Midnight Terror

These trials of error with my mother living “on her own” are proving my initial response to be the only course of action.

That past few days she’s missed her anti-psychotic pill. Either it gets caught in the crook of her finger and she misses it, or she’s deliberately not taking it. I don’t believe it is the second because she’s very good when given instruction. Regardless, it has brought back some of the hallucinations.

The woman we hired to intermittently care for my mother throughout the day informed me this morning that my mother told her that she awoke to a man standing in the room and a disembodied female voice telling her “he’s not supposed to be here.” This little episode holds true to a video I previously viewed last night.

After Jessica (the caretaker) spoke to me on the phone about the missed medications, I went back through the recordings to see if she had woken up at any odd hours, which indeed did happen. I noticed that she had awoken at a quarter to one, and when I viewed it I saw my mother panicked, rushing from the bathroom whispering “oh, god. Oh, god.” She hurriedly climbed into bed and wrapped the blanket around her. The video ends there. So I don’t know what else had occurred after until the next video showed my mother moving in her room at 3:30 that same morning. Upon reviewing those I just saw her organizing the things in her bedroom, which she tends to do during a manic episode.

There was only one video from last night where she awoke, again, around 3 A.M. In it she is standing at the edge of her bed looking around at what seems to be an unfamiliar place. There is panic etched into her ghostly white face. Again, the video stops recording before I see what she does next. However I can only conclude she got back into bed because the next video recording isn’t until 6 A.M.

All of this could be remedied by getting her into an assisted care facility. I haven’t broached that subject with her (even still) because she is adamant, without hearing the term “facility” or “home,” that she wants to be at her house. And I understand that. She wants familiarity during a time when she’s lost the man she spent 24/7 with while simultaneously navigating losing her identity. I want to give her what she wants but… At what cost? Either I pay an insane amount of money for her to share a room in an unfamiliar place, which would cause terror, or continue on this current path and have her terrified there.

Every day I curse “god” and life for laying this bullshit at my feet. I am caught between what should happen and what my mother wants. I want her to be happy, but in the end nothing seems to make her happy. The one thing I dread doing is moving the husband, the K-9 brood, and myself into the house. That I absolutely refuse to fucking do. I keep telling myself “I want to live in MY house,” but isn’t my mother saying the same thing?

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Hurricane Josh

I genuinely feel as if I am going insane. Last night I got into what I have now coined a “thought hurricane.” Everything I could be worried or concerned about started swirling into a category 5 storm in my head. It started out as panic to why my aunt hasn’t answered my two messages about my mom staying with her, to which spun in the possibility of my mother’s care taker trying to take advantage of her financially (although she has not given me any reason to believe so.) All of these thoughts swirled around so much that I was doubting everything that was real.

To add to the chaos (for whatever reason) I decided to shave off all the hair on my face and torso. (I left the hair below the waist, I am a lady after all.) What I can gather from that little episode is trying to take control of things in my life I otherwise do not feel I have any real grasp.

This morning the storm had somewhat subsided, but I got a text from my mother’s caretaker that she had left the gas on last night and when she came for her morning visit, to check on her, it reeked of it. It had been just slightly on all night. I had to take a trip to the house and tell her to not cook, to which she responded by giving me a shitty expression. She refuses to accept her new reality and is fighting against any effort I set forth.

I don’t want to put my mother into care because it’s not what she wants. And I respect that. But at what point do I stop listening to her and just do “what is right?”

This past Friday evening the husband and I took her to the ER. She has been complaining about bad stomach pains any time she eats. When I arrived to take her she was happy as a clam. She even rated her pain as a 1 to the attending nurse. (Shoot me.) The trip was almost a waste of time. It turns out she has a UTI and then I got further confirmation from the doctor and nurse when they said “she lives at home?” Even they were perplexed why she wasn’t in a facility.

All of this is my personal hell. I am left holding all the responsibility. And I am the one who ultimately has to make the choice when I cannot. I take too many voices into account and give equal weight to each. Which in the end just makes the scales even with no real conclusion.

Running Away

I really wish I could run away from my life. I would drop everything and disappear into nothing. I’d clean out what cash I have out of the bank, ditch my cell phone, and drive to a town I’ve never been to, as far away from “home” as possible. I’d change my name and be someone else entirely.

