Keeping Mom Alive
Yesterday I spent all day, as I do everyday, working on the framework that keeps Mom alive. She woke up around 10am and came into the kitchen for coffee. She then made her way to her chair in front of the TV, the place she spends her life.
Eventually, an hour later, I persuaded her to take her first pill of the day. She takes pills everyday, three times a day, and not a time goes by that she doesn't ask me, why am I taking these? She's been taking them for five years and she can never remember why.
She grumbles and complains and crumples her face up in disgust, as if I'm cruelly forcing her to do something that makes no sense. I no longer explain why. It does no good and I haven't the patience. No breakfast, yet, too early. She hardly eats and she never goes out, except to a doctor.
I started my day finally cleaning the guest bedroom which was used for a family visit a month ago, making the bed, putting away extra blankets and pillows. Then I cleaned the bathroom because a cousin is coming to visit Mom today.
I cleaned my bedroom which is usually a disaster because my entire life is crammed into that room. I worked my way up through the living room and then the kitchen, doing dishes, mopping the floor. In the laundry room, I threw in a load of clothes.
Mom, of course, was still in front of the TV, head in hand, slumped to the side so far over, that I was sure she must be hurting her entire body. She can no longer see the picture, macular degeneration in it's final stages, so the sound rarely holds her interest.
I made her some toast and laid out the rest of her pills and started coaxing her to come to the kitchen and eat. This is like trying to persuade a child to leave the cartoons and get ready for school. On and on it went, more grumbling, more asking why, until I really don't care if she takes the
pills or not. Finally she did it, not without a sigh and a moan.
When she settled back into her chair, I sat at the desk and read the lists. Two different grocery stores, gas, bank, post office, pet store, drug store, library, hardware store, fix the doorbell, clean the backyard, and don't forget to get something for lunch, ready to eat, because I don't feel like cooking anything.
List in hand, I went out to do these errands.
Upon returning, Mom was asleep in her chair, slumped position. She startled when I came in, and asked me if I had a nice walk. Somewhere, this is grooved in her brain, and I always find it irritating because taking a nice walk is the last thing I'm doing.
I unloaded the car, put everything away, fed her some late lunch, called my cousin to make a plan, and found something to eat for myself.
Later that evening she was hungry, I fixed her something to eat, and gave her the last pill of the day. My brother made his perfunctory phone call, and she received a call from one dutiful grandchild. After hearing the litany of their lives, they asked me about my life, what I'm doing, as if mine should be as full as theirs. When I had nothing to offer, it seemed to annoy them, like there was something wrong with me.
They never ask about my sanity. They never ask about my day, which, as full as it is, never fills my life. I brought the phone to her chair.
At 9pm, I woke her up to go to bed.
In all this big house, she goes from bed, to kitchen chair, to TV chair and back again, same order. I run around the globe several times a day, mentally, physically, emotionally.
I maintain this structure, this life, that houses my Mom, mentally, physically, emotionally, the framework that keeps her alive. It's the very same structure that imprisons me and everyday I struggle to find answers and meaning. But as today begins, and I write these words, I wonder what it's all for.