Part 2: Watching Your Mother Slowly Die

July 16th, 2006:

11 a.m. the phone rang, it was a number from back home. I answered. It was my aunt from home, she had been crying. “You need to come home now,” she was trying to be strong but she broke down in tears. “My God your mother is going to kill me if she finds out I called you. Sweetie she made me promise, not to call you or tell you what has been really going on. I told her this was not right what she was doing to you. She’s sicker than she has let on. Sweetie your mom was rushed to the hospital last night and no one is telling me anything. She doesn’t want me to call you. You need to come home.” I was speechless.

While she was telling me this I had all ready dashed down to the garage to get the suitcase. Threw it on my bed where Jack was sleeping. He gave me a look of disgust. I was used to his look of disgust. He still wasn’t privy to the conversation I was having. “When did she get rushed to the hospital?” His disgust went away when I said that. “I’m packing up right now, I will be on the road in 2-3 hours.” I was upset, I was pissed; then Jack opened his mouth. “If you are going home, then you need to take lil miss with you.” I stopped dead in my tracks. “You want me to take our two year old?  I am rushing home because my mother who is on the palliative care of the hospital, which means END OF LIFE. I have no idea what I am walking into, and you are telling me I need to take our two year old with me?”  He could tell I was pissed; again it got turned around on me, “See you get pissed over every little thing. Not everything revolves around you. I can’t just call up my boss and say I need to switch to days. Me doing that, affects everyone on shift. It makes sense that you take her; doesn’t it?” I had all ready exited and returned to the room with another suitcase, throwing my daughters stuff into it. “Nope doesn’t make sense to me, but what the fuck ever. Last time I checked the police department had 200 employees I am sure that during the years the police department has been in existence, family emergencies come up.” I was in tears. I was so hurt. He was still talking. “you’ll go home, find out she is fine and then you will be on vacation the rest of your time there.” He drove the knife in deeper. I stopped talking. I made a phone calls to my boss, then made the phone call to my sister who was staying in NC at my nieces’ house.

My daughter and I pulled out of the driveway and once on the road with lil miss, I cried as I drove. Not because of my mother; because of Jack. I wiped the tears away; I had things to take care of. I was on the phone with my sister; my niece had been home briefly from her tour in Iraq. The relationship between my mother and sister had never been good. “Listen I don’t know what I am walking into up there. It’s on you if you do not come home to see her.” I also talked to my niece and prepared her. “I know you have to head back to Iraq in a few days. What you do is also your choice. I just want you to know when you come back from Iraq nana might not be here.”

By the time I got to my nieces’ house they had all decided what they were going to do. My niece and her son would ride up to Canada with me. My sister would take my nieces vehicle, stop to get the other niece and great niece and be there a day behind us. My niece who was driving with me, could only spend 1 day with her nana and then she would have to beat feet back to catch her plane for Iraq.

That night I hardly slept a wink. I was still hurt at what Jack had said and done. I was worried about what I was going to be walking into back home.

The next day with only a couple hours of sleep around 10 or 11 am , we caravanned up I-95 until my car continued up I-95 and my sister veered off to go pick up her other daughter. My niece and I didn’t roll into the hospital parking lot until Tuesday mid-morning. Her and I drove 28 straight hours.

I knew what floor and room. As I stood at the room door that was open, I looked at my niece, “they said this number right?” She nodded and I turned. “I think they gave us the wrong room.” As I turned to go the nursing station, I heard mom’s voice and my heart sunk. It wasn’t the wrong room. That frail body in the room….was my mothers. The voice sounded just like it always had; strong. I looked at my niece, “if you and I get upset, we leave the room; we are not going to let her see us upset.” My niece agreed.

The last time I saw my mom was May 2005, she had come down for Jack’s retirement from the military; she was 160 lbs. The woman in that hospital bed before me, just over a year later; was 80 lbs if she was lucky. I was careful to hug her like I normally did when I saw her; I was scarred she might break. In my smile and good cheer, I was noting around the room of the machines (though not many) that were attached to my mother. Her oxygen mask that she could use…if she so desired. The flowers family and friends had sent the ones I had sent her closest to her. You suck it up, even though on the inside you are crying and wondering about the bandages that you see under her grown are for.  How the hell did this happen?

The children are antsy; they’ve been in a car for 28 hours. The adults are exhausted. I grabbed the key to the house from mom, gave her a kiss and then drove my niece to her sisters dads’ house and then drove my daughter and I to my childhood home.

As I turned into the laneway from the road, I again cried. The area was all grown up, the grass around the house as high as my daughter. I parked the car, breathed in and then went into the house. OMG! You look around and you see exactly what you feared the most. Mom had been sick for a long time. In true mother fashion, I scooped up my daughter, refusing to let her down. Not until I know she is safe and can’t get into anything. This wasn’t how I left the house 10 years ago. There were now trails throughout the house. I ran to the bathroom and threw up, crying.

