Time Slave

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.

Anyway.

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.

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36 Comments

  1. I commend you for doing so much for your father. It obviously isn’t easy. I can’t think of any comments to say about your mother, other than, I’m sorry

    Reply
  2. I am so sorry that you and your father live in what I can only describe as a toxic environment. Clearly your father needs assisted care. I know how painful it is to have your parent(s) age not so gracefully and not to be able to be or do enough. The reality is that sometimes people need greater care than family care provide, even able-bodied family.

    Reply
    • That is so true. He was in a nursing home for three months after his last bad fall, and apart from having to be there a good part of the time, to make sure he got changed and to feed him (would you believe, if one of us wasn’t there it would go undone!) he much better care than he does at home. He didn’t mind the plain food, which they blenderized because he has trouble eating. My mother won’t do that because it’s “gross.” All I can do is pray that something not too awful happens that will precipitate his going back into care.

      Reply
      • I, too, will pray for you and your father. I’ll even pray for your mother. My father has dementia. For now, he and my mother seem to manage. I am not in the role of caretaker, though, and told my mother than I could not do so for it would trigger my bipolar symptoms.

        Reply
        • I’m sorry to hear about your father. Yes, triggering BP, big time. Does your mother accept that? Mine would just sneer and say something awful, triggering my PTSD like what happened yesterday. Today was a total wash, except that I got to see my therapist who validated everything and told me I should not be trying to do this….I really admire your courage in stepping forward and advocating for yourself. It’s something that’s hard/impossible for me to do because I was squashed as a baby/child…I need to learn from you! Prayers appreciated.

          Reply
          • Luckily, alcoholism aside (typical), my parents saved me when I was depressed and later psychotic at 30 (50 now), so they get it that I have a real illness. I’m really and metaphorically the identified pt, a role I willingly play.

            Reply
  3. LOLZ @ ‘she who must be obeyed’–that is what i called my ‘mother’ (if you can really call her that at all), or sometimes, ‘mommy dearest’, which never failed to get a response.

    btw, all that you do/did for your dad is welcomed and appreciated, he even let you know by his chuckles. and as for ‘she who must be obeyed’, well, you can only do what you can do, and that’s that…no matter what you or anyone else feel about it, when you hit the wall, you hit it and knock yourself down. so, quit hitting that wall. just stay down.

    and i’m so sorry you have to deal with your ‘mother’ in order to take care of your father, which you want to do. i don’t really have any brilliant solutions, but, maybe you could explain to your dad (when you have some privacy) that you aren’t physically capable of helping him now, and that staying is hurting your mental self even more, especially due to your mom. and that for all these reasons and more, you must return to Jerusalem (is that the right place?) and take care of yourself, but you will think of and pray for him every day, and maybe you could call once a week or something too. i’m sure he’d understand that (he seems pretty lucid during the day, about what he needs, wants, who is with him and what’s going on, so, he could probably get all this). and then, you ‘just’ need to take care of yourself (as if that isn’t a big enough job on its own!)…

    wishing you luck, sympathy, care and concern…hoping you find answers you can sit with, and that you find room to care for yourself.

    Reply
    • Thank you dear Kat…my job here is not done. I do have to stand up to “mommie dearest” and get Dad the care he needs, whether it be a full time carer or the nursing home. We shall see.

      Reply
      • i am going thru something really similar atm. because i talked to the Area Agency on Aging about my only living relatives living in a hoard and a dirty one at that and needing help. now i am being shunned, by them and my late dad’s wife who has convinced the family i am after their money and want to shut them up somewhere. i just want to get them some services, but apparently that makes me evil. so you are in good company and i’m sorry you have to be in the spot you are in with your mom and all. good luck to you and hope you find the best path thru this jungle.

        Reply
        • Jeez, Kat, that is a terrible situation to be in. I was just having a fantasy about just walking out of my barn, and going Somewhere Else. Anywhere else. Maybe out west. I have a few pieces of inner work that I have to do before I can go back to the Holy Land. Why not go back to Utah, where I still have a license and could go back to work a little bit, save up some dough and get back on that plane to Home. nice fantasy, huh? Thanks for reading…;-)

          Reply
          • you could get a nice little family practice office, mostly easy stuff…be nearby if you had to be. i could be your main patient, and keep you in business, lol

            called the family at the nh they are rehabbing in, they still won’t take my calls. gonna have my kids call from now on. betcha step mom didnt think of banning them!

            Reply
          • oh, and i’ll meet you in ‘Somewhere Else’…if you find it first, send directions

            Reply
  4. Hi, I wanted to tell you no matter how it feels your sacrifice is felt. I have a tons of things I want to share and hold out my hand to you. I’ll be back around when I can comment properly. If you have a minute you might check out the post on Caregiving on my sight. Talk to you soon. Breath.

