For more than five years, I watched my best friend care for her disabled mother. She worked full-time while bathing, cooking and cleaning. She essentially had the responsibilities of a single-mother to a toddler. Now, her mother has returned to her native home, where she has comprehensive care. In her 40 years here, she never made enough to afford medical or disability insurance.
Three years ago, my mother spent 14 days in the hospital. At the time, I could have counted the number of times I'd been to a hospital on one a hand with significantly fewer fingers than my own. I honestly thought I might lose her and made one of the hardest decision I have ever made up until this point: to admit her against her will to the hospital. She did, however, get a lot better, and things have been good.
Until this fall. My mother has been requiring more and more help. Things seemed better for awhile, but now they seem to be backsliding. The honest truth is, I wish my mother would go to the hospital. For reasons I won't get into here, this is not a thing said in my family. Not to mention, my parent's just finished paying off the hospital bill from three years ago. Both being self-employed and 60+, they just got health insurance through the ACA. However, in order for the insurance to be at all affordable, the deductables are still sky-high.
I love my parents. I am an only child, so I'm extremely close with them. Despite working full-time, being married, having a full social calendar and being active at my church, I routinely spend three days a week with my parents. I help out however I can, running errands or housework, mostly. But I must admit, I reached the last straw.
It's the finish line of the Friday before Christmas. I'm at the mall with my husband, trying to wrap up some loose ends, then get home to watch a movie together before he has to go to bed before he gets up at an ungodly hour in the morning. I get a call from my mother stating she needed me to pick up two things. Things she needs now. I agree, but state that it will likely be awhile. Seeing as she doesn't say much else and the store is loud and I'm next in line for the cashier, I tell her I'll call her back. I now have to tell my husband that we have to rearrange our plans to accommodate my mother. Again. Seeing as this is a regular occurrence, he is less than thrilled.
It's true, I didn't call my mother back. Mostly because I didn't want more guilt. When I finally get to my parents house to deliver the goods, I don't even cross the threshold of my parents home before my mother, unshowered for days and in her bathrobe, starts yelling about how I only brought two of the five things she asked for. I reply loudly that she only called me two hours previously and that she only asked for two things. She replies back even louder that I was supposed to call her back. My dad interjects and says it's fine, he'll take care of the rest.
I turn around and run back to the car. I'm so angry I can't even speak. This last minute errand running has become rather normal. It's also become rather normal, upon my usual Monday night arrival, for my mother to say, "oh good, you're here. Here's a list for tonight." Like I'm the cleaning service, not her daughter. No hello, how are you, I'm glad to see you, just here's the list.
I realize my mother needs some help right now. But I object to the assumption that it must always be me. My father is willing and able-bodied. He just doesn't do it they way she wants it.
My mother called my five times the following day. They were mostly about when I would be bringing the rest of the things she had asked for.
We then had our regular Christmas with my dad's side of the family, which of course my parent's attended. My cousin has a 16 month old. My mom broke down into sobs while she read him a book, perched on her lap.
I hate feeling like this. I think this is the exact opposite of Christmas spirit. But I also think that it's wrong to place such a burden on your loved ones. Especially when you could go to the hospital and be fixed.
I did tell my mother that I am still very angry. That I am sorry she is having so much trouble, but that it's hard for me too. That I'm happy to help out, but that doesn't give her the right to ride roughshod all over my own plans and agenda. I have just enough time to finish Christmas for me. I don't have time to finish her's too. I am sorry. I am doing the very best that I can. But there is a limit and I have reached it. I told her that if what I am doing isn't good enough, she should find someone else. I have no idea who that would be. Since then, it's been total radio silence.
The mother of my best friend also happens to be my mother's best-friend. She saw first hand how hard it was on everyone around her. She agreed when I told her that as I much as I love her, I would never be able to care for her like my friend cared for her mother. My mother agreed, and said she would never expect me to.
Day by day, she is slowly turning into her best-friend. But this is her home country. There's nowhere for her to go.
I think it's likely that my husband and I will spend Christmas alone. And I will likely cry a lot if that happens. As an only-child, I always new that it would be extremely hard when I lost my parents. I just never expected it to happen like this.
The one big take away, however, that I am using to propel forward; I want to finally learn how to manage my weight. Even if we ever resolve this, I think it's very likely my eventual kids may never really know their grandparents. For many reasons, I don't plan on having kids soon, maybe ever. But if I do, I want them to have me for as long as possible. I also want to stop hating pictures of myself. I literally do not have a single picture I like of myself in the five years since I got married. How much longer am I going to wait? The days are long, but the years are short. It's not about the number on the tag in my clothes, or about what people from high school think when I run into them. It's about being comfortable every day, fitting comfortably in roller coaster seats, and not sitting on the beach fully dressed while my kids swim.
Sometimes too I think that the circle of life is backwards. We don't ever really know what it's like to be a parent, if ever, until it's too late to make it easier on our parents. What they go through, what they give up. I've never been one to feel that kids "owe" it to their parents. I do believe that they should respect their parents, and care about them, but that the burden mustn't necessarily fall to the kids by default. I thought my mother thought that too. I would've bet money.
I hate this feeling. I hate it. I hate it. And the worst is, no matter how this story ends, the conversation we had will ensure that this feeling never, ever goes away.
For the first time ever, I decided to order postage stamps online because $1.25 shipping seemed like a good deal compared to waiting in line at the post office. Now, my Christmas cards are written, addressed and sealed. Now I'm just waiting for the stamps to come by mail, so that the cards can be mailed. The irony is not lost on me.