Don’t Discount Childhood Baggage-Pack Carefully Thursday, Feb 1 2018 

Back in the days when the Hubs and I were assisting his Mother, I discounted the impact of having spent one’s childhood with the person you are assisting being your ‘authority figure’. While everyone has different types of childhoods, rarely does a child come through their childhood without some emotional baggage that carries over into their playing adult. The Hubs didn’t have much childhood baggage with his Mother (another story with his father, for another time), so we didn’t bump up against many historical emotional issues between him and his Mother while caring for her.   Since she was not my Mother, I carried even less emotional baggage into the situation, as my relationship issues with her started after I was an adult. (Let’s not pretend that all humans have perfect relationships with their parents or mother in law, shall we?) Don’t misunderstand, there was plenty of emotion, but it wasn’t tied to the four year old that resides within us.   You know that child. It’s the flare of anger or other emotion you feel at a basic level when triggered and your adult responses just aren’t available to that inner child.

My relationship with my Mom growing up was rockier than the Hubs with his Mother. While Mom had the best intentions of not allowing her upbringing to impact how she raised me and my brothers, it crept in. I was an only child for 5 years, so I got the brunt of the learning curve.   Before her illness was firmly in place, Mom often referred to me as her practice child and the joke was she improved her parenting skills with my younger brothers. The result of this situation, as my youngest brother and I have discussed, is that I was raised with a different set of the same parents than my brothers were.   And this created for me some emotional baggage that I carry around with me. Like a little emotional suitcase.

This suitcase is not in the forefront of my life and many of the things that I unpacked and allowed myself to react to as a younger person no longer have impact. I was able to let them go.   At times, I even thought I had lost the suitcase. I was wrong. I am finding out, as my Mom progresses down the dementia path and Dad becomes more physically and mentally disabled, that remnants of that childhood suitcase, now pretty tattered, remain deep within me. I feel its weight these days, as I am opening it more often than I should when dealing with my parents. Funny how that happens.

My parents are in their 80’s, live in their home and are basically home bound. It takes a creative balance and effort to keep their household running, their appointments kept, and their medications on schedule. Although I am the primary handler, and the first on the call list, I’ve started enlisting the help of my brothers and the Hubs. I cannot physically do all that is needed to assist my parents. I work a full time job, and live the farthest away from my parents. I’ve also discovered, that emotionally, I cannot always deal with them, as their actions or needs open my suitcase.   The Hubs has stated I am showing increased signs stress which probably adds new levels of packing in my emotional suitcase.

I wonder what baggage my kids carry around, and if they will unpack it when I need help in my old age. I wonder if I will ever be able to discard the suitcase I am shifting back and forth in my grip as I walk this path. I wonder why, when I created this suitcase, I didn’t put rollers on it, so it would be effortlessly dragged behind me or shoved aside.

I wonder what tomorrow holds.

Wake Up Call Sunday, Aug 21 2011 

We made the drive to visit with my brother in law and his family and discuss how we could assist with all the things that need to happen as part of his financial needs and physical needs.  It was not a fun trip, and my stress level, even after returning home late last night remains at DEFCON 5.

If you smoke, stop.  If you have a loved one or friend that smokes, ask them (nicely) to stop.  Time to repair the damage is needed.  For my brother in law, there is no time.

Some families pull together in crisis, some do not.  Some try but are not successful.  The jury is out on how this family will be able to handle the downward pressure being applied to it. The baggage of the past interferes with the present, and adults frozen in immaturity by real or imagined slights react to pressure in unpredictable, unproductive and inappropriate ways.  In the midst of this chaos, a man tries to come to grips with the fact that his life will soon be over.  His regrets are plain to see and play out in the dysfunction that surrounds him.  It is heartbreaking.

Drama, Drama, Drama Aging Parents Saturday, Apr 10 2010 

I have several excuses for why I have not written ‘blogged’ in a while.  Not that anyone cares.  I happen to be suffering from a bad case of spring pollen fever right now and don’t feel well, so my whining might show up in my blog tone.  My best excuse is a computer versus that wiped out my system, or should I say the cure caused me to have to wipe out my system, and I am slowly reinstalling things I had backed up.  Always back things up!

Next-At the beginning of February, on a Friday evening, as I was heading to dinner with friends, I received a call from my mother saying that my father was being admitted to the hospital for observation.  It wasn’t any big deal, but it would be good if I could come over and help her out.  She was vague on what ‘help’ she wanted and the overall tone along with the vagueness of her request was strange.

You might be thinking, but of course a daughter would drop what she was doing and run to the hospital when a situation like this pops up..but of course.  The background of the situation is much more complicated and suffice it to say that both of my brothers and I have parent issues that wouldn’t necessarily lead to that automatic occurence.  I think it is safe to say that overall neither of my siblings or I are ‘close’ to our parents.  But I digress.

Regardless, when Mom called and asked, I stated I’d come and I did.  I called my husband, the famous S of the Belle story included on this blog, and told him to go on to dinner without me. When I arrived at the hospital it was immediately apparent the situation was chaos.  My almost 75 year old father was in distress, vomiting, dizzy, amount other things, and my mother was not able to provide some of the simplest information the doctors needed regarding his medical history which is long and complicated and which she knows, quite well.  If there is one things my brothers and I agree on is that our mother can go on forever regarding the smallest detail of anything slightly medical, to the point that all of us stop listening the second she starts it up. However, this time, when I asked (which all by itself should have been a clue) about details regarding how this situation had come to pass, she was vague and distracted.

Over the course of the next 5 days, while my fathers condition worsened, was diagnosed, and then treated, I took control, as my Mother displayed all the signs I have feared  and have witnessed before.  Her short-term memory is failing.  I’ve guess I’ve known it, the small signs have been there all along but I guess I just didn’t want to belive it could happen. (again) But it is.

During the last several years Mom has become almost a hermit in the house.  She only leaves when she has too, and that is rare.  Doctor appointments, things like that.  Dad is the outside world, does the shopping, runs the errands.  With his new diagnosis, he cannot do that anymore.  He has seizures and is on mediation.  So now ‘their’ independence  is threatened.  And it gets better.

After all the hell we went through, Dad, with help from Mom has decided that he doesn’t need the new medication, and when going to the follow-up doctor, who had never seen him before and did not have his medical records, didn’t exactly tell him the truth about the circumstances surrounding the hospital diagnosis.  I was supposed to go to the appointment with them, but they changed it and went without me.  Then omitted the information.  The doctor wont talk to me until Dad gives permission.  Mom doesn’t recall all (or should I say any) of the details of the appointments and Dad only hears what he wants to hear.

I want to scream. I’ve discussed the situation with my brothers, via email, believe it or not.  And based on the way we are, that is probably best.

So after two months, here I am, waiting for my father to give his doctor permission for me to speak with the doctor about him.  I Have spoken with my mother about possible testing for her, pointing out some changes I’ve seen, giving examples, of why I think she should be tested for memory loss.  And here I sit wondering if my whole adult life is going to be swallowed up by caring for an elderly parent.  We took care of Belle for years and now, are we moving into a new phase with my parents?

Can I do this again? I really don’t know.