Before my daughter and I could even rest I spent 8 hours cleaning my mother’s house. There were times I cried. There were times I got so PISSED that I allowed this to happen. How did I allow it to happen? In the 9-10 years our family started, we only went to my home as a family once; 2001 after we got back from Japan. In 2002, I flew back home by myself to attend my best friends’ wedding. How many times did mom come see us? How many times did Jack and I go on vacation to where his family was? How many times did I request we go on a family vacation to my hometown? How many times did that notion get knocked down?

As soon as I walked into the door, I was also greeted with The Will and the Power of Attorney. I refused to open it. I felt it was bad ju-ju to look until I needed it.

My daughter and I stayed for 2 weeks. In the two weeks, I was running around all over the place. Going to banks to get my name added to the accounts so if she did die the accounts wouldn’t be frozen and I could continue to pay her bills. All her utility bills, and other monthly bills I had to put my name on, so once I got back to Georgia; I would be able to contact these people and not get the bullshit line of “you’re not on the account.” It wasn’t without a fight either. My mother didn’t want me to do it. And I had to get tough on her. She had it all figured out. Her friend brought her a laptop so she could use it in the hospital. She didn’t need anyone’s help. She was even talking about the doctors releasing her to go home. She and I came to blows on that one.

“Mom I know you are not going to like what I say. Do you really think the doctor is just going to release you without inspecting your home to make sure you are safe?” I got the dumbfound look of “what do you mean.? There’s nothing wrong with my house.” I shut the door to the hospital room and calmly pulled my chair up next to her. “Mom it’s not a matter of you going home. I want you to listen and listen carefully to what I say to you, without feeling like I am backing you into a corner. I want you to listen without the notion that I am trying to keep you from something you want or need to do.” She nodded. “You’re house in the condition it is in right now, if not safe for you. I don’t know how this all works, but I would suspect if you want to go home, the doctor is going to request your house be inspected to ensure your house is safe for you. You’re talking about getting oxygen in there. If it’s anything like my friend’s dad had, they will put a centralized unit into the house. He could go from one end of the house to the other, and there was tubing all over the house so he could. Guess what mom if that tubing gets snagged on something in the trail in your house, you will not get oxygen. A portable unit only lasts for so long. I want you to come home. I don’t want to stop you from coming home. You think about how that house was left, do you really think the doctor is going to approve you living in there the way it was when you left it?” She was getting a little pissed. I was pointing out the obvious. “I will move heaven and earth for you so you can come home. If you need help to get up to go to the bathroom in the hospital you are going to need help at home. It’s not a matter of just going home. I’m watching and my untrained eye says that doctor is probably going to request a full time nurse in your house. If you want to come home, I will make it happen. I will look into full time nursing care. I will get that house in tip top shape so you can come home. Mom you can’t do this by yourself. I know you think you can, but this time you can’t get through this by yourself. You can’t shut out the world. In order for me to make this possible for you; I can’t do this on my own as well. I can’t get that house the way you need it without help. I can’t even find out how to help you and what you need because you won’t let me talk to your doctors.” It was a tough conversation. I just gave her the facts. I wasn’t pulling the stuff out of my ass.

You go to all of these places with the two year in tow. While the individuals at the places are giving you important information about what you need to take care of before things might take a turn for the worse, you are distracted by the two year old. You have a LIST a mile long just on everything you need to make sure is done so that when you get back home, you can still take care of your mother so she has less to worry about. Then Jack calls bitching that the financing company for the car has been “blowing up” his phone. You don’t get a how is your mom doing, or a sympathetic shoulder to cry on miles away you get “I can’t have them blowing up my phone, take care of it.” I look back after all these years after this happened. I learned to go numb from the pain. I learned to just take care of it myself and just keep going despite the pain.

It didn’t matter to Jack; I didn’t matter to Jack. It was easier for him to put me down and to tell me all the ways I was inadequate. I don’t know how many times I told him, “I am only one person I can only do so much.” His response to that was, he could do it all better than me. Go numb and you won’t feel the pain.

I had busted my ass for two weeks. Friends, who knew I was in town; came to see me in the hospital to give me a break. Family who came into town, our visiting was done either in the hospital or on our way to get a bite to eat.

Mom, Jack and the family had no idea what I was going through. I couldn’t talk to mom this time about what was troubling me; even though I was honest with her about how she was doing all of this, was bothering me. The other person who I tried to come to, had proven time and time again that my feelings, thoughts, concerns were not his concern.

I was dealing with a friend who was not looking into the best interests of my mother and was starting drama left and right. Not just with my mom, but me and the family. She had my mother all spun up about who she saw at the house. My mother had laid down the law, there were only 3 people allowed to come into the house. I got a phone call after one of those people had left, “who was in the house?” It had been a couple hours since this person came and I said “no one” then I got the 3rd degree from my mother. “A little bird told me there was a blue minivan at the house and your aunt from out of town has a blue minivan. I told you I don’t want them in my house.” I rolled my eyes. “The little bird needs to get her vision checked cause it was a GRAY van and who do you know that has a gray van mother.” Stuttering occurred. “Tell your bird the next time she wants to start shit to get her facts straight.” She was also pulling me in.

