicured nails. “Hell, if she can spend the cash on clothes and manicures, she’s not as skint as she says. What a liar!”

No one knows she was forced to max her credit card to pay for unexpected repairs on her car, she does her own nails and her clothes are from a charity shop.
____

Another example comes in the form of a meme which has circulated on facebook timelines for several years now. Even I have shared it to remind those around me to be less quick to judge.

“You can’t see my problems, you can’t see my pain. You don’t understand the thoughts going round in my brain. My illness is not visible, it’s not on display. But it’s a battle I fight with each and every day…”

For those with chronic illness, including me, we endure each day knowing we will have good ones and just plain horrible ones. We never know what the next day will be. Our minds are preoccupied with what this could very well be and we fight the fears with the mantra that it may not be since the tests were negative the last time. Just because we continue to fight– to appear normal — doesn’t mean our situation is made up or any less real. We want normal lives, and we will do what we can when we can. We live with what we have and try to make the best of it even in our worst moments.

It is sad to discover someone close to you is judging based on their definition of what sick should look like just because you canceled plans when you weren’t feeling well enough to cater to them. Because after all, it is all about them.

____

Finally, the last example is the one I think I am most susceptible to committing and being the target at the same time. Judging personality based on visage. I have resting bitch face. I know what it is like to be judged by my relaxed demeanor. Some people find me very off putting due to my expression. I haven’t minded too much because the introvert in me is kind of relieved.

But I have been very guilty of doing the same. Not just with people with resting bitch face, but with others whose outward appearance seems intimidating and I assume they are cold or abusive in nature when actually they probably are super kind and warm.

It’s a terrible thing, prejudgements. Because in these judgements we prevent caring relationships to be formed or maintained. Be wary of your quick to conclude thoughts when dealing with others. Remind yourself of how it feels to be judged without the full information.

Puppet discussion: Why Blog?

Why restart blogging?

I had a lovely heart to heart chat with a dear friend from High School some days ago which had me thinking –  there is much in my mind which needs to be imparted out there; not only for my need to keep a clear head, but also as a guide to my offspring to understand that this whack-a-do had some life lessons which may prove useful.

Maybe?
Maybe not?

Maybe only to serve as defense to the allegation:  “You’re demented and crazy!”