I want to thank everybody again for prayers, good thoughts, energy sent across the county and the Pond for my mother, who continues-much too slowly for all of us-to recover. Her personality is there-stubborn, complaining, but wanting to do stuff for herself until she tires. And her sense of humor is intact. She will catch up, I think, to her old self eventually. Thank all Holy Deities, male and female, and all else the is out there for healing.
She has always seen herself as "not much more than a housewife" and as not doing so great with her kids. Luke and I gave her problems in our teens, and she has been worried a lot about Catherine more recently. And to be blunt, it was not a happy home to grow up in, nor a happy marriage for many years (though after 59 years they have worked out a way of living together, with no intimacy of any sort, but acceptable companionship). But I see her a a woman as strong as an ox, an amazing example.
In the last 4 years she has survived cancer, radiation, chemo, obstructed bowel(twice!)-both of which nearly killed her, and now this fall and brain surgery. All this with her personality and odd sense of humor intact. So what if she's still confused about where she is at times, and looks like she went 10 rounds with Mohammed Ali in his prime. She is quite incredible, and is obviously where I got what ever it is that keeps me crawling back from depression, abandonment, and ten surgeries in fourteen years!
She even called this morning with a request for a sweater, books, a pad and pencil, and a hearing aide battery. Considering one eye is so swollen shut the doctor cannot pry it open, and the other is a barely a slit, and wearing her hearing aide on her swollen left side-just under her surgical scar-is painful, I'd say she is plugging along quite well, all things considered. She's my hero.
Of course, now that the crisis has abated a bit, family dynamics has raised its ugly head. Both Luke and my father want control of her medical situation- a repeat of two years ago which climaxed in a shouting match in her hospital room. The doctor sided with my father, after which Luke stayed away for over six months (and remember, he's the one who lives out here) I don't care who controls her medical info, I just want to make sure no errors are made in her medical care-which I have painfully come to see as wanting a kind of control myself.
Where I need to be is willing to help where ever I can, even though she tells me she does not want Mary and Luke to visit at all, and Allison (my dad) only for an hour or so a day. And when she begs me to stay with her, to tell them that, I have to tell her gently that I cannot do that-they love her, too, and are worried and want to be with her. She hurrumphs, and calls me a disobedient daughter, then smiles a bit. When they are there she keeps urging then to go, and I bite my tongue to say nothing-because they do love her and want to see her as much as I do. She has never told me to leave, and I think it's because I have a nurses aide background (two or three lifetimes ago) and am used to dealing with most anything (except my family) due to my HIV testing and counseling background, working in prison. I can anticipate her needs and advocate. gently, to her nurses.
Last night we were all there when my father and I had a big go around. Apparently he felt I was not moving away from her fast enough when she needed to sleep (my suggestion in the first place). I was murmuring to her about taking slow deep breaths and relaxing, and was completely surprised when he jumped up, marched across the room and hit me-hard-on the shoulder, ordering me away from her. I moved away all right, enraged, right over to him. I had completely lost it. "You will never hit me again, " I hissed at him. He leapt up balling his fist, obviously afraid I would hit him back. I would never do so, and the fact that he was afraid of me tells me how little he knows me. "You will never hit me again, I said loudly. He refused, just as loudly, to go into the hall so I could tell him why I had lingered for no more that 30 extra seconds at her side (She and I had worked out a way that I helped her relax into sleep, a 30 second relaxation technique, that she liked) and I was so furious I found myself wanting to hit him back out of sheer frustration. My brother helpfully chimed in that I should have moved sooner, and this was not to place to argue it out. Flames to the fire. I wanted to slug him hard enough to knock him out (something I learned, by the way, in boot camp before I worked at the prison, and wasn't half bad at).
Instead, of course, I took several deep breaths and moved my walker to the far side of the room, where I sat flashing on the three times I saw him hit her, and the time he pushed her so hard that she cracked her ribs so badly she spent a week in the hospital, something Mom told me about quite graphically later. And the number of times I'd been hit, too.
On the other side of the room he was yelling at me that it was my fault she fell (she had insisted on giving me her bedroom and was sleeping on an expensive blowup bed in the living room when she fell on her way to the bathroom) and I was to get o ut right nowand be on the next fight out of Denver because I was not welcome in his house.
I took several slow deep breaths and looked across at this frail old man with emphysema, so totally unable to do anything with his anger that he had to hit and threaten and could not even look me in the eye, or consent to go into the hall so I could explain why I had not moved away from his wife in his time frame. I struggled, somewhat successfully, to let go of the anger, to see his fear at her illness and his feeling of loss of control, and his lifelong unwillingness and inability to deal with feelings, happy or angry or sad. For whom intimidation, withdrawal into his own head, and occasionally hitting, literally and figuratively, was the only way he has to express what he feels, and I felt unbelievably sad for him.
I said, quietly, but so that he could hear me, that I was not going home on the next plane, that Mom had invited me to stay, and I would, and he must never hit me again. He did not respond, though I knew he heard me. At that point Mary, the eternally chipper one, chimed in that we were all invited to her brother and sister-in-law's for dinner, and she would not take no for an answer, so we kissed Mom good night, one by one and put on our happy family faces as we trooped off to Scott and Glenda's for a very nice dinner, most of which I could not eat. Dad and I had separate cars (remember, I will not drive with him) and came home and went to bed without speaking.
This morning, as he was leaving for the hospital, I said we had to talk. As he looked away, I calmly and quietly apologized for my anger and ill behavior the night before, explained what I had been doing with Mom-something we has worked out together before the surgery while he was not there (he left at 2:00PM the day of the fall, and did not return until I called at 8:00 PM to tell him about the surgery. He was already in bed at the time) and that I needed him to know he was never to hit me again. He kept looking away, silent, until I told him I needed to hear it from him, and -finally- he muttered that he would never hit me again. And I could let go of a good big knot of my anger, finally. But not all of it, of course.
Reading this makes him look like a constant abuser, and he wasn't. It usually happened when he'd had too much to drink, and (I believe) the abuse tapered off as we left home, and he began to drink much less. I do not know this for sure, and of course, we did not call it abuse 25 or 30 years ago. Mom truly believes that she provoked him, and, though we have talked about abuse as adults, she still only half believes that how ever she provoked him, hitting her was abusive. She has told me he hasn't touched her in over 20 years, and it's all in the past, when we didn't know about abuse anyway, and it is a subject I am not to bring up in front of him, ever. I will respect her request, but smolder because it is just one more secret we keep as a family full of secrets and disconnection.
I do really feel badly for both of them, caught in a dance of 59 years, unable to do much more than hold on, each wishing for a life the other cannot give. And I know I can give him nothing, and my mother only my occasional presence and laughter and maybe-someday-before she dies, onelast trip to Taos.
Now I am off to the hospital for my shift, and will stay in a waiting room during the 2 hour rest period, while Dad comes home to rest, and we'll all be there until Luke and Mary arrive, after a day of skiing. Then back here, to our bedrooms, and again tomorrow, when I have the early shift...
And I just hope to Goddess she continues to return to us, to heal from the fall, and we can all help her in some small was, despite out very different out looks.
Blessings-and I need them- Margo