    Reply
  5. I find myself tearing up as I read this. My heart breaks for your dad, who needs such intimate care and is embarrassed in front of his daughter. I’m sure your mother gives him a healthy dose of disdain and contempt, too.

    My heart breaks for you, too – that you are doing what you think is right for your dad, even though it comes at a significant physical and emotional price for you. I don’t think there are any straight-forward answers for how to protect yourself while still trying to do what’s best for your dad. I hope that somehow, maybe you can find a balance that works a bit better for you. I’ll be sending wishes for compassion and wisdom your way. xx

    Reply
  6. My heart aches for you that you have to put up with all that crap from your mother!! 😦

    I see, as an outsider looking in, an extremely strong, loving and gentle/sensitive daughter going the extra mile, knowing you’ll be abused by mommy dearest, because your love for your father is greater than your pain/abuse factor. The way I believe is that God will reward your good works. You are respecting your dad as we, as children of God, respect Him. I believe He honors that, Laura. I don’t know when or in what form the rewards will come, but I do believe they will come.

    God bless you, my friend!! It’s a privilege to know you!!
    Kathy
    ((())) ❤

    Reply
    • Thank you Kathy, I really take your words to heart because I know they come straight from yours. You are a good friend. Amen to your blessings, and may they return to you many-fold!

      Reply
  7. savemefrombpd

     /  July 18, 2014

    Laura, I’m so sorry to read this.

    ALL you mean to do is the best you can and your intentions are only correct, nothing more, nothing less. You don’t deserve to be treated like this by your mother. I can’t even imagine all of these years, your entire life, being treated like this. It must be incredibly difficult and no doubt it has been a BIG part in your development at a very early age and has instilled in you horrible and bad things that nobody is deserving of.

    I am astonished at how you deal with her and being there in a far out place and not here right now in the hustle and bustle of Nachl, the market and everything. You have one huge part of the world to come in which you are going to be blessed so highly for your mitzv you are carrying out for your parents. With all the hardships and unfairness… Kol hakavod.

    I wish you a SS and I am thinking of you. Take care.

    Reply
    • Thank you my sweet. I have a real fear regarding the “reward” that is given for kibud avot while in “this world:” orech yamim, long life. You’re all too familiar with the problem: I don’t want to live a long life. I don’t want to live for years and years in agony, physical and mental and, in fact, spiritual. One of my rabbis assures me that “long life” can also refer to Olam Ha’Ba (the World to Come), and having many long years there to enjoy learning with the Sages. Now THAT is something I could be very happy about. But I don’t know whether I get to choose! So I pray, when I pray which is very informal now, that my length-of-days should be in the Yeshiva shel Ma’ala and not down here in the cesspool called Olam ha’zeh (This World).

      Reply
  8. Laura, I’m so terribky sorry for both you and your father and this situation you are both having to endure. I know that this would be impossible because it appears your mother is the ultimate of hate. Yet how I would love to read that you had turned to her during one of her dismissive put downs andsaid” I see you’re looking in the mirror again Mother!”.
    Oh how that would goad her into a rage – and hence has to be avoided for your father’s sake and yours.
    I truly wish I could be there for you and say all those things you cabbot say because of the consequences. She deserves to be arrested for “Elder abuse” or “Spousal abuse” – she certainly fits the category so well.
    My prayers and thoughts will be with you and your father Laura – as always.
    Love and Blessings,
    Susan xx

    Reply
    • Thanks, Susan. Yes, my therapist and I were brainstorming yesterday, about how we can get him into a safe place….unfortunately, it’s going to have to take its own course for a while…..sad, sad….

      On the “mirror” front, I’ve been experimenting with a new psychological approach (new to me anyway): the “ego stroke.” I heard about it in a class once, but thought it was so much bullshit that I never used it. It goes like this:

      “Wow, Mom, I ran into so-and-so in the grocery store. She said you took care of her mother in the nursing home, and she said you are an absolute angel. No, really, she said you are an angel. Everybody says you are an angel. That’s the word they use: “angel.””

      Et cetera, ad nauseam. It actually works because, having heard the word “angel” applied to herself several times, she starts thinking of herself as an angel, so she behaves pretty well for a few hours until it wears off. But at least that can get us through dinner time. Ugh.

      Maybe I should plant a subliminal tape recording (whoops, CD–no more tapes 😦 ) somewhere, that repeats “angel, angel” over and over, so that her bloated ego can be continuously stroked…what do you think?

