Caring for Mum.

Yesterday, I shared about finding out my brother’s cat, Archie had passed away. What I didn’t mention, was that my Mum’s in hospital with acute back pain. Although we initially joked about it being like a holiday with a room to herself and meals arriving like magic, the reality is different. Even with a brilliant imagination, you can’t keep pretend that you’re lying by the pool when you’re in agony, in hospital and you don’t know why or how it happened. One day, you were you and the next day, your back seizes up and you’re in excruciating pain and you’ve become someone else. What happened?

Except for me, these questions are being asked in the third person. What’s happened to Mum?

 

 

If you asked me to describe my Mum, I’d tell you that she loves the beach and looks great in a bikini. Because when I immediately picture my Mum as my Mum, she must be about 30 and she’s wearing a bikini and she’s full of beans. She’s playing tennis, swimming at the beach and driving us all over the countryside to piano, violin, ballet and she’s nowhere near a hospital. Indeed, even my grandmother running round the shops needing some kind of harness to keep her under control. She was getting around with the same speed as my toddler son whose now 13 and attached to electronics most of the time these days and now much, much easier to catch.

I’ve shared about this weird sensation about time before. That just because we’ve aged, it doesn’t mean that our idea of who were are or those close to us, has aged along with the physical body. I know for me there’s definitely a huge disparity and I remember my grandmother telling me that she didn’t recognise the old lady staring back at her. That was someone else and her true reflection was simply hiding somewhere behind the glass.

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I haven’t been prepared for Mum to grow old.

 

Mum has been our rock through my health crises taking in the kids for 7 weeks when I was first diagnosed with dermatomyositis. She had two traumatized, very active kids and it was very intense for Mum, Dad and my brother.Yet, they were there. They were my strength when I clearly had none…physically or emotionally.

So, it’s hard to come around to the idea that Mum, indeed my parents, are drifting into the elderly category. Where it won’t be Mum taking me or the kids shopping, and we could well be taking her. That instead of her visiting me in hospital, it’s us visiting her. As much as I’m glad to be well away from hospital these days, that doesn’t give her permission to sign up. Moreover,  it definitely doesn’t give The Patron Saint of Hospital Admissions permission to come after her. It can well and truly leave all of us alone thank you very much!!

I guess what I wanted to write about and tap into is this sense of unfolding grief we often experience these days when older family members and friends have protracted medical treatments. We watch their strength, personality and even memory get chipped away, chipped away ever so slowly and you and they both know that they’re not how they used to be, and yet they’re still here. Indeed, I had two grandparents live with long term Alzheimers and by the time they died, I had almost run out of tears. My grief had been used up along the way.

That’s because there is grief along this journey, even though there’s also that gratitude and relief that they’re still here.

So, now while I’m feeling rotten about Mum being in hospital and knowing how much pain she’s experiencing, I still feel in a sense that I have no right to grieve. She’s not dying. She’s “fine” only she’s actually along way from being fine and we have no crystal ball about what this means. My son still expected Mama to pick him up from school this afternoon. After all, that’s what Mama does and has been doing on Wednesdays ever since he’s been born almost 13 years ago. She’s been here…an hour’s drive away hail, rain or shine because she loves us. Moreover, given my health problems and uncertainty over the years, she has been their rock. The net that catches my kids when everything’s falling apart and there’s no ground to land on. She hasn’t been there only support but she’s definitely been there.

I had to remind him that Mama is in hospital.

Mum and I didn’t get on for many years and we’re very different people. Being an extreme extrovert, she often tried to reign me in…something I didn’t understand until I was doing the same with our very extroverted son. Obviously, nobody explains all of this to you when you’re a kid. Yet, the yin and yang between introverts and extroverts is something I need to understand with family. After all, opposites attract and it’s understandable that there’d be a mix throughout the family. Having that understanding has been critical for better relations.

