Dearest Readers, I don’t know where to begin.
Everything in my life is a cliche.
Meekly I cave in to my mother’s demands, even when it means harm to me, physically and emotionally. She publicly denigrates my role as my father’s caregiver. The Hospice nurse coordinator visits. I try to explain my situation as a person with spine injuries who cannot physically help my now paraplegic father. I can’t transfer him from wheelchair to bed–“I can do it,” my mother interjects, with a snort, a face twisted with disgust.
I explain to the nurses how many, many times my father has fallen during my mother’s attempts to transfer him–how many times the on-call nurse has had to find their well-hidden home in the middle of the night, because once my father is on the floor, she can’t get him up. How many times EMS has had to come, to check him for injuries and get him back into bed. How many ER visits, before he went on Hospice and no longer goes to the hospital unless he has broken a bone or something else fixable.
Her glare reminds me of her intolerable cat. He was re-homed three times before she got him at the shelter. You know what they say about pets resembling their people….it’s that people are attracted to pets that share their personalities, is all. That’s clear.
I see what her body language (and her face, twisted with disdain for me) says: the same thing it said so many years ago, before I left with the intention of never returning to the parental hell-hole: “You’re useless,” she used to say then. Now she says it again.
If I mention my disability, I get a “Hah!” Which means to say, “You’re just lazy, a parasite on The System.” No amount of stuttering defense on my part that I worked very hard in my career, that I loved my work, and would never have left it except for my disability–her head turns, face twists–my stomach climbs into my esophagus, I feel sick but can’t do anything about it.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, from 11:30 am to whatever time she gets home in the late afternoon, I take care of Dad. Yesterday was Wednesday, and he had a dentist appointment at 1:30 pm. We usually call for the rural transport van to take us to appointments, but this time she decided that the caregiver who comes in the mornings to get him out of bed, shower him etc. (this she cannot do) would help transport him in my car. I was not consulted, but told, with a large dose of sarcasm, that this is what would happen. She said she had called the transport, as she said she would do, 48 hours in advance of when we needed them.
They were full up, she told me the morning of the appointment. That has never happened before. She was lying, as she often does. She sees no evil in lying, if it suits her purpose. She probably forgot. Why else would she choose to pay the caregiver $12 an hour over the transport, which costs $4 for door-to-door service with the wheelchair and assistance getting through doors, etc.?
So to the dentist we all went, Dad, the caregiver, and me. It was a quick appointment, so we were home within the hour. The caregiver said his goodbyes and headed off.
His tail lights were still visible going up the drive when Dad announced he had to go to the bathroom.
This is a hard one for me. I was trained up in extreme modesty. I have seen my mother not-quite-naked once, my father never. So now I’m expected to take care of his intimate needs.
But a need is a need. Right now I’m more worried about getting him from wheelchair to toilet and back, than I am about what to do regarding the bodily functions and subsequent clean-up.
So I get him into the bathroom in his wheelchair, which is already a difficult job. When it started becoming clear that he would no longer be climbing stairs to take a shower, some 3 years ago, I designed a wheelchair-accessible bathroom for downstairs (I love designing bathrooms). I purposely designed it with a lot of open space for safely turning and maneuvering the chair.
My mother, who can’t stand open space, immediately filled it with chairs and bookcases for storing towels, even though I designed a closet area, convenient yet out of the way, into the layout. I guess she needed something else to complain about, because of course the steam from the shower is warping her bookcases.
I got Dad into the bathroom, moving furniture along the way. I got him to stand, unsteadily holding onto the commode frame I installed for just such occasions (and to keep him from falling off the toilet and getting wedged between the toilet and the sink, which happened twice before I put in the grab assist bars). Dissociating quick, I pulled down his sweat pants and diaper so I could get him on the john.
But not quick enough. He lost control of his bladder all over his clothing, the toilet, the floor, and–me. He was mortified. I was dissociated.
He apologized profusely, and I felt helpless. We both felt helpless. He said he was finished. I saw he was soaked.
The next task was to get his sodden clothes off him (even his socks were wet!), wash his wet legs, and give him a washcloth so he could clean up his “delicate parts,” as I told him, which got a laugh out of him, at least.
Then I had to get dry things on him. While he was cleaning his delicate parts I had laid out clean things for him: sweat pants, diaper, socks. Draping a towel across his lap for modesty, I got his socks on.
But that was all. I got his diaper and pants as far as his knees, but then he had to stand for just a moment so I could pull everything up where it goes.
He was too exhausted by the effort of standing the first time to get himself out of the chair. I was too exhausted from the first time to pull him up–and I didn’t want to risk dropping him. Why didn’t I think of myself, my disintegrating spine, which is on the same trajectory as his ruined vertebrae? Why didn’t I just leave things as they were for the moment, cover him up, and go watch Westerns and have a Scotch with him in the living room?
My mother, is why. I was afraid of the consequences of being too disabled to haul Dad around. So I did my best, and hurt myself again in the process. Today I am one hurtin’ puppy. My neck is in such a spasm I can’t turn my head. Shit.
Why don’t I get it, and stop acting like a slave?
So back in the bathroom…after a couple of tries, Dad and I both called it a day. I got his bathrobe and draped it over his lap, and we wheeled into the living room. I put on the Westerns and he watched Bat Masterson shoot ’em up without breaking a sweat while I cleaned myself up as much as possible.
I wonder if Bat Masterson has trouble controlling his bladder now that he’s old.
I dreaded the arrival of She Who Must Be Obeyed. Trigger, trigger, trigger….faster trigger than Bat Masterson.
Luckily She had had a good day out, and didn’t humiliate the two of us on the spot. But it will come, believe me. It will come.
The hell-cat, who never makes an appearance when She is out, came down the stairs demanding food. She clucked over him and fed his already bloated body, while Dad sat half-naked in front of the TV.