All of this is fun in theory but the moment I start to break it down logistically it’s almost impossible. And in the end I would ultimately miss my life, my family, and my friends. It’s just at moments where I feel so overwhelmed that it would be nice just to get a breath of fresh air away from the baggage and bullshit that consumes my every thought.

I have been described as a very cerebral person and they are not wrong in that assessment. I very much am, to my own detriment. I pick apart of every situation, word, choice and future as much as is humanly possible. Yet in doing so, I drive myself mad. I wish I could stop but nothing I do silences my inner monologue. (Podcasts or comedy albums sometimes help.)

What I find most confusing is there is nothing at this moment that is too overpowering; well at least today. This wanderlust just fell over my shoulders for no apparent reason other than it’s been awhile since I felt like garbage. So instead of leaving my life behind I’m going radio silent for awhile. I just want to be left alone.

Where Do the Details Go

There is something wrong with my mind. More precisely, my memory. I have been one who could recall names, places, faces, and facts without any trouble. It was like my mind was a rolodex and all I had to do was give it a spin and I would land on just the right information every time. Yet lately it seems likes these mundane facts have left me coming up empty.

The one that frightens me the most is facts and details of things I myself have created, yet cannot recall. For whatever reason I started recounting all of the different “lands” I’ve created while writing stories, and I could remember all except one. To this very minute I still cannot tell you what the name of it is, and for this particular series I fleshed out an entire thousand year history that culimanated into the events of my short story turned novel. At one time that was something I knew in intricate detail. Now I can’t even tell you where all of this fictional bullshit took place.

I am aware of how overdramatic I sound. This is not a real cause for concern. But dealing with my mother’s rapid slide into dementia, I have become hypser sensitive over the slightest change in my own memory recall. It leaves me asking am I too going to suffer from this disease? Or worse, is this something external that is not only fueling my mother’s memory loss but now having an affect on me?

I am sure the answer to this is a simple one. My sudden missing mental notes are due to either age or just overall stress. Lately I have come under a lot in regards to my dad’s sudden an unexpected death, and my mother’s mental collapse and unrelated health issues.  I’m sure (and hope) that once all of these things have calmed and my mind is at peace these details will return to me and I will be just as sharp with my mundane facts as I ever was.

Coming to you LIVE from the Living Room

The hardest thing to grapple with my mother’s illness is that the woman who currently resides in her body is very much not like the one who raised me. This one is more like a petulant child than anything else. She’s argumentative and obstinate, who will do the exact thing you tell her not to do. It’s irritating and upsetting.

Her “caretaker,” for lack of a better word, (babysitter is more apropos but I refuse) doesn’t start until this coming Monday. The plan was that she was going to come and stay with me until Thursday, but last night she flat out told me she wasn’t going to stay with me. So I countered by setting up camera’s in her house.

I must confess they are incredibly handy. I can see most areas of her home and what it is she is doing, which is constant shuffling. And if I so chose I could get alerts to ANY movement. However, as previously mentioned, she never sits down, so the only camera that sends me alerts is the doorbell. I want to know if she goes somewhere, especially since I told her “don’t leave the house.”

The husband and I have dubbed it “The Ginger Show” ala the movie “The Truman Show,” because we can see what she’s doing at all times. And goddamn is it fascinating. Just the mundane things she does, aren’t so mundane when you realize she is mopping the floor with a padless Swiffer. Or she is readjusting the chairs for the third time, even though they haven’t been moved since the last time she rearranged them. But in my mother’s mind she is more than capable to take of herself. In fact, she is completing every task she sets out to do. However she can’t tell you why she thinks that, but she can tell you why she doesn’t use the things she once used, like a telephone or a T.V. remote. I dub this kind of activity “raging against the dying of the light.”

I know she refuses to see herself as old or infirm.  She doesn’t even believe that she has Alzheimer’s. Whenever she talks about it, it’s always “what you say.” I want to immediately counter with “no, it’s what the doctors say.”

When I switch over to the “live view” of whatever room had the last bit of activity and I just take a moment to watch what she’s doing, I am overcome with this immense sadness. Here sits a woman who is quickly deteriorating mentally, who has no concept of what is happening to her and refuses to admit that she needs help. If I believed in any kind of god I would pray she realizes she can’t do this on her own, but there is no greater power in this universe. Maybe there is and like these Ring cameras he just enjoys watching this shit show. But unlike me, he gets off on the misery.

