“Everything is about you!” she screamed. “You, you, you,” she screeched, slapping me. “I never get anything. You never do anything for me. Outside – look! Nothing’s done!”
The time was 10:47 am, Wednesday, March 2, 2022.
This was the moment that I broke. It has been almost three years since I’ve been her caretaker. The grieving period was sad, but also comforting, a shared experience as we both grieved, and missed, Dad so terribly. I could manage her memory loss with patience. But now. I just stared at her, and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t respond with compassion. This was the mother I knew. I was silent, tears running down my cheeks.
“You are so dumb!” she yelled.
I realized I was holding my breath, so I stood up and walked to the kitchen. I turned the faucet on at full blast and sobbed as quietly as possible.
Her caretaker had called out sick. I just had to make it til 12:45 pm and then I could take her to adult day care. Two hours might have well have been a lifetime.
Kelly answered the phone. “May I please bring her in early? Please?” I was trying to be professional, trying to choke back the sobs. She asked me if I was okay. I heard myself whimper, “I need help. Please.”
I drove Mom to adult day care, and as we walked in, she snarled, “Oh, you’re just dumping me?” As calmly as possible, I responded, “You asked to come to work early today, Mom. That’s why we’re here.” She nodded and walked off.
At pickup time, I walked in and found her sitting beside Kelly, arms crossed, and mouth set in a hard frown. This couldn’t be good.
“Hey, Mom! How’s it going?” I asked, trying to normalize the oh so not normal situation. “They don’t understand! They’re so stupid! My husband is dying!” and she started crying. Kelly gave me the most compassionate look as she said, “She’s had a hard day.” “I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
See, I know the wrath that Mom can unleash. It took me years of therapy to work through it. There is no amount of money that would compensate being on the receiving end of that treatment. Kelly assured me it was okay and pleaded for me to take care of myself.
At dinner she pontificated. “I KNOW what I have to do. They’re so stupid! They tried to… Ugh. I told them LEAVE ME ALONE. And they just pointed. I told them if they did it again I’d cut their heads off.”
Normally I just nod along and agree with whatever Mom is saying. Today I couldn’t. I just stared, and I felt hot tears streaming down my cheeks.
She could barely walk. The sleeping pill was taking effect. I tucked her into bed and told her I’d see her in the morning. “Unless I die.” I told her I hoped she didn’t die, because I’d like to spend another day with her.
I returned downstairs to finish up some work. I heard her get out of bed and stumble towards the staircase. I flicked on the lights and told her she needed to go to bed. “YOU ARE SO DUMB! GOD!” I wondered if I would be able to carry her up the stairs if she fell asleep in a chair or on the couch. I don’t think I could. She stumbled into the kitchen, and I returned to my office.
After much too long of a silence, I walked into the kitchen, and found her trying to pour hot tea from the electric kettle into the cookie jar. I took the electric kettle from her and she screamed. I screamed, too. A very loud, very shrill, “GAH!” Will the neighbors hear? I honestly don’t care.
She sat down in a chair in the living room, knees curled up under her nightgown, staring into space. I let her be. Half an hour later, she wandered into my office. “Can I tell you?” “Yes, Mom.” “The children. The boys, the girls. I wanted them to be okay. I’m going upstairs now.”
For the first time since she moved in with me, I wonder:
- Is this really the best situation?
- Is she safe here?
- What if I had been asleep when she tried to descend the stairs in the dark?
- How much longer can I do this?
And I do. not. know.