So, even though Mum doesn’t let me write about her, I needed to share my anguish, my gratitude that she’s not worse and to provide a space for you to share these complex and challenging emotions. I am very lucky to be 47 and to have both my parents alive but I also can’t imagine a world without them in it. They’ve been here forever just like the air I breathe in and out.

Not that I need to think about that now but at the same time, I feel the need to acknowledge this partial grief and concern for my mother being in so much pain. It’s very hard to think about her suffering, but being there for her, means embracing it head on and being her daughter…not a coward.

I would like to open up the comments section for people to share their feelings and reflections about parents getting old, losing a parent and please link to your posts. I am thinking of you and send you my love and prayers!

xx Rowena

PS Despite the seriousness of Mum’s situation, there’s still opportunity for humour. When we told our son that Mama was going for a bone density scan, he asked if she was getting carbon dated. Well, at least I was laughing!

 

 

19 thoughts on “Caring for Mum.

  1. cindy knoke

    I am so sorry and hope your mother feels better soon. Watching loved ones is pain is terrifying.
    I do think your son’s comment is briliant. I don’t want anyone carbon dating me……

  2. Eli Pacheco

    So full of love and sorrow and humor, as life ought to be. Losing my father, even in my 30s, was the toughest test I’ve ever had, and the most final thing I’ve ever encountered. Here’s to your mom feeling well and you enjoying the journey (that awesome kid of yours, too!)

  3. Rowena Post author

    Thanks very much for your wishes and sharing what you went through with losing your Dad. I think it’s good to wrangle with those hard emotions and express them. These are experiences most of us go through yet we don’t talk a lot about it.
    I’m hoping Mum will be back on her feet soon. xx Rowena

  4. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much, Cindy. I don’t want carbon dating either. I remember when I was younger and Mum got so upset when things happened to me and I clearly remember wondering why she go so upset when it happened to me. It didn’t happen to her. Now, I understand that knowing someone you love is in pain is difficult too and those feelings of not being able to do anything are really hard. I haven’t been able to get down to see her yet due to the kids. She also doesn’t want visitors. I have been speaking to her on the phone. Anyway, thanks for your wishes and I’d better get back to the afternoon taxi run. xx Rowena

  5. Tails Around the Ranch

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. My own mom was placed in hospice last year, given probably 48 hours to live. Luckily she ‘flunked’ out of hospice and sent home but it’s been an up and down year. Up on her good days, down when she’s feeling rotten and doubled over in pain. Being well past your age and with my own living parents in their later 80’s, you definitely appreciate every additional minute you have with them. I learned long ago that parents do the best they can raising their children with the resources they have in them. It’s allowed an enormous weight off my shoulders in terms of judging. At the bottom of it all, I know they love all us kids with all their hearts even if it doesn’t seem like it at times. Here’s wishing your mum a speedy recovery. Sorry about your brother’s kitty. Always tough losing a family fur-kid. ღ

  6. Rowena Post author

    Thanks so much for caring, Monika. It really means a lot to me being able to jump on my computer and know there will be caring, thoughtful messages waiting for me.
    When I was feeling rotten yesterday, I thought I would write a post about it because I knew there would be other people in same boat and it would be good to share. The ups and downs of having elderly parents or family members can be very intense for a long time nowand I’m not sure if there’s much of a framework for dealing with that. I think that’s where your canine therapy can really help. People can snuggle up to a dog and express all those repressed emotions. They don’t say: “It’s been over a year aren’t you over it yet?” “What are you getting upset about? They’re going to be fine.” They just look up at you with big puppy dog eyes and say “I get it”.
    I went to my violin lesson and asked to play this very emotional piece called “Meditation” by Massinet. She has found me an easier version, which is good too!! I wanted to throw my emotions into a sad song and pour it all out. I have dancing tonight, which will do the same.
    It must have been such a relief for your Mum to get a reprieve and go home, although I’d can tell you’ve been on a real roller coaster and just because she’s still here, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard.
    I am trying to get myself into a situation where I can feel those emotions and empathize but then somehow release myself from their grasp and be able to get on with what needs to be done. Isadore Duncan developed the contract and release process in her dancing. She lost two children and their nanny when their car drove into the Seine I think it was. The grief would have been beyond comprehension. I can see it expressed through her dance and I’m trying to master that myself. Feel the intensity but let it go. Don’t let it consume you. It’s a process…
    I am much better at theory than practice but I am trying this one quite seriously.
    Hope you’re having a good week!
    xx Ro
    PS Thanks for your wishes re the cat.

