...and reaches for his gun.
My mother left the hospital yesterday, having had a knee replacement surgery on Friday, and subsequently whining for three days that she wanted to go home and "be comfortable", as if it is possible to be comfortable with several pounds of titanium alloy with gears and hinges, and 20 or so staples in your leg.
Anyways, the incredible banshee-quality whining of the hospital bed (It's too hot, it's too cold, the food stinks, there's nothing on television, they didn't give me my pain meds ten seconds after I asked for them, 'The Other One' in the next bed kept me up all night, etc, etc.) was soon replaced by the shrill keening wail of a whole new range of conditions to complain about (the medical transport driver deliberately hit every bump on the way home, the seat belt is too tight/too loose, can you turn the heat down then back up, and so forth). And that's before we even got into the house.
I am caring for my mother during her recovery, and I must admit, I'm not exactly equipped for this job. For a start, I have very little patience for whining. I understand that this sort of procedure usually results in the most monumental waves of pain known to anyone not interred at Gestapo Headquarters, but hell, it was an elective surgery, so I don't want to hear it. I already know, and your constant harping on the subject just wants to make me drug you up; I can't do anything else about it.
But, someone has to deal with it, right? I can, to a certain extent, suck it up and soldier on, but it's only been 24 hours and I'm ready to burn the house down.
To begin with, My mother is, and always has been, all of the following;
a. A drama Queen
b. Neurotic and given to bouts of acute anxiety.
c. An attention whore.
d. A sympathy junkie.
And Saint Carol the Martyr, heir-apparent to the Virgin Mary (btw, most Italian mothers behave this way), is making certain she milks this situation for all it's worth. That's when she's not engaging her other great skills in never having a positive word to say about anything, and complaining about everything under the Sun. Oh, and for speaking in sentences which always contain at least two variations of the personal pronoun (I, Me, My, Mine, and so forth).
If you read this blog regularly, you can probably see that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree in many respects. But really, I got help...
Truth is, there was never any pleasing her, and now that she's helpless and in need of care she has taken this most distasteful personality trait to new and dizzying heights. I'm seriously contemplating murder, but won't do it if only because the insurance company would get suspicious when the required paperwork never turns up and might leave a message on the answering machine.
I'm not even expecting as much as a "thank you" when her recovery is complete. That's just the way she is. It's expected that because she gave birth, I'm supposed to be at her bedside 24/7/365. I'm to take my impending galley-slave existence gracefully and maintain the proper attitude.
Except that She's a Pain in the Ass, and the process of taking care of her is an even bigger Pain in the Ass. It's only 24 hours, and I'm already discovering:
1. That I'm seeing parts of my mother's anatomy that I haven't seen since the day I was born, and which no Son past the socially-acceptable breastfeeding age should ever see. This is embarrassing, uncomfortable and just fucking creepy.
2. My mother is an expert whiner, complainer, and petty taskmaster. If you were to give her a winning Lottery Ticket, a Pot of Gold, and a Ferrari, she would bitch about why you didn't pick any of her favorite numbers, why it's only one pot, and really, couldn't you have gotten a better color and automatic transmission? Whenever she requires something, the dreaded phrase "as long as you're up" is uttered, shadows cross the floor, and a feeling of impending doom overtakes me, because I now know that the simplest of tasks will now become a torrent of petty make-work-for-her-comfort projects that will eat up the majority of the day.
And overnight, she'll be thinking of more stupidity to lay on me the following morning; The Sun is too bright,please close the curtains...oh, as long as you're up....my water is too wet, I need you to rearrange the seven pillows on the bed, and find a way for me to sit at a perfect 90-degree upright angle so that I can watch television and split atoms simultaneously. Oh, and find me some atoms, too.
If that doesn't drive you batshit insane, there's the myriad of tasks that need to be done every day that remind you that being human is often a humiliating and disgusting experience, full of the most unpleasant aspects that we barely think about...until we have to wipe someone else's backside, and there isn't a diaper or a 4 a.m. bottle feeding involved. Don't get me started on the problems inherent in sponge-bathing your own mother.
I'm also discovering that the battery of cuss words at my disposal is quite limited. I once would have thought this absolutely impossible, being able to swear like a sailor at the drop of a hat, and often for no reason, at all. I'm a New Yorker: we use the F-word as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, and often like punctuation, so imagine my surprise when the usual litany of curses muttered under my breath just doesn't seem to cut it, anymore. They don't seem adequate to express my feelings and frustrations, and I'm seriously going to reach for a Thesaurus so as to find newer expressions of fundamental disapproval. I may even have to learn another language.
It probably sounds terrible for a Son to speak of his Mother in this way -- and on a public forum for all the world to see! -- but there is a point to all of this; I'm beginning to have a new and healthier respect for caregivers....even the unionized hacks. They must bump up against the most miserable people in the world every day, and people who are normally unpleasant and then burdened by sickness must be the absolute worst. Like Nazis in heat, I would imagine.
Either these are the most patient and loving people on Planet Earth, or they all go home, drink themselves silly, kick the dog and beat their kids, just so that they can present the miserably ill with a plastic smile and the impression that they actually enjoy this kind of work. Considering that would make them even more miserable than the miserable bastards they often have to care for, I find that idea highly unlikely.
So, I will simply have to conclude that they are much better people than I am.
I will persevere. I'll get through this, and get Mom back on her feet so that I can go back to my overarching goal in life since the age of 14; finding a way to put as much distance between us as I can possibly manage.
But, damn, if it isn't enough to make you psychotic...
UPDATE: The response to, and popularity of, this post has been amazing. Thanks to everyone who continues to forward it to everyone they know! If you're interested in what's happened since this was originally posted -- plus many more observations related to taking care of the sick folks -- then please click the "Caregivers" label at the bottom of this post!