Maybe it’s having come back from five months in New York, a time that gave me an extended break from caring for my mother, that has her so much on my mind.
I’d been back for a short visit in late March, and taken her for a checkup with her neurologist–about an hour drive each way to Indianapolis and back from the facility in Lafayette. When I got back to New York, one night I cried and cried. Felt like I’d abandoned her. Felt like a failure that I couldn’t fix things or make her happy.
When any of us (me, one of my kids, my ex-wife) visit, Mom talks almost obsessively about wanting to move in with, or near, one of us. “I want to be with the family. I want to be with the Edbergs.”
Well, who wouldn’t rather live with family than in an assisted living facility? (OK, I know most college-aged people are happy to be living in the assisted-living facilities that are college residences and dining halls, rather than with their parents. But at a certain point you’d rather live with family than alone.)
“We don’t live together, Mom,” I explain. “Allison lives in once city, I live over an hour away, Pete is moving to China, and Kullan lives in New York. When there are a bunch of us together, like today, it’s a special occasion.”
She doesn’t understand. We try different things. Deflect and change the subject. Lie and say we’re looking at places. Say her piano won’t fit in any of our houses (true). What we don’t do is say is, “Mom, you have Alzheimer’s Disease and can’t take of yourself and you can’t live with us.” If she had a broken leg, she’d understand. Telling her her memory doesn’t work and she might wander off and we can’t afford to have someone be with her all day and any of us would go crazy ourselves living with her . . . I can’t do that, and she wouldn’t believe it anyway.
We went to dinner Saturday night, then to Wal-Mart to get her a few things. The young women at the jewelery counter couldn’t get the back of Mom’s Timex off to change the battery, so we bought a new watch. Six or seven minutes later, in the car, I asked her about the watch. “It’s lovely,” she said. “It’s seven-twoey,” she announced. The little hand on the seven, the big hand on the two–what the rest of us would call 7:10 or ten after seven.
“How long have you had that watch?” I asked her.
I don’t like testing her, playing with her, but I was really curious. She’d been so proud of the watch now in my pocket, to take to a jeweler to fix. And then quite excited about this new one that she picked out.
“Oh,” she replied without having to think about it, “since I was about twelve. I’ve had it my whole life!”
Inside, part of me wants to scream. “MOM, WE JUST BOUGHT THAT FUCKING WATCH FIVE MINUTES AGO!”
Laugh? Cry? I just smiled and said, “Oh, I didn’t know that.”
It’s hard, but I’m used to it now, and pretty accepting. Something inside me feels like it dies a little, when these things happen, but it doesn’t hurt so much I can’t be around it.
I love her. I like being with her.
And then, “When do you think I can move near Allison? I just need my clothes, my piano, and my music and I’m all ready to go!”
“Well, Mom, your piano won’t fit in Allison’s house.”
“Well, then just a little place near her.”
“Well, there aren’t any places for sale near Allison. But we’ll keep looking.”
“I want to live with all the Edbergs!”
“I understand Mom, but we don’t live together. I live in another city. Not near Allison. Over an hour away. And Pete’s moving to China. . . .”
And we go around in that circle every five minutes, sometimes more often.
I went to hear a late show at a bar that night, and stayed over at Allison and her boyfriend’s house.
The next morning, I wanted to go visit Mom again. But I just couldn’t take another session of dealing with her incessant pleas to move. So I went home. And got nothing done.
I want to spend time with her, and I don’t. I can only last so long, go only so often. I go as often as I can take it. Does something shut down in me when I don’t? Does something shut down in me when I do?
So I’m writing about it. I’m seeing a therapist. I’ll find a support group.
I used to look forward to being an adult. To not having my parents controlling me.
Ha! The joke is on me.