Sunday, December 17, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

"It's coming on Christmas, they're chopping down trees.
they're putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace.
I wish I had a river I could skate away on."

"River"-Joni Mitchell

Tomorrow will be a big day. It will be one of those markers of adult life that will most likely never be forgotten.

No, I'm not eloping. I'm not starting a new job. For that matter, I'm not retiring either. I'm not adopting a child, having surgery or joining the Masons. I'm not doing any of these things.

Tomorrow is the day Bob and I tell Mother she has to go to the nursing home.

I knew something was up when the folks at the assisted-living place where Mom lives called me and asked for a meeting. It wasn't time for the quarterly report. It had to be something else. And whatever it was, it could not possibly be good.

At the meeting Bob and I were told that Mother's needs had reached a point that exceeded what they could do consistent with the State's regulations. Even with the adult day care that we were paying for. For example, if she gets help changing her diaper during the day, that's assisted living. If they have to do it in her bed at night, that's skilled nursing. The people at the place where she has lived since 2000 could not have been better to Mom. They are kind and compassionate and they treat their residents with care and respect.

But rules are rules. I understand these things. We always knew that this train was coming. I just didn't expect it to come down the track at Christmas.

My cousin says that this is the part of adult life nobody taught us how to do. So I have been soliciting advice from folks on just how to break it to her. I haven't exactly worked it out in my head yet but I know what I'm not going to do.

About the worst story I ever heard was about somebody's Uncle and how he handled it with his Mother when her time came. Rather than tell her the truth, the cowardly bastard told his Mother that they were going for a ride. They were going for a ride alright. He was taking her to the nursing home. When she realized what was up, the poor woman was so shocked that she was rendered speechless. I am told that she never uttered another word the rest of her life.

I have been told that interpersonal communication is not exactly my strong suit. I can do better than the story I just related though. I got that going for me.

People have asked me how I think Mom will handle the news. I honestly have no idea. She has Parkinson's and Parkinson's related dementia. Mother is competent in the strictly legal sense in that she knows who she is, she knows who her people are and she has a vague idea of where she is. Competency is a pretty low bar but she is competent.

She hardly ever leaves her room anymore, even for meals. She has no interest in socializing with others. She is a dark star. To a person of such attenuated interests it may not matter where she lives. A room is a room. Bob seems to think she will be OK with it. He's a psych nurse who works with geriatric types. I trust his opinion. But who knows what will happen tomorrow? Or the next day?

In any event, they didn't give us much time to get this done. So, after a couple of weeks of touring nursing homes-and boy was that fun- we got her into one that is only about a quarter mile from where she is currently living. It is a fairly modern facility in an upscale neighborhood across from Conway Country Club. It is a more institutional version of where she currently lives. She will have her own room. They will look in on her every 2 hours. She will be offered snacks twice a day. They will bathe her, feed her, read her mail to her if need be and basically take over her day to day living. And they aren't charging a stick-up price unlike some of these joints I have toured. This place ain't cheap but it's pretty much what I've been paying now on a monthly basis with the extra "in-home" care. So we can swing this.

Still. Putting a parent in the nursing home is one of those markers that you would just as soon not face up to. Because while this event forces you to consider your parent's mortality, it also forces you to consider your own. In the fullness of time, in the blink of an eye, someone-a brother, the family lawyer, the doctor, a nephew, my Godson or Goddaughter- whoever it is who is in charge of taking care of irascable old me, will be telling me that it is my time as well.

And I won't be able to skate away on that day either. Just like I won't be able to tomorrow.

Duty calls. I am her oldest son. I am the person in whom she has vested legal responsibility to make decisions about her. It is my job to deliver this news a week before Christmas.

Jesus Christ. I wish I had a river I could skate away on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I tried commenting on the new & improved strangepup, but some error won't let me...

I'm not speechless (wordless...) often, but this piece is so heartbreaking, I can't find the way to express how I feel.

The song keeps floating around in my head, for one thing. And for another, I'm watching my own mom give up the good fight after moving out of her home of 53 years & into a retirement apartment. The eyes don't mean to, but they accuse.

If there's some Master plan in all this, it sucks.

Your writing here is equal parts fact, understatement, and agony.

--Marikay - Alabama address, Arkansas heart