Mom’s 80th Birthday

Oy vey. So I came down to North Carolina to attend a conference and to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. The conference was near Asheville, and, as it happens, my mother lives near Asheville (30 miles from the conference), so I drove down with Twenty-One-Year-Old, dropped her off with Mom, and I went off to my conference for a few days. Twenty-One-Year-Old gave me text message updates, and all seemed normal, but then I got to the house on Saturday afternoon. Oy vey. Did I say that already? Yeah, I think so. It’s worth repeating. Oy vey.

Mom was in bed and shaking. She said she’d been shaking for two days – but on Friday she’d just plain forgotten to take all of her medications. Hmm.. OK, but when she couldn’t walk two steps from the bed to come to dinner, and I touched her and she felt like a hot stove, I decided to take her temperature. And when the thermometer was still going up and she was already registering temperatures that could cook an egg, I figured it was time to call the ambulance. So that was fun.

Of course, Mom was insisting at first that she didn’t need to go to the hospital. We disabused her of that notion rather quickly. It helped that there were good-looking young men who showed up first. She flirts. A lot. Good-looking young men can still get Mom to do things that I have no hope of getting her to do. So off we went to the hospital. I do think she was a bit disappointed that the ambulance crew was a pair of women.

We spent all night in the ER. I’m really kind of over ERs, you know? I mean, I know I’ve worked in them. I just am, at this point, after that last month with Don, done with the whole, “Hi, it’s us, again!” thing. Nevertheless, there we were, and eventually, Mom got admitted.

Yesterday, Twenty-One-Year-Old and I went to church, and then to the hospital to see Mom. She was being her curmudgeonly self when we got there. Before even saying hello, she complained to me about the food. Nice to see you, too, Mom. But at least she was back to being herself. During the day. And that’s the thing. She’s doing a lot better during the day.

Mom is sun-downing. She’s been getting more and more confused lately. She doesn’t admit to this, and often doesn’t realize it. She’s very scared of dementia, because she remembers what her father was like. But being afraid of it won’t stop it – and she’s becoming almost exactly like her father. It’s worse in the evenings. She doesn’t know where she is. She doesn’t remember what she’s said 30 seconds after she’s said it. She doesn’t know what she has and hasn’t done. She can’t take care of herself – but she still insists that she can.

Today we discovered that she’d been lying to us all about what her primary care physician had been advising her to do for the last several years. My brother and I have been trying to get her out of her house (she lives alone atop a mountain in a remote area) and move in with one of us, or go to a retirement community. She has been insisting that she doesn’t need to, and that Dr. M. insists that she’s fine and doesn’t need to. Today, Dr. M. told me that he’s been trying to get her to go to assisted living for years.  Hmmm….

So today is Mom’s 80th birthday. We brought treats for the nurses, and a special cupcake for Mom. We brought her flowers and a card and a birthday gift (a teapot I bought for her in Hong Kong).  In her more lucid moments, she enjoyed the gifts and the visitors – and the chocolates that my brother sent to her. In her more confused moments she was angry and   almost combative.  Ah, joy.

This is not how I had envisioned spending Mom’s birthday. I figured we’d be having the conversation, yet again, about her living here alone, but I didn’t expect that it would be as urgent as it has become. I didn’t expect that it might end up in legal action. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but it might.

Everything seems to be not-the-way-it-should-be. Many things, anyway. We got back to Mom’s tonight to discover that Robin Williams had taken his own life today. My mother has always loved Robin Williams. It’s as if, today, my mother’s 80th birthday is the line in the sand. That part of life is over. Things will not be that way any more. No more Robin Williams. No more pretending that Mom can live on her own and take care of herself. Mom was really the only one pretending that, but now everyone can see the truth.

I don’t suppose Mom knows about Robin Williams yet, and if we tell her tomorrow, she won’t remember anyway. We’re just going to have to make decisions for her, because she’s not acting in her own best interest. Happy birthday.

These are difficult things. Mom has always been obstinate. She’s often made poor choices, she’s rarely thought ahead and rarely considered consequences. The difference is that now, the consequences are more dire. When she was 40, she could get away with more. I suppose that was true for Robin Williams, as well.

So my brother and I will do the best we can. I’ll offer, once again, to let Mom move in with me. I expect she’ll yell at me. Hurrah. But what else can I do? I hope that I’m not this much trouble to my own children.

That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.

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