It's been ten days now since my 89-year-old mother fell, broke her hip, and landed in the hospital via the ER. And thus I'm in my second week of being completely torn between my mother's and my family's total need of me.
To say I am nearly being ripped apart by this is an understatement.
She's hanging in there. We're both exhausted.
They moved her to the rehab unit yesterday, and I'm not sure she was quite ready, but a bed was open so... she went. Physically, she is out of immediate post-operative danger, but the rehab is going to be a long haul for her.
She's still in a lot of pain. And she's very up and down.
When I show up, I never know if I'm going to find with-it, upbeat, funny, joking with the nurses Mom, or confused, miserable, groaning in pain and begging to go home Mom. And sometimes I will show up to find one type, and then she will emerge from a short nap as the other.
But show up, I must. If I am not there, my mother does not eat.
When I arrive, a look of relief usually washes over her; she grabs my hand, holds it for all the world as if she's never letting go. And then three minutes later, she's drifted off to sleep again, the hot cocoa I've brought her abandoned two sips in.
Today was my mother-in-law's footstone unveiling*. I was heartbroken that I couldn't go to the cemetery with my husband and the rest of his family. But it was to be the whole day, and I couldn't not show up at my mother's bedside.
Also this: while my mother is out of immediate danger, her inevitably fatal cardiac condition is progressing: critical aortic stenosis; which is the same thing that killed my father. (Which is why I am encouraging my son Ethan to go into hi-tech medical research and invent nanobots that can repair aortic valves. Just in case, you know?)
This could be her last hospitalization. This could be the beginning of the end, which is surely coming in the not so distant future.
I must push to be as there as possible for her. Each moment is precious. Even if she is sleeping through most of them right now.
Today was another one of those days. But they're all those days, these days.
Today my autistic son Jake melted down because his video game didn't work right, and he didn't want to play another. And then, he had to take his glasses off because they were all foggy with crying and he sat on them, bent them out of shape. And then he was crying because he wanted his glasses -- and the store that fixes them opens at noon earliest on Sundays.
And Ethan had undone homework hanging over our heads like an anvil, and I could not let him go off on a playdate until it was done. And Jake's vitamins needed to be poured for the day, because neither the sitter nor my husband can do that.
And so this morning the clock was ticking and I had not showered/dressed/packed my bag. Because there is always something else that needs to be done but I can't do it all and also get to my mother's side as soon as I wish.
I can't remember my last un-squashed moment.
But when the big one comes, when I am no longer squashed by my mother's demands but rather by the thousand-pound chest-weight of her absence, then I will long for these days when she was still here and I could still be with her, could still do for her.
And so I do, I do, I do.
And I sit and hold her hand.
*In case you don't know, Jewish people wait at least a year before marking a grave with a stone. Then they do it with a prayer ceremony, to note the end of the first year of intense grieving and help loved ones move on into life.
Varda writes about Autism parenting, eldercare, grief, ADD, parenting in general, and tells stories from her wild and varied past on her blog, The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation. You can also find her on Twitter as @Squashedmom.
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