Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hanging Up

Ahhhhh… silence. Well sort of silence as I have my ITunes playing as I type. Dad has a dentist appointment and took mom with him. Time for me to put my thoughts to "paper".

Today mom and I ran quite a few errands. We started with the bank, then off to get my van inspected so I can register it in this state, then lunch, then WalMart, next was hair cuts, and finally the grocery store for the last of the Christmas gifts.

I often wonder if our busy days are more harm than help for her. Right off this morning I noticed she was confused. Which is the easiest for me to handle to be honest. I prefer to get all our errands ran on these days because she follows me well. God, that sounds bad. But its true. When she's confused, she sticks close to me and that's good. On her good days, she can wander off and find a perfect stranger to make friends with. And that in itself can lead to confusion for the stranger. Some seem to just accept she's elderly and go with it. Others, like the mom with the new baby, they don't take kindly to her over-attentiveness to the child. So on a day like today I know I won't have to make excuses for her or distract her away and that makes the day better for me. Does that make sense? Her confused days are my good days???? And I guess tomorrow I'll get my answer if we did too much today.

Last night after dad got home, I headed to bed with an upset tummy. I took my laptop and two of my favorite movies and curled up with my pup- Maybelle. The first movie was just enough of a distraction to get my mind off my tummy and my worries… "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". I'm a sucker for an old school musical. It always makes me forget for awhile.

The second movie still has me drawing parallels to my own life … "Hanging Up". If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It's about a daughter dealing with her elderly, cranky, ill father who is a lot of work, her own upstart business, her child, her husband and oh… her two sisters who count on her to just take care of it (it being anything and everything). I cry every time I watch it. When I first saw it in 2000 I thought, "This is what I feel like. I am the go between for Tony and mom. Mom's a handful and losing her mind and Tony doesn't want to deal with it." Add to that, back then I was a newlywed with two dogs, finishing my college degree, helping my husband with his business, had an older brother (we'll call him PITA) who had nothing to do with the family, and I was doing my best to help my dad with my mom. She was already showing signs back then.

Fast forward to now. My Tony (yeah that's what I call him- he wasn't just my big brother, he was my best friend) has been dead 5 years now, PITA still wants nothing to do with us (another story for another day), my dad is working to keep the bills paid, and I'm dealing with a stubborn mom who's dementia is getting worse by the day. This movie speaks to me. I feel like Eve, the main character, who feels that it wasn't a choice to take on the role of the caregiver/peace keeper. It was a role given to her many years ago.

Now don't get me wrong, I am happy to be doing what I am. I just feel like it wasn't my choice to be the peace keeper or the caregiver. It's always just been that way, as far back as I can remember. My brothers always referred to me as the "Little Mother Hen" when we were growing up and I'm the baby. I mothered the hell out of the two of them.  I have always been the one to keep the peace in the family. Whenever Mom would try to make Tony tow her line, I'd be the one to have to calm them down after they fought. Now I didn't fix the fight, I just let them vent to me and then said key words back to them. When Tony and PITA fought, I was the one in the middle- all the way up to the day Tony died. When Mom gets mad at dad, I calm her down. When Dad gets mad at mom, I calm him down. I don't like to fight, never have (not saying I don't, I just feel awful after it so I try to avoid it at all costs!). I've even , looking back- stupidly, stepped between two male idiots who were fighting outside my house back in 1997. I've stepped in front of a man about to hit a woman. I just am who I am. I am the peacekeeper.  I am the caregiver. I care…. Sometimes too much.

In the movie, Eve has flashbacks of good times and bad times with her father. I do the same thing. I watch mom with her confused expression and remember when I was little and she was the caregiver to her mom who also had dementia. I vividly can recall her feeding her mom and the feeling of admiration I had for her. She was strong enough to do what her sisters weren't. When it's a silly day, I recall the good. Like the days of grocery shopping and Tony and I throwing stuff over the top of the aisle to each to put in the car. Or the time Tony decided to ride a child's bike in Sam's Club. When it's an angry day, I flash back to times when she told me she hated me. It's hard not to. I am doing my best to file all the good away and just let the bad fade to black. It's a work in progress.

If Tony was still here, maybe things would be a little different. I'd have him to bitch to more. But then again, he's a great listener from Heaven. Maybe he'd come out to visit and I'd get to not worry for more than a few hours a day. Maybe things wouldn't be different. I don't know. All I can do is make sure that I take time for myself when I need to. 

So I'm "Hanging Up" for the rest of the night. 

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