The days pass slowly, and I am operating on auto-pilot….getting Mum up every morning, moving her to and from the wheel chair, preparing meals that sit, barely touched on the plate, until she asks that they be put in the ‘fridge “for tomorrow,’ taking her to and from the bathroom, cleaning her up. Sometimes, when I am standing by to help her up, she takes my arm in both her hands, and rests her head against me. “I love you , Mum.” I tell her. She needs those words, as we all do, and I am only too glad to provide them. She gives them back in return.
We have a number of hospice workers coming through the house on any given day. They bathe her, take her blood pressure, weigh her, ask her questions about how she feels. She has been extremely modest all of her life, and she always balks when the bather comes, screwing up her face, and frowning like a child.
“Mum,” I tell her, “You will feel so much better after a bath!” I know how extremely modest she is, even to the point of adding a triangle of fabric to her bathing suit many years ago, so that her cleavage won’t show. She still balks, and bending down, I take her face in my hands. “Look at me, Mum. You are a dignified woman, and you will always have your dignity, but you need now to give a little with the modesty. This is for your own comfort!” She knows I am right, and she lets Beatrice roll her down the hall to the shower.
The house is over 50 years old, and when it was built, the plumbing fixtures were put in backwards, so instead of turning counterclockwise to get water, one must turn clockwise. Why this was never fixed over the years is a total mystery to me. It has become an issue with the aides who come to bathe Mum, one that no one has bothered to explain to them until now. Rod explains to each one who comes, just how to turn the water on and set the temperature before turning on the shower. It annoys him that other family members, all whom had lived in the house at some time, had not taken the time to explain just how to operate the shower.
I am way out of my comfort zone. I am two thousand miles away from the safety of my Catalina Mountains, and cannot see the horizon, and the gloom around me brings me down, making me depressed and constantly on edge. I seem to be always angry and sad at the same time. I hate these feelings! And I hate to think that this might be who I really am underneath. There ARE places that bring out the worst in a person.
At home, I am always in the middle of the action, and happy to be there. Even when Mum was with us, and we were getting her healthy after a winter of being cooped up in the dark, dusty house filled with mold spores and cat odors. I was happy to have her to take care of each day. I watched the color come back into her face from days of sitting in the Tucson sun, reading her Bible and talking with us. I took her to have her hair cut and permed, and to have her nails done. She was delighted by the results and the attention she was getting.
I would like to do those things again, but here, something is holding me back—her frail appearance, perhaps the risk of embarrassing other family members by doing what they should have. No, not that. I really don’t care what they think of me. I know I am pushy and opinionated.
Maybe all this stuff would not enrage me so much, had I not had my own personal family demons hanging around in the background, hissing and snapping at me all day long and into the night. They show up every year when I roll into town, and stay until I get on the other side of the Chattahoochee River.. I know that they can’t cross water, so by then I am safe again.
-By Judie of Rogue Artists.