A Month in Review

It’s weird to think that my dad has been dead for a month now. It simultaneously feels like it’s been forever and then again no time at all. I miss him but at the same time I miss what he was for my mother, a caretaker.

My mother has Alzheimer’s. An aggressive bout of it, it would appear. Everyday it feels like she’s getting worse. Then again it could be because I am seeing all of it, in all of its cruel glory without filters.

I never truly understood how bad it was. My father would just tell me that it was getting worse but never elaborated to how or why he felt that way. Now I do.

For those keeping tally, I have bathed my mother 3 times and cleaned up her “accidents” just as much. She has so far accused my husband of bringing a woman home and fucking her in our bed and has also told us (on a separate occasion) that the power chords in her room were calling her ugly. However she also has accurately figured out who Josh is and what role he plays in my life. To that I say “clever girl” in the voice of Robert Muldoon from Jurassic Park, right before he’s devoured by a velociraptor.

My mother is adamant that she won’t be living with my husband and I. She wants to go home and me “live my life” and she “live hers.” I haven’t even broached the subject of assisted living by the advice of a woman who’s sole job is to place elders into care. That’s about the only thing I’ve listened to thus far.

I’m trying to please too many people in this situation when I have to think about what is ultimately the best choice of action. What that is I don’t know. Well, that’s a lie. A care facility would be best but when I look at the monthly cost, coupled with how much money she has and how little I make to supplement that it seems like a fools errand. Especially given that we don’t know how long she will live.

Getting old in America is genuinely a cruel joke. You work your whole life, scrimping and saving to leave your children something after you go, and instead it is bled dry by corporations who make money off of the infirm. All for the idea of safety, care, and security.

I am someone who couldn’t care less about what my mother could leave me. Her on the other hand is deeply concerned. She repeatedly tells me she wants me to have something upon her passing. Looking to the horizon that will be one other thing she won’t get.

But it’s for the best, considering her disease has already claimed one life and it wasn’t even hers.

A Son’s Eulogy to His Father

My dad always wanted to be a father. He never explicitly said that, but I could just gather it from the clues of his life.

When he was 16 he and his then girlfriend, Pam, became pregnant. The two wanted to get married but because they were so young their parents were required to give consent. Neither of which gave and the two didn’t see or speak to each other again for many years. My mother told me once that, that broke his heart.

To ease that pain my father tried to rescue a woman named Diane. She was already pregnant and my father stepped into the role of expecting dad and cared for the daughter she had. He would recount that he changed her diapers, fed her when she was hungry, and calmed her when she was fussy. She may not have been his blood but she was his is by name. And that was more than enough for him.

Then came me, when both these women were in their twenties. My parents told me repeatedly, but especially my pop, that I was wanted and planned. He joked that my mom talked him into it. “Can’t we have just one, just one little baby.” And clearly, we can see who won.

But like I said, my dad wanted to be a father.

Truthfully he was made for the role. In typical father caricature, He did like a beer or two, before he was sober. He liked to fish. He was a strong silent type, who peppered in random bits of wisdom, spoken in only short, clipped sentences. He never really was one to wax poetic about any topic. It was always precise response and right to the point.

My pop did have this uncanny ability of being right. He would tell me, after I told him how silly it was to get mad at traffic lights, “just you wait, Josh. You’ll see.” And by-god he was right. And I loved telling him how annoying it is that every light turned red in this town and they need to synchronize them.

He was truthfully, the most patient and strongest man I had ever met, and I am so happy I was able to tell him that before I couldn’t. He was my role model, and I strive to carry these very qualities.

Years before, He apologized to me once that he wasn’t a good father because he didn’t know what it was to be one. He didn’t have one when he was growing up. The only examples he did receive was an aloof, absent man who liked to drink. But him claiming that fault was/is not true. He knew what it was and what it took. And even to admit that, regardless of its validity, was someone with humility.

When I told my dad that I was gay, the very first thing he said to me, after an evening of processing this information silently, was that I was his son and he loved me no matter what.

My dad showed what it was to be a true man, with his kindness, his patience, his immense capacity for love, and admitting and owning his faults.

I tried to immortalize him in his obituary but of course, in true Josh fashion, I wasn’t concerned about double checking dates. So my dad hasn’t passed yet