  7. Tails Around the Ranch

    Loss doesn’t have to be death, it can be a different state than what we are used to. Feeling it through dance and music as well as writing about it, can be a very cathartic endeavor. All the best. ღ

  8. Rowena Post author

    Thanks, Monika. I agree with you about acknowledging loss. Some of us are naturally more aware or sensitive to these changes as well. Some remain blissfully ignorant.

  9. New Journey

    Hope your mums back is better she is out and home by now….love the carbon dating…leave it up to the kids…LOL I lost my father in 1983…he dropped dead from a heart attack, and lost my mum in 2009…I miss her so much….however….I have looked in a mirror and I am the one getting old….my daughter is turning 40 this year…my son, the baby, 30 and I am turning 60….I know its not old….however I remember turning 30…in 10 years I will be 70….you know how fast 10 years can fly by….deep breathes….more deep breaths….all I can say is love life to the deepest everyday…smile often…laugh lots…..sending healing thoughts to mum…..kat

  10. Rowena Post author

    Geoff also lost his Dad in 1983 when he was 16. He had a massive heart attack and stroke but the ambulance revived him and then he died 3 weeks later in hospital.
    Time does seem to fly by, doesn’t it?!! My son turns 13 in March and I wonder where all that time went. I ran into one of his mates today and he’s shot up and is really tall. They are definitely becoming young men, not kids. Scary stuff. xx Ro

  11. New Journey

    very scary…..mine little boy is 30 in April and been married twice, and is a contracted electrician….LOL also has a company that does wedding planning…..where does the time go!!! if I could just go back for a day to hold them both as babies….enjoy the rest of the week my friend….kat

  12. Rowena Post author

    I’d love to experience their first days when they just arrived again aside from the realities of it all. I was deliriously happy when my son arrived…high on morphine too. It was good stuff until I started itching. xx Ro

  13. Rowena Post author

    Hi Kat. She went home yesterday so that should be a good move. I’m going there tonight to drop Amelia off so I’ll be able to guage things better then, which will be good. We live about an hour away and so can’t just pop over. She let us take photos of her in hospital, so we thought that was a sign she was really crook LOL.
    You wouldn’t believe it. Well, you know me so you would. Amelia has come out with these huge swollen glands in her neck like jellybeans. I consulted Dr Google and it mentioned this thing called Cat Scratch Fever and the photos were spot on. We don’t have a cat so I dismissed it and aside from a cold, the list of possibilities was looking great…lupus, glandular fever. With my medical history, Lupus is quite a possibility so it’s not like I’m catastrophising or anything. Then, after we’ve been to the doc, she shows me this scratch on her arms this morning from her friend’s cat. Hello! Grr! You would’ve thought the doctor could’ve asked her about cat exposure. Dr Rowena 1…real doctor 0.
    I am wanting to crawl into a cocoon at the moment. School Spectacular is this coming weekend and getting that out of the way, as much as I love it, will be a relief. Hope your week is going well.
    xx Ro

  14. New Journey

    Bummer about your little one…hope it won’t hinder her school spectacular coming up…wonderful about your mom…glad she is home and out of the hospital…rest when you can my friend….keep cool……xxkat

  15. Rowena Post author

    I had two naps today. My daughter is with my parents for two days to get to rehearsals and I feel such relief. All the details were really getting to me. This time of year can easily do your head in. xx Ro

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