In the Eye of the Storm

Goldie

In the Eye of the Storm

Goldie
February 2010

It had been a difficult week. Dad had called every day and I had been running back and forth to the house. My job was to try and calm Mom a little so Dad could take a breath and figure out what to do next. Mom had become increasingly confused and agitated at times. Sometimes she thought Dad was her brother, who had died years ago. Sometimes she got upset and cried and said, over and over, "I want to go home."

Occasionally, it would work to put her in the car and drive around the neighborhood, looking at all the old places. I'd point out the elementary school and high school and talk about various people we knew. Then I'd ask if she was ready to go home... and we'd drive back.

This time I knew it wouldn't work. I was greeted with, "You have some nerve coming over here. Why don't you just turn around and go." She was wearing shorts, t-shirt, bedroom slippers, and a baseball cap and clutching an old purse and a paper bag. She paced around from room to room, stopping to pick up something and stuff it in her bag. I looked at Dad. He looked shell shocked and worn out. I slipped downstairs and called their doctor. Yes, she could see Mom right away.

Somehow we talked her into getting into the car. At the office, Mom insisted we leave the room when the doctor came. The doc got quite a story and, for awhile I thought she believed Mom when she said we would not let her leave the house and were trying to poison her. Doc thought Mom had a urinary tract infection (which is a common cause of an episode like this in elderly folks) and sent us home with a specimen cup - since it was obvious she wouldn't cooperate at the office. Yeah, like I'm going to have better luck at home?

The doc hadn't given us any advice on how to handle Mom. So, we pushed on. I called my husband and told him I was moving in with my parents for a few days. I made dinner. Mom pushed the dinner plate away and accused me of giving her slop. She tried to pour her milkshake into the phone cradle. When Dad brought her meds to her, she waited just until he left the room, then she ran into the kitchen and threw all her pills down the drain. Then she slipped out the door, still dressed in shorts, t-shirt, slippers, and baseball cap, and still clutching her purse and paper bag.

I followed her out into the snowstorm. She went across the street to our neighbor's house and knocked on the door. I was right behind her. Mr. D answered and Mom walked in, shutting the door in my face. Somehow we got her back and got through the evening. I told Dad to go to bed, I would stay up with Mom. I didn't know what I was in for! She certainly wasn't looking sleepy.

For the next four hours, Mom paced around the living room, talking non-stop and shouting at me to get out. I was getting numb. Finally, at about 3 a.m., I told Mom, for the 200th time, she needed to go to bed. She turned and glared, "Why? Why do I have to go to bed?" I had used every answer I could possibly think of and I was worn out. That's the only excuse I can give, because something in me snapped and I glared right back at her and shouted, "BECAUSE I'M F&%$#& TIRED, THAT'S WHY!"

Mom shut her mouth abruptly, turned, and walked off to their bedroom. I was awake, listening for her, all night, but she didn't make a sound. Later, I felt terribly guilty. Whoa. I had used the F-bomb with my mother and lived! I hadn't been struck down by lightening and Dad hadn't thrown me out of the house. I felt awful.

That was later. In the moment, the only thing going through my mind was, Why didn't I do that four hours ago?

(My apologies for having these posts a wee bit scattered time-wise. Memories come back in waves and writing helps me ride it out. This will be continued in my next post...and will include some wonderful Dad humor.)

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Denise

I love that you are writing this out, Goldie. \n\nWe read a book called \"The Unthinkable\" by Amanda Ripley for our book club a few years ago. The book describes how you survive a disaster. One of the tips really stuck with me: To get people to move during a disaster, like a plane crash, for instance, you have to yell at them. Really yell at them, including swearing. \"Get the $#@$ off the plane!\" It's the only way they'll hear you and move. It seems cruel but it's not--it's actually the only thing that helps. \n\nAnd, so it was with your mom.

jan

I am so,so,so,so with you in this. So sorry, at every level, for the people trapped in their minds and the people who care for them. Thank you for being brave enough to write it down and share it with others. It really helps, doesn't it?

Jean

Oh, I'm so glad the F bomb worked. I often think, 'if only I knew then what I know now', and wish I had found this site while caring for my mother-in-law instead of after her death.