Mother has recurrent back problems at age 83. Daughter is 50, bipolar, with toothache.
|When I returned home the answering machine was flashing.|
"You have two messages. First message."
"It's 3:30 pm. I'm expecting you after the dental office. Have you forgotten?" Mother's voice sounded tired and agitated.
What happened? It's almost 4:30 where are you?"
I didn't like the combition of frantic and tired in the tone of my mother's voice. Sometimes, you can tell something is very wrong just by listening. Parents can do that to their children too.
She's evidently cracked some more back bone splinters off her spine from doing work in the yard. She enjoyed the activity at the time, but now she's paying for it. She hates that she can't do activities that used to bring her pleasure. Everything she'd like to do is liable to cause her some kind of health problem. She can go with the pain, but not very long.
My Great Aunt and Grandmother both lived to their early 80s. My mother just turned 83. Her health was okay, tollerable, until just recently.
The problem was that I hadn't informed her fully on my itenerary. We both forget to do that sometimes, and cause the other worry. After having my teeth cleaned and getting set up for a root canal, in order to save the tooth, I ran a few errands along the way to her house this afternoon. I stopped at the PO Box and picked up mail from both our boxes, as well as picking up a nail file for my neglected nails. Yes, I had to pamper myself that much. I still need to feel like a girl.
When I entered her house, Mother was seated in the recliner, with a towel as a shawl, in her pink and blue stripe house coat. Mother looked pale, with white skin and white hair. Pale clothes don't do the little color she has justice,
"It's just like before," Mother said absolutely sure of herself. She had a tone in her voice that I knew meant bad pain.
"Like which time before? Tell me how it feels. Where are you hurting? What did you do? What's wrong?" I asked all my quesions at once. If she didn't give me specific details soon, she might slip into that cycle where whe expected me to empathically know what was wrong. I've seen her that sick and weak before, like a baby who can only cry, That was her appendicitis at 79, Not pleasant for either one of us. Luckily, she doesn't remember most of what happened that time. They kept her sedated, and me busy. It frightens me emotionally to have to be the strong one. I try to be a rock when she's not able to be, but she's alwasy supposed to be the rock--she's the mother.
And my tooth hurts, adding to my general aggrevation. My pain med isn't working. Mom's taking her maximum of pain med for her back. I never would have thought we'd be doing drugs together. But then, isn't that the difference between a drug and a medication? Or is drugs drugs.
I think she arranged before I arrived to get a shot of Torodol from her back doctor tomorrow at 9:00 am. The appointment is at his Medical City office. Mom needs me to make sure the doctor understands what's all wrong with her, because she's not expressing herself very clearly. It's another indication of the state of her health. It's difficult when you hurt, but you don't have the language to explain it. She doesn't have Alzheimers. Sometimes she has small strokes called "TIAs" and her speech production isn't up to par. I suppose in that situation a daughter does read a mother's mind.
She asked me to spend the night, so I came the 30 minute drive to my house, fed the pets, then gathered some personal items for the night, and next day. There are so many things that can be wrong with her when she starts feeling badly. They seem to domino. I'd have to come back to feed the best, but I wasn't sure what the weather was prediciting for clothes packing. I always overpack no matter where I go, or for how long.
She's not having congestive heart failure symptoms presently, but that always lies in the lurch. Osteoporosis is probably the most annoying and painful thing she's dealing with now. The back injury is in a place that causes pain down her leg, and consequently difficulty in walking. It has to do with her sciatic nerve. That area can cause all sorts of referred pain, showing up where one wouldn't necessarity expect. Mother has a cane and walker from her bad back spells before. Throw in one injured rotator cuff, which prevents her from using her arms for something as easy at writing, and you have a grumpy granny. It's just that she hurts. It's not her personality. However, sometimes the two things seem very ingrained. That's when I know she's having a bad day, and I should be extra nice instead of gripey. A good habit to break. Being crabby doesn't make things better.
She had the walking cane near her, but she hadn't walked with it in her hand. She did seem unstable when she ventured from her chair. The afternoon light spotlighted how her face lacked color. She walked slowly, and sat when she reached the kitchen table, weak and out of breath.
There's a point of mental awareness between a mother and a daughter. There's an unspoken knowing. I know she's not well off. She hates that her body isn't as cooperative as it used to be. I value my health as I see hers decline. I follow her doctors with appointments of my own, trying to beat off inevitable aging issues. The body starts slowing down noticably by 50, which I admit to now. I don't volunteer the information, you understand.
"Do you have your pills dosed out for tomorrow?" I asked, needing a subject to get her talking. She sat with a winced look, staring into space blankly.
"No," Mother said, "I should do that now. Will you get the brown case for me? It's in the den."
I located the old brown cosmetic luggage case that had been my aunt's during her travels to Galveston before I was born. I was holding up better than the suitcase, but it fit her needs She needs a small suitcase to keep all her medications together.
She takes 12 pills daily, and is quite organized about it. She has four pillminder cases to hold the dose for breakfast noon, evening, and night. There are too many pills to fit in one case. The dog's pills are kept in another area, the fifth pillminder case in the house. The Chow is 13-years ago, almost blind and probably deaf. But she's Mom's best companion..
I watched her take the prescription bottles, and count out pills, and fill containers. There were pills for heart, a pill for chlorestoral, pills for digestion, pills for blood pressure, pills for allergies, and pills for pain. Daily repetition of this task, and figuring if she needed to call the pharmacy, is how she measures the days.
One wants to maintain the quality of life of those who have cared for us, and now need us to help them. I've found it's a fine line between helping, and taking away independence. I do as she requests, and try not even to volunteer, because that puts her in a quandry. She's very independet, having outlived two husbands. It's hard to know what do do as the only child. I give her respect, look out for her needs, and pack as much love as I can in every visit--even if it means biting my tongue.