I have garnered more attention that usual this week, and naturally, this results in a torrent of e-mails. Some are positive, most are negative (I think I've earned at least three fatwas this year!), and many more are clueless. However, most of the clueless ones are sent by well-meaning people who just don't get my sarcasm, or who are unable to read without looking for something to take out of context to grind their personal axe upon.
I usually don't respond to people's e-mail, unless they've made a very valid point, or it seems to offer an interesting argument-via-correspondence.
This week, however, there were some respondents that actually should be answered, if only because there's some serious misunderstandings that have arisen from an inability of some people to recognize humor when they see it, or because they're dumb as a fucking stump, and don't see what is so clearly before their own eyes. More likely, they refuse to see it, because in making the discovery of the obvious they may actually make painful realizations -- about themselves --that they'd rather not.
So, rather than answer each mail individually, I will respond to them, en masse, and knock off a couple of blog posts while I'm at it. I'm about nothing, if not efficiency.
In this post, I would like to respond to Annabelle, Babs, May and Thomas L, who objected to this post about having to care for my sick mother. They object mainly to the appalling lack of compassion that I seem to show, and they are shocked that I would publish such things about my own mother in a public forum. Some of them are also offended because they're in a similar situation, only their parents happen to be terminally ill, and my mother only had elective surgery, after all. How dare I belittle their experience by complaining about my own petty annoyances? As if we're into some "My Mom's sicker than your's" sort of schoolyard dustup!
There's a word that desribes that kind of post, folks. It's called "sarcasm". And while some of the experiences related within have been slightly-exaggerated for dramatic effect, they haven't been distorted all that much.
So yeah, while I don't have it as bad as some of you (she isn't dying while I stand by helplessly awaiting the inevitable), it's bad enough. I don't expect sympathy -- and never asked for any! -- that wasn't the point of the post; it was that people who care for the sick and inured for a living must be a) insane, and b) given far more respect than I previously would have afforded them.
But just in case you were under the mistaken impression that I'm just complaining for the sake of it, and that no one could be THAT bad, I will say this:
No, my mother isn't EVIL, she's just a pain in the ass. Yes, the tasks she sets me to doing are, in and of themselves, not particularly difficult, but they come sequentially and no sooner have I started immediately upon the first request, when the second, third and fourth requests come flying from her pie hole. I don't mind making her comfortable, or doing whatever I can to speed her recovery (this is my mother, after all), but please, tell me how I'm supposed to take your breakfast order, vacuum the carpets, get you an ice pack AND ask the guys doing construction across the street to stop hammering so loud, or to turn off that godawful table saw, all at once, and right this very second? Because that's what she expects. She's impatient. I hear it all day "What's taking you so long...?"
Or, try this: you've buckled and given in to her request to send for take-out food (the docs specifically told me to watch her salt and fat intake), because she wants something "with flavor for dinner". I, apparently, don't cook well enough to suit her as I am deliberately not salting anything I serve her. Her eggplant parm arrives, and I've done the unthinkable -- and plated it for her. I then get a load of crap about how she wanted it kept in the tin, the idea being that doing so would mean one less dirty dish in the house. As if we don't have a dish washer, and I'm not capable of washing a plate on my own (I don't wash anything according to her tastes and preferences, you see). The idea that there might be a dirty dish, glass or piece of cutlery somewhere in the house, or that they might be laying about in the kitchen sink, drives this woman crazy, so I was dressed down for my sin of using a perfectly-clean plate to serve her dinner on...with an attitude.
I wouldn't be surprised if my mother doesn't put plastic slipcovers over the plates, saucers and coffee cups someday just to keep them perfectly immaculate. I believe they call this "being anal".
This morning brought an entirely new low. I almost lost it, as I'm exhausted. The scene: 6:15 a.m..I'm asleep. Suddenly, I am jolted out of a bed-wetting slumber by a bellow of MAAAAATTTTYYYYY! You would think a moose was being dismembered whilst still alive in the next room. I run into my mother's room, thinking she may have fallen trying to get into the walker, or might be in pain. Nope, nothing of the sort.
She was trying to dress herself, and can't put her own shoes and socks on.
"Why are you putting shoes and socks on Mom? Where do you expect to go?"
"My physical therapist is coming."
"You do realize that's 3 hours from now?"
"Yes, but I wanted to be ready..."
Her newest pet-peeve is the gnarly old tree out in front of the house, which has a mass of spindly branches sticking out of it which hang over the sidewalk, which must be pruned (there's a landscaper who comes every week, let him handle it). Why this should consume her waking hours is beyond me, and she refuses to explain (I rather doubt that she can!) why it looms so large in her thoughts. I'm just expected to "take care" of it.
Here's my schedule for today (not that I'm asking for any sympathy):
* Make Mom Breakfast, argue with her because I have served something, yet again, that doesn't have salt/sugar in it.
* Bathing Mom
* Help the visiting Physical Therapist (if needed)
* Bathe myself, if I can find 10 minutes.
* Give my mother her once-daily injection in the stomach, set out her daily pain meds, thyroid meds, blood-pressure meds, and what have you.
* Do the laundry (this will require at least two trips to the laundromat, four blocks away, without a car. If I'm lucky, my sister will reluctantly agree to do it for me)
* Try to find a permanent job...again.
* Work on the one (small) contract job I do have for this month
* Make and serve lunch
* Deliver my newspapers (I deliver newspapers in the afternoons to make some extra cash)
* See to Mom's needs (thrice daily cold water basins to soak her swollen feet in, rearrange the furniture because it impedes her walker...again... rub liniment on her aching back from her ass to her shoulder blades, and whatever else she decides she needs)
* Begin Dinner, listen to complaints about how her sciatica is acting up again, stuff pillows under her to relieve her pain, adjust them several times during the course of the evening.
* Clean everything in the house within an inch of it's life. Twice. Because she "knows" I didn't "do it right the first time", like she has X-ray vision.
* Serve dinner, listen to the stream of complaints because it has no salt, and whatever spices I do use don't meet with her approval, then force her to eat the fresh fruit that I (try to) serve her every night. She'll invariably take the bananas, but pass on everything else.
* Help her dress for bed.
* Babysit my four (4) nephews this evening for approximately two hours while my sister and brother-in-law do whatever the fuck it is that they do.
* Prepare for a night of Hell, which will require that the heat be turned up or down several times, pillows be rearranged and fluffed repeatedly, and standing by while Mom makes every one of her dozen or so bathroom trips during the night (the record is 13 in one night).
I have a younger sister who lives 8 blocks away and who's first response to any request is "I have a husband and four kids to take care of, you know", and who otherwise does the barest minimum she can get away with. I also have a younger brother who might as well be on the side of a milk carton; I haven't seen him for the better part of three years, and have spoken to him probably twice -- on the phone -- in all of that time, who swears he'll drop by to see how she's doing... but then never does.
No, I'm not watching my mother waste away from some dreadful disease that fills all who see her daily degeneration in all it's grisly detail with a sense of helpless dread, but that doesn't make my experience any less easy to take.
Excuse me if my preferred method of handling this stress was to blog about it all, with humor, and not, say, smothering her with a pillow.
And yes, I do feel for those of you who have to deal with the ravages of cancer, or a parentin a vegetative state. I was at my grandparent's bedsides when they were stricken with cancer, too, and did much of the same work as I'm doing now. Only they appreciated it, and didn't turn the smallest of complaints into federal cases.
I'm not a heartless prick -- just a harried and exhausted one. I never intended to make light of the experiences of those with parents in far more dire straits than mine.