It has been little over two weeks since I last spoke to my mother. I never told her that I’d stop until she stopped pitying herself. I never told her I would call her during my normal weekly calls. I just stopped. I had told my brother and his reaction was to do what I needed to do.
I met with him the Monday after New Years to discuss my concerns. Lrudlrick and I laid out the situation simply. We wanted to know what my mother’s plans were for her future. We wanted to know not to mock. We wanted her to know that if she needed help, to let us know so we can plan something. For the last two years, her mental state keeps deteriorating and she’s living more and more in her head. Every time we spoke, she’d tell me she was poor but then two weeks later I’d find out she had flown off to the west coast or Asia. We'd speak and she’d tell me she’s paying what amounts to rent for a small studio in Queens for gas and electric. Then she’d tell me not to call her on Wednesday because she’s going to AC for a few days.
Lrudlrick laid it out simply. My brother is getting serious with a girl and most likely within 5 years may desire to settle down. We’re going on 9 years together and probably will consider children within the next 5 years. Mom hasn’t been working in three years and she seems to be oblivious to her age and what seems like a lack of preparation for retirement.
My brother agreed there was a situation present and that he’d speak to our step dad to let him understand our concerns. Of course our step dad thinks she’s not of the right state to be discussing these things.
Why do I bring this stuff up now? Well, every Sunday, during mass, there is a part in the very beginning where we’re supposed to open ourselves to forgiveness. I can forgive. That’s the easy part. I just can’t subject myself to the hurt that needs forgiving purposely. Every time I pick up that phone and call her I’m allowing her to talk me into loading another bullet into my revolver. How do I get past that? My husband tells me to look at it through her point of view. No amount of Windex could help me construe the haze she has built.
Then I read this article in the NYTimes on Sunday. It was titled, When Mr. Reliable Becomes Mr. Needy. The writer discusses her issues about how her mother, unable to cope with her father’s Alzheimer’s, abandoned him at the last years of his life. Ms. Tanney and her two sisters were left caring for their father who was dying of a degenerative disease. “My father, who always had defended the worst of my mother’s words and deeds, was now dependent upon the one who had depended upon him most.” In one sentence, Katherine Tanney, described my father’s relationship with my mother, the last years of his life. When my dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, my grandfather died suddenly of an aortic dissection. 6 months later, my grandmother had a stroke.
During the six months between my grandfather’s death and my grandmother’s stroke, I spent most of my time attempting to take care of the small daily things my grandfather did around the house for my grandmom. I helped her sort out the photos and pack away many of his items. I paid the bills and sent updates to my Uncle. After her stroke, I spent the next year going back and forth to the numerous nursing homes and rehabilitation centers she was transferred to hide the loss I felt.
Then my dad became bed ridden. No longer able to make it up the stairs, we moved him down to the first floor and my mother took on the duties of caregiver to him. As the symptoms of dementia were beginning, my father accidentally told me the wrong dosage for his pain killers. I knew something was wrong and called my mother to check the meds list and we made the appropriate changes. I told my mom at that point that I would not be capable of doing this for my dad. I could do what needed to be done to care for grandma. I could help her dress and bathe but I could not watch my dad die. Expecting my mother to completely lose it, she did the opposite. She agreed that I would watch out for my brother and grandmother while she tended to my father. I remember feeling shocked and sort of relieved. I was half expecting her to tell me that she wasn’t able to handle it and leave me. My mother diligently cared for the man she vowed to spend the rest of her life with, in sickness and in health. I made sure my brother went to school and had a semi-normal teenage life. I also visited grandmom and made sure she had what she needed at the home.
Then the morning before my father was to be placed in a hospice, my mother called frantic that I should be home. I arrived and my father was convulsing and struggling to breathe. His eyes were cocked back. I jumped on the bed and took hold of my father’s hand as I massaged his chest. The ambulance came and we were rushed to the hospital. However, I knew the end was near. My father signed a DNR. The convulsions soon stopped and I said my goodbyes holding his hand and putting my head on his chest like I did as a little girl. Friends were called to pick up my brother who was upstate. As I was filling out the necessary paperwork, it happened. Inside that drape clutching my father’s lifeless body, my mom lost it. She sobbed uncontrollably. I remember her screaming in Chinese, “You promised to never leave me. We were getting over this hurdle. Things would be fine. Now what am I supposed to do?”
Most daughters would feel the need to try to take the place of her father to her mother. Instead, I told myself that I couldn’t be my mother’s defender. Why could I try to be my grandmother’s defender but not my mother? Eventually, my mother remarried and she found a man who could defend my mother better than my father could. Now I just hope he doesn’t defend her blindly. All signs point to no so I have hope but I’m afraid I may have to finally say that the best way to defend her is to help her. Shying away from the ugliness of life is not going to make it go away.
I’m not saying I can look through my mother’s eyes. That I don’t believe it will completely happen but I’m slowly wiping the layers away and I suppose that’s a start. I keep up hope.