While mom wasn’t telling anyone or allowing anyone in the family to talk to doctors, this lil bird was trying to start the drama with me. She told me how she was able to talk to all the doctors and get all the information and she got me all spun up. I have a stupid power of attorney and still can’t get them to talk, yet she traps one in an elevator and the doctor divulges person patient information?  While she was talking to me about all this stuff, she was telling my mother lies about what I was doing. I don’t have time for this drama. I nipped that in the bud real quick!

Then you go to visit your mother with your daughter. You mother looks at you and says, “you need to go home. I love my granddaughter, but I can’t handle it when she visits here. We can’t talk about anything. We can’t visit. Why did you bring her? Tell me he isn’t that selfish.” I sat there and cried. I didn’t respond.

Two days later my daughter and I headed home. It was late at night; Jack was all ready at work. I was looking forward to coming home. My daughter was excited to see the cats and dog, her brother, her daddy. We missed our home. I wanted and needed some kind of normal. When I got home; the cats were gone. I called him, “Where are the cats?” I was in tears over stupid cats. “You told me to take care of them, so I took care of them. They’re gone.” The dagger went a little deeper. I knew what Jack did to cats. “What the hell did you do with the cats? Did you kill them? Did you give them to a shelter? What the hell did you do with the cats?” He paused, “you don’t need to know what happened with the cats. You just need to know they are gone.” I cried. We got into an argument. I was yelling and screaming at him. He was calm cool and rational. “They are just cats. Get over it.” Fire breathing dragon is an understatement of what I became when he said that to me. As much as I pointed out how insensitive, uncaring and inconsiderate he was of what I was dealing with, it once again got turned around onto me. Whatever the fuck ever! Raise your hands if you don’t require a crystal ball, to get it wasn’t about the cats.

I had managed to get home in time for my son to start his first day of school. I actually went back to work almost as soon as I got home. The next month was HELL!

Within a week of my being home in Georgia, mom started to go downhill. She wasn’t answering the phone in her room, she wasn’t even responding to emails. Everyone had noticed it. My biggest worry she wasn’t going to call me when it got bad. I would be rushing home because she waited too long. I didn’t want my mother to die alone. It got to the point I was calling the nursing station. They would not tell me anything. “You guys have my power of attorney on file.” It didn’t matter as long as she was able to speak and tell them no, they refused to disclose any information to me.

It kept getting worse. Her regular doctor was going back to her home because a friend of hers going through breast cancer as well. A stand in doctor would be taking care of her. I called this doctor because I was concerned for my mother. His response, “I don’t even know why she is in palliative care. She’s not giving any indications that she has taken a turn for the worst. In my professional opinion she’s got a year.” I listened, “you’re shitting me right? Have you been to her room? Have you talked with her? Have you not seen her deteriorate in the past few weeks? Funny doctor, the people who are visiting her, tell me she has lost about 10 lbs since I left. And you are telling me you do not feel she should be in palliative state?”

That night something happened that I cannot explain. I went ballistic and I had no idea why. My guts were screaming. I was on the phone with my aunt and I could not explain what was happening. I was crying, my chest was heavy; my aunt encouraged me to call Jack. I did, and all I could get out was a cry. And then I heard, “What do I have to come home and take care of you because you can’t handle this? Do I have to stop what I am doing, tell my boss I have to come home because my wife can’t stop crying?” I wiped the tears from my face. “No” and hung up. I thought I was having a heart attack. One hour of sleep the alarm went off and all I could do was, call my boss. When she answered I started crying. I told her what happened and I told her I was going to the doctor.

I drove myself to the doctor. The chest pains were horrible. When the doctor came in, all I could do was cry. I told her what was going on. I told her I was having chest pains, I told her I was scared I was having a heart attack. She accessed me and she was pretty sure I was experiencing a panic attack. She looked at me and said “I think the best thing for you regardless of what your mother says is for you to be home near her.”

My aunt back home was going to have a coming to Jesus moment with my mother. My aunt sat down and told my mother what had transpired with me the night before. She told my mother I was at the doctor right now while the two of them were talking. I called my aunt once I got was done and told her what the doctor had said. It was then that my mother realized the stress I was under and that she felt I should come home.

I told mom I was going to hold off until Tuesday (September 5th) so I wouldn’t have to drive with the Labor Day traffic. I was coming home to be there until the end. I talked with my husband and told him what was going to happen. I would go home, get a part time job or a full time job so it would not put us in a hardship. My boss had given me a letter of recommendation to present to employers back home. Jack despite not wanting to, had called in his mother to help with the kids.

Friday Jack’s mother was coming up. I was still getting things ready for my trip on Tuesday. His mother had only been in the house 1 hour when I got the phone call.