Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Blog 19: Life Does Go On and New Life Begins

While I was living with Mom, my regular life did go on. I felt like I had two lives...that as caregiver, and that as a normal person, who enjoyed life outside of caring for my mom. I am kind of a health nut and I've always worked out at a gym, but since living with Mom I had to use other means to stay fit. I bought some weights, and exercise band and ball, and went out for jogs when one of my sisters would come by to visit Mom.  I even got Mom to do some of the exercises with me.  I also tried to see my kids when I could, have dinner with a friend or two, or go out to a movie or dancing once in a great while.  I felt that it was a necessary ingredient for a caregiver to try to maintain some sense of normalcy. You can't give up everything or you will get lost in the abyss of caring for a person with dementia, and that's not a healthy place to be. It's important to have some time to yourself. As long as I had sisters who could come to sit with Mom, I was able to get out once in a while. I do remember once or twice I didn't see a single family member for 12 or 13 days in a row. I will begin the tough part of how my sisters and I were managing as sisters in an upcoming post.

So, on to the other part of my life. My son and his wife were expecting their first child.  I planned to be there for the birth but he came a week early and I wasn't able to get there until three days later.  They live in California.  I spent three weeks with them, bonding with my precious grandson and helping my son and daughter-in-law in the adjustment to parenthood.  My sister Annie stayed with Mom, with the help of my sisters Lynda and Kathy. 

Then two months later, my oldest daughter and her husband were expecting the birth of their second child.  They lived in the southwest, far from our home in the midwest, and it was the place I was planning to move to.   I wanted to be near my kids and grandkids...but that story will come later.  I had a plane ticket bought to be there for the birth.  I was there when she blessed me with my first grandchild a year and a half prior, and that was the most amazing experience, and I wanted to be there for the second one, too.  I was to arrive two weeks before her due date, knowing the second one often comes early, and knowing how I missed my grandson's birth, I didn't want to miss seeing another grandchild coming into the world.  My sisters were going to take care of Mom when I was gone, and I planned to be gone for three weeks this time, too.

I got a phone call the day before I was expected to leave, and it was my youngest daughter, saying she just broke her arm in a snowboarding accident.  She lived three hours away.  She was in a lot of pain and was scared and crying.  I wanted to be with her but I had no one to cover for me and be with Mom that day.  I couldn't leave Mom alone.  I remember how stressed I was and didn't know what to do.  Mom was being difficult with me because she sensed my stress and in turn became very anxious and angry with me.  My daughter's boyfriend was with my daughter and he promised to keep me informed as to what was happening, every step of the way.  This also aggravated my mom because that meant many phone calls that took me away from giving her the attention she very much needed at that time.  The emergency room doctor was able to move the bone back into positon but she wasn't able to have it operated on until the next day, and that was my scheduled flight day.

My daughter's surgery was scheduled for early in the morning and I knew if I cancelled my flight and rebooked it a day or two later it would cost me a lot more money, money I didn't have, and I could possibly miss the birth of my grandchild.  I felt confident that my daughter was in good hands and she was going to be well taken care of.  Her boyfriend is an angel and kept me abreast as to every move that was being made.  I spoke to my daughter before her surgery and to her doctor.  I felt bad that I wasn't there.  I felt horrible about that.  Then, as if that wasn't enough, my pregant daughter called me a few minutes later and said that she felt like she was in labor.  I couldn't believe it!  I was going to miss that birth, too, after all of that.  I actually told my daughter to 'hold on' and not have that baby until I get there!  Like that was going to happen! 

So, I had one daughter on the operating room table and another on the way to the hospital to give birth.  And, my Mom was getting upset that I was on the phone so much that morning.  I tried to explain to her what was going on but she didn't understand.  She kept interrupting me and yelling at me to get off the phone when I was talking to the doctor about my daughter's surgery.  She even tried to hang up the phone on me.  I told the doctor I was sorry but my mom has Alzheimer's and she doesn't understand.  He was very understanding and he could clearly sense that I was stressed and emotional beyond belief.  I tried to give Mom the attention she was demanding, but I was also dealing with some huge things.

In the midst of all of this, I could feel my blood pressure skyrocketing.  I was trying to get my things gathered up for my flight, take care of Mom's needs, and deal with the necessary phone calls.  My sister who was supposed to be there to cover for me didn't show up when she said she would and I was afraid I was going to miss my flight.  I needed to get to the airport. She finally came and I was on my way and took a few deep breaths in the car to get a grip.  I seriously don't even remember who took me to the airport!  On the way there I spoke to my son-in-law, who said they were on their way to the hospital since my daughter was having regular contractions, and I could hear her moaning in pain.

Even with all of that going on I was feeling very sad for my mom. I knew that normally, in her healthy state of mind, she would have been very understanding and very sympathetic to her granddaughters. She would have been so happy to hear of her granddaughter going into labor and anticipating a brand new great grandchild. I could imagine her face, smiling from ear to ear with excitement! And she would have also been so worried and concerned for her other granddaughter who had a broken arm and had to undergo surgery. I felt like my mom got robbed out of feeling the proper emotions and for experiencing something with me, her oldest daughter, whom I know she loved dearly. Mom was living in a new world of tangled emotions, often inappropriately expressed, and all caused by the destruction of brain cells. Also, I was robbed from having my mom to lean on, and to have her to talk to and give me advice, and to laugh with me and cry with me, and we could hug each other and be like a normal mother and daughter. I'm remembering how I felt at that time, in wanting my mom to feel the way I did, the way she used to.

I boarded my plane and had a connecting flight in Chicago, which was less than an hour flight away.  As soon as the plane landed I turned on my phone and listened to a message from my daughter.  She already had the baby!  She said, "She's here!  She was born just a few minutes ago..."  I missed the birth, but I made it there five hours after she was born.  I held my new granddaughter and wiped the tears of happiness off my eyes.

Three weeks later I came back to Mom's house and Mom and I continued on our journey.   All was well in my kids' lives.  I had two more beautiful healthy grandchildren in a relatively short period of time, my daughter's broken arm was on the mend, and I had an offer on a house. It was a short sale deal though, and it would be months before the closing would take place.  I had more time to spend with Mom...and time for those thoughts of guilt for leaving Mom to creep in.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my... so much going on at once. What a mix of emotion in such a short period of time. I cannot imagine how you must have felt wanting to be excited for your oldest daughter, yet feeling scared about your younger daughter and... frustrated, yet sad, about your mom.