I just got back from the nursing home, where they took my dad after the hospital.
Actually I stopped by Walmart to get a heating pad, two bottles of castor oil, a package of 5 cloth baby diapers, and a back brace I know won’t fit because of my curvy hips. All this to treat the disc that’s bulging in my lower back. I coughed it out a couple of days ago when I was still asthmatically getting over the mini-flu, the kind you get when you’ve had your flu shot and get the flu anyway. But at least it was the mini-flu and not the whole thing.
So to treat the inflammation I am going to soak the baby diapers in warm castor oil, maybe mixed with eucalyptus or some other anti-inflammatory oil, maybe German chamomile, put a sheet of plastic wrap over that so it doesn’t stain the heating pad, slap the whole mess on my back, and listen to some soothing music while it works.
I got through yesterday by dosing myself up with the cannabis tincture I have been steeping for the past two weeks. It got rid of the cough and relaxed the spasm in my back enough so I could get through the day without screaming in pain. The stuff is miraculous. Too bad it’s illegal in my state. Actually it’s a Schedule IV substance in my state, which puts it in the same class as benzodiazepines; in other words, needs a prescription but considered low-risk for abuse. But for some reason, the criminal code and the medical code don’t agree. Figures. I consider it medicine and use it as such.
My dad. I can’t even wrap my head around it. The brilliant thinker, the blazing torch of a teacher, the maker of achingly beautiful art: now unable to figure out how to use a pencil, unable to understand how to read a phone number, let alone use a phone–how could this happen? Whose idea of a cruel joke is this? It makes me want to run off and kill myself before I have a chance to get so badly off that I can’t even figure out how to do it.
I comfort myself by knowing that he’s much better off in the nursing home, where compassionate people take care of him. They don’t belittle him for dropping crumbs on his clothes–they just put a bib on him and treat him like a normal human being.
They don’t scream at him for wetting the bed–they take it for granted that he will, and they check him every two hours at night and change the bed if it’s wet, and change his diaper if it’s wet, and treat him like a normal human being.
He doesn’t ask me who those two sisters are anymore–the nice one who helps him and takes care of him, and the one who gets upset all the time–those two sisters are my mother, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of her personalities. The sweet one that everyone outside the home adores, and the control freak abuser that nobody sees but us–my father and I.
She is spending hours and hours at the nursing home, and making sure that my father and I are never alone together. The look of hatred in her eyes, toward me, is more open than I’ve ever seen it before. I’m sure that it’s because the love between my father and I is so apparent–he knows that each parting might be our last, and we tell each other we love each other and I give him a kiss on top of his bald head.
The last time I kissed my mother was several months ago. She demanded it, saying she was jealous, so I kissed her on the cheek. It’s not my fault that I treat her like a poisonous snake–with a long forked stick–because she is liable to strike without warning. Has done, and does, and will do.
At least she finally admitted to letting her own mother die of lactose intolerance. Did you know that people can die of lactose intolerance? Yes, they can. My grandmother had terrible diarrhea from it, and was losing weight. The nursing home she was in did not have a doctor. They had a Physician’s Assistant. Pardon me, to any of you who may be P.A.s, but P.A.s do not have the level of education that an M.D. has. Some are excellent clinicians and know when to consult their supervising physician, and some are full of themselves and think they know it all. The one in that nursing home was the latter kind.
So they fed my Nana Ensure, a liquid food substitute that is milk-based. It is full of lactose. So she kept on having more and more diarrhea, and losing more and more weight, and they kept on feeding her more and more lactose-containing substance.
I begged my mother to put Nana in the car and take her to see a gastoententerologist. “She’s old,” my mother said. “What would they do anyway?”
“They would make a diagnosis and stop the diarrhea,” I said. My mother made a face and told me I didn’t know what I was talking about. I had only been in medical practice for ten years at the time.
So Nana died of diarrhea, like people die when they have cholera, only more slowly and in terrible pain.
And two weeks ago, before Dad fell again and broke his back and got yet another concussion, she suddenly started saying how guilty she feels that she didn’t do more for her mother.
And why this sudden bout of guilt?
My mother has become lactose intolerant herself, and got a little taste of what it feels like to have horrible cramps and have to run to the bathroom every ten minutes, and have your butt burn up because of the acid stools you pass.
But Nana couldn’t run to the bathroom anymore. She had her liquid stools in her diaper, and her whole bum burned up from soaking in the acid stools.
So now Dad is in the nursing home, and Mom is acting like a jealous bird protecting her nest. She has always considered me an inconvenience, but now my presence is indispensable, as it has been ever since I flew here from my home in Israel three years ago. She tolerates me only because she needs my help with Dad.
Tomorrow we take Dad to the cardiologist, an hour and a half away by car. We will have to get him into the car, and out of the car. It’s generally me who does the heavy lifting, but now I’ve got a bulging disc, so we will have to have help from others both at the nursing home and at the cardiologist.
I know the nursing home will help get him into the car: it’s their job. I also know the cardiology office won’t help get him out of the car, for liability reasons. If one of their staff accidentally injured him, the practice would be liable to be sued. So this will be an interesting exercise, since Dad can no longer walk without help.
Things have gotten so out of hand, so out of control, that I don’t even know what to say anymore. I just try to “keep it between the ditches,” as Dad used to say, when he knew how to talk.