      Reply
      • I have an nasty suspicion you might end up tossing the CD at her as an avenging frisbee, lol. Seriously – could you get her plugged into it (maybe a small microchip like we do for our pets so we don’t lose them) and let it run on a continuous loop – yes, I know I can be nasty, but some people only respond to extremes. I feel you been pushed way past that point by now.
        I know that after I replied to you I had visions of avenging snakes chasing her through the house, hidden in her car or chair, perhaps even in her hair – anywhere they could take a quick bite. UGH! Its always been a surprise the depths some people can drive others to, and that I am no different in the end. Sad but true.
        Keep up the good fight Laura.
        Susan x

        Reply
  9. Oh, Laura – Shabbat is approaching here, and I just now found your post. You are in my prayers and in my thoughts.

    In addition to the mirroring (a great if ridiculous technique) there is also the great standby of the mantra. I have found it helpful to have some bits of tehillim and other phrases that I can repeat over and over in my mind (or softly, or even aloud) – something to occupy my mind while hurtful words pass by me. The first line of Ps 23 is good for that, as is that last stanza of Adon Olam – there may be others that are good for you. It just needs to be something beautiful to play over whatever nasty thing is happening. If you cultivate it in a neutral time, then it can spring into your mind at a stressful time.

    I know, sometimes one has to truly pay attention to what is going on, but a lot of the time we can get by with half or a quarter attention.

    Anyway, mostly I wish you some real shalom this Shabbos.

    All best, Ruth

    Reply
    • Shavua Tov, Ruth. Yes indeed, I do use mantram as a stay-sane tool. I do use phrases from various Tehillim, and I also use a couple of wonderful mantras that I got from my guru in India. I had 10 wonderful weeks with him, comparing Vedic mysticism with Jewish cosmology and Kaballah. My favorite psalm for protection is 91, but if I need something I can say quickly and easily without being discovered, I use 121. The Sanscrit mantra for protection that he gave me is the Maha Mitrunjaya Mantra, which like so many of our Tehillim, is a formula for protection from all kinds of spiritual and physical evil. The problem with my mother’s particular effect on me is that it comes completely out of left field, with no warning, so I have no chance to put up my “Colgate Gardol Shield.” So why don’t I always keep it up? Because the motherless child in me still longs for the mother she never had, and never stops hoping that this time it will be different. I can’t wait to go back to Israel. The danger there is gilui (revealed), not nistar (secret-hidden).

      Reply
      • Yes. Every time there is trouble in Israel, my instinct is to run towards it, where presence counts.

        I understand about the pain of hope, re: mothers. It speaks well for your soul that you’re still hoping despite all evidence.

        You have my prayers, dear.

        Reply
        • Ruth, isn’t doing something destructive over and over and over, the definition of crazy? I get this vision of myself sitting on the ground bashing myself repeatedly over the head with a frying pan. I look around me and see all the things that seemed to all be out of place. I can see them in my mind, in their places in my home in Jerusalem, the one with the West facing windows. I could hear the war in Gaza from there, and I could also go learn in yeshiva, all day, six days a week. Therefore I have met my own definition of crazy. I hope it is a temporary condition…

          Reply
          • I guess it depends on what you mean by “destructive.” I lived in Israel from June 2002 through June 2003, and while the Intifada definitely made me feel crazy, I felt that my presence there was constructive and important. I met many Israelis to whom it meant a lot that my class was at HUC in a year when most Americans stayed away. I also learned a lot about Israel without the tourist gloss, Israel in tough times. I would not trade that year for anything. However, I did return to school in the US with more and stronger meds….

            In the rest of my life, it’s often a balancing act, doing the math on cost and benefit. Am I doing more good than I am being done damage? It’s always the question.

            Reply
  10. Laura, words are just words. The comfort they provide is superficial as only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. Its surprising for me to see your mother choosing to be so adamant at this age when she knows sooner or later you will be the the closest kin to her.

    I send you positive energy to pas through this challenging phase of your life.

    Take care

    Reply
    • Thank you, Ashu. Words are swords that can cut a person to shreds before they even see it coming. Words can be a fist that smashes a person in the face or pounds into the ground. When someone grows up with verbal abuse, the damage is there, in the bones, in the cells. There can be healing, but the trigger points are still there, and given the words, the facial expression, the body language…..it’s not so simple. My mother lives in her own world, living her own damage by passing it on. She knows very well that when my father passes, I will fulfill my obligation to her by making sure she has a roof over her head and all of her physical needs met. Apart from that I have no obligation, and according to my religion, saving myself from harm supersedes the obligation to care for one’s parents. I know it’s different in your culture, and I fervently hope that your parents (and husband’s parents, if you are married) will be loving and know what a precious jewel they have in you.

      Reply
  11. Laura, I was so touched after reading your comment. I am surrounded by some people who have a flair of hurting people with their words though they say they do not mean it most of those times. Still it smashes my heart at times. No i am not married thankfully though its quite late as per the norms here. I hope we pass off these debts soon. Love to you

    Reply

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