No sun shadows are happening here today. We haven’t had any winter, so I reckon we can’t have more. That is not to say there are no shadows. Like Bill Murray, I have felt myself pulled into a time loop the past couple weeks.
The day after I returned from my life-renewing time on Whidbey Island, relaxed and ready to be more mindful, Mama and her caregiver had an altercation. Mama “invited” her to leave employment, and she accepted.
Back to square one, when we had to persuade Mama two years ago that a regular caregiver a few hours a week was necessary; that I had come to live with her so she could stay in her home, but not to “work” for her. I have kept my boundaries, but my vision of a partnership between us, as I accompany her on this journey, has not come to fruition. I was about to find out why.
The first caregiver we hired lasted only a few weeks, mostly because Mama hadn’t chosen her, her daughters did. Fortunately, her choice became available; but she fell from grace long ago, and Mama threatened—for my ears only—to fire her many times. I suspect it was mutual; but they both went on. Mama said M arrived that day in a bad frame of mind. Maybe she did. But Mama has been in a bad frame of mind about the arrangement for more than a year, and was waiting for an excuse. That day the rubber hit the road, and all the threats were made good.
I was calm and determined to remain so when I returned from my café-writing/yoga day in Olympia, hours after receiving M’s phone call. I waited for Mama to bring it up. I listened mindfully throughout the elaborate and incongruous storytelling of why she no longer had a caregiver, a recounting that differed somewhat from M’s. When I engage in her dementia, what I mean to be conversation always ends with nothing resolved and both of us feeling like shit. This time when she finished, I simply said, “The bottom line is, you are without a caregiver.” I counted my resistance to pointing out the inconsistencies in her story a pre-Groundhog Day victory.
Her response: “I guess that’s what you’re here for, Gretchen. I pay your room and board, and your utilities. Could you afford that if you weren’t living with me?”
The statement churned up the bottom of the sea: the move back to my childhood home to live with my mother, dropping me into being the child again; leaving my independence, my community, and yes, my self-sufficiency; my loneliness; the struggle to feel like an adult; her lack of recognition for what I do for her; my terror of the future as I spend these years without retirement benefits. I don’t think I realized she thought she was doing me the favor, or that she considered room and board adequate compensation for upending my life. It was, I realized, why this can’t be a partnership for her: she is the mother, and she has a responsibility to take care of her child. She is not able to let it be okay that she is the one who needs care now.
I didn’t crack. I only reiterated my boundaries: that I was here to make it possible for her to stay in the house, and I would not be doing what her caregiver had been doing. And I reminded her that I had stayed, so far, 18 months longer than my initial plan. It was my one “slip up”; an attempt to let her know I was here by choice, not necessity. I saved my rage and my tears for the privacy of my solitude. And I made an appointment with the geriatric social worker/therapist I haven’t seen in a while.
We are trying out a new caregiver. She had a three-day honeymoon before she fell short of Mama’s standards (she couldn’t find the pea soup recipe, didn’t know how to use the VitaMix, and they didn’t get all the errands done). There’s another one waiting for trial in the wings. The choice will be Mama’s, and it may take a while; and no one will please her. She is powerless to step out of the loop Bill Murray found himself in. I am not, which may lead to some changes for all of us.
🙊 🙊 🙊
PS: To cheer myself up, I changed my blog look. Hope you like it.