Two months before my mom passed away I remember having a conversation that was so filled with anger and resentment that I think the guilt of it will never leave me.
My mom was at a point in her dementia where she was calling out for me literally for nothing. She’d call for me to give her water, even though she had water right on her nightstand next to her, or she’d ask for toilet paper, an orange, to close her window, to turn on her light, to find her pencil, to cover her up with blankets, to find her pajamas, or her socks or her slippers. When she would ask me for such things, she didn’t just give a shout out like, “Can you please get me some water?”. No. She would ask me for water and then repeat the request like a chant over and over and over and over and over again. Then she would bang on her wall or the door with something, ironically sometimes it was with her water bottle that was filled with water.
I would tell her I was going to make dinner, and just as I was chopping the veggies or frying the chicken, she would holler from her bedroom that she was hungry, over and over and over and over again. These repeated requests for things would drive me absolutely nuts. One time she had me so nervous that I almost chopped my finger off while I was dicing potatoes.
Most of the things she requested of me were things she could have done herself, but towards the end of her life it seemed as if she had forgotten she was capable of doing them. Like she talked herself out of wanting to do them, or like she really believed she couldn’t do them. She was physically capable of turning her lights on or off and she could open and close her curtains. These were things she’d done all of her life, but for some reason one day she just stopped being able to do them. I remember tripping out on that. It kinda freaked me out because I knew she was slipping deeper into her dementia.
Once we all got used to hearing her repeated requests for things, she started yelling for help. Help me lord. Help me somebody. Help me Mandie….over and over and over. She sounded like she was hurt or had fallen but she wasn’t and she hadn’t. More often than not, she would actually be sitting on her bed looking at her hands or her feet just yelling for help. I can’t tell you how many times I’d rush into her bedroom thinking something was wrong only to find her sitting there chanting help help help help help, like a mantra. I would ask her what she wanted and she would make stuff up because she really didn’t need anything and sometimes I think she didn’t even know she was yelling for help. It was insane. It was maddening. I think the worst part was it didn’t make a difference if I told her that she scared me because I thought something was wrong, or that all the neighbors could hear her and were probably concerned because she couldn’t remember I’d say those things and 5 minutes after I’d leave the room she’d start yelling for help again.
Her requests for help didn’t stop at a certain time, like once she went to sleep, because she would wake up at 2 or 3am and start up all over again. I would wake with a start and rush to her room. One morning, around 4am I ran from my bedroom to her bedroom, my heart pounding, my eyes still groggy, because she was yelling for help. I asked her what was wrong. She didn’t answer me so I got closer to her and realized she was asleep. She was asleep yelling for help. I called her name and roused her and she looked at me, still in a dreamstate and said, “Where is my food?” She wasn’t awake. Wow
The conversation I had mentioned earlier was about how I felt trapped and how I felt that my choice to love and honor my mom by taking care of her gave me nothing but hardship. It was rewardless. My blood pressure was freaked out. My heart was palpitating. I broke out in a rash that would not go away no matter what I slathered or washed it with. Then I started to break out in hives. Every single night I’d break out in hives and I would be up for hours itching and miserable. Financially I was finding it hard to make ends meet. I couldn’t work because I had to take care of my mom 24/7. I couldn’t afford to have someone come in and watch her because I didn’t have a job. I lost my car because I couldn’t afford to pay for it. I had to apply for food stamps.
It seemed that every single horrible financial thing that could happen was happening to me and I couldn’t understand how my goodness was giving me such horrific karma. I started to think that there must be a reason people don’t do the honorable thing because it doesn’t pay ya back. I wondered how my life would have turned out had I put my mom in a home and walked away from that responsibility. Would I have a good paying job? Would I be living in a nice city and driving a nice car? Would I have a boyfriend? Would I be traveling? All of those thoughts came pouring out of me during my conversation and all of the resentment towards my mom had built up to the point where I didn’t think I was going to be able to keep breathing. It was pretty awful. And then my mom died.
Thinking back on that conversation, I can understand that I was overwhelmed. I didn’t have anyone helping me. I had absolutely no support system, emotionally or financially. I felt alone and exhausted and sorry for myself. Luckily, I didn’t stay in that bad place for too long. I think it lasted all of one or two days, but it was intense while it lasted and because of its intensity, the memory of it will never go away.
I suppose I can go into a spiritual mindset and try to make sense of the timing. Not two months had gone by after that conversation when my mom passed away. Was it divine intervention for both me and my mom? Had her life prolonged, would my life had been cut shorter? Did God see that I just was not able to go through any more hardship? Those are questions that will never be answered so I can’t beat myself over the head about it, but I suppose it’s all still so fresh and this is part of the mourning process and I’m just trying to deal.
I will say this though – If I had to do it all over again, for my mom I would do it in a heartbeat. Sure I’d change some things and change some choices I had made during those 7 years, but I would definitely make the same decision to take care of her. She was after all my mom.