I felt like I was losing my mind a little. I was functioning, sure. I got up every morning, helped my mom get out of bed and ready. We had breakfast together, sort of, which was mostly me trying to feed her while rushing around to find everything I’d need for the day. I put things away, she moves them. The doctor says it keeps her busy, but the doctor knows where his keys are. Now I keep my keys and wallet on my person at all times.
I drop mom off at adult daycare. I go to work. Eat at my desk most days while on hold with some insurance company, doctors office, some other of the endless phone errands that my mom has. Plus my own.
I leave at 5 on the dot to run errands before I have to pick mom up. She may not know what time it is, but the workers do, and they do not appreciate that my lunch hour is not enough time to do all the things that need to be done. Then the rest of the night is me trying to do what needs to be done while keeping her amused and out of trouble.
I am thankful that there is no judgement about allowing your elderly mother to watch hours of mindless television like there is judgement for letting children watch television. Of course, parents are social creatures. There are play dates for children, mommy and me events at the library, school functions. We all have parents, or most of us do, but we each suffer alone with eldercare. There is no joking about it over glasses of white wine at an 84 year old’s birthday party like there are at the birthday parties of 4 year olds.
I knew it was too much for me when I started blurting things out. A cashier would ask how I was doing and I would sigh melodramatically and blurt out something sad and too private. Coworkers would ask about my mom while we waited for the microwave or the copier and I would find myself spilling out a five minute monologue on the inane suffering details of my life.
Months of boredom and frustration with no promise of an end besides death does not make for good casual small talk.
But I needed those five or ten minutes — or 30 seconds — of conversation like I needed nothing else in my life. I needed people to keep me from losing my mind and turning into some weird hermit. To keep me enough of a person so I could keep going every day and keep my job. I needed to do something so I could chit chat and enjoy a few moments of normal life, instead of saying something that would just alienate myself more and leave me feeling embarrassed.
I knew this for a long time before I figured out the solution.
I finally came across an old, unused journal while I was looking for something my mother had ‘put away.’ And I cracked it open and started writing. I couldn’t stop writing. I had so much inside of me, it was all boiling over and leaking out. There were all of these moments and all the emotions they brought up, waiting for me to let them out and untangle them. There are so many hopes and fears and weird, uncomfortable emotions inside me.
Best of all, I discovered that my mother will not interrupt me constantly if I’m writing. Usually if I dare to sit down she berates me and gives me something to do. She cannot remember that I have been working all day and have just made her dinner and cleaned the bathroom and bathed her. She simply sees me sitting. Those five minutes are the only five minutes that exist to her. If I don’t heed her demands, she’ll sometimes manufacture an emergency. So I stand. I keep moving. I don’t know any peace.
But if I’m sitting at the table going over bills, she’ll leave me be. Writing is the same way. For whatever reason, she’ll leave me be, content that I’m doing school work, even though she won’t allow me to sit and read.
This is how I know peace. Writing. Letting it all out and enjoying 15 minutes or an hour of life being normal.
Now when coworkers chat at the coffee machine we have a normal conversation. And it’s a highlight of my day, every day.