I just got done putting my mother to bed.
She is 90. Or at least she will be for the next 37 hours. Then she will be 91. Her health is good in that her heart is strong, no problems with her lungs, no diabetes, cancer, or other serious illnesses. But the quality of her heath is poor. She suffers from arthritis, especially in her – well, actually, all over. And has almost constant nausea. She is so weak she can hardly stand up on her own and is getting pretty close to graduating from a walker to a wheelchair.
So, she has been with us for the past few months. that is, when she isn’t in the hospital. We are currently converting a large indoor – outdoor porch to a bedroom so she can be on the first floor, and completely redoing a small bathroom to make it bigger and easier to access.
In many ways she is very low maintenance and she has an almost fanatical concern that she will interfere with my work. When I really notice she is there is starting at dinner time. I work from home, and my wife is gone until early evening so for us dinner has come to mean a plate of nachos or a big salad about 9:30 or 10:00. My mother is used to eating at 5:30, and only at 5:30. And even though her appetite has really diminished, dinner means a warm cooked piece of meat, some sort of potato, and two vegetables. With maybe a small side salad. And desert.
I am the dinner staff. I try to plan ahead, and Donna gets a lot of stuff ready on the weekend, but it still seems odd to get a meal ready every day. And of course, while I would wolf my food down and go back to work, she has perfected the art of the slow eat. More time for conversation. No sense hurrying.
We finish by 6 and by 7:30 I am starting into the get ready for bed ritual. I get out her pills (there are about a dozen of them of varying dosages), get a snack ready (cereal followed by ice cream with water to take the pills), then the trip to the bathroom (you really probably don’t want to know too much about that if you haven’t done this with a parent already), laying out her crackers and Gatorade (she loves the stuff and needs it to keep her sodium properly balanced) for the night. Then the 10 minute ritual of actually getting her in bed, getting the pillow just right, and saying good night.
By the time I’m done I feel like making myself a good strong drink and collapsing into a chair. But what’s weird is that in an odd way, I enjoy doing it. I get frustrated some times. The worst part is that you can’t yell at old people. You can yell at your kids, tell them you can’t believe you are related to anyone who is so slow and stupid, but you can’t do that with old people. It’s elder abuse. As you can tell, I may not actually be the care giver type.
But what’s really weird is that in an odd way, I enjoy doing it. I have a number of theories about why but I don’t think any of them are right. Maybe it just feels like I am closing the circle. I really don’t know. Nor do I have time to worry about it right now. Think I’ll fix myself a stiff drink and collapse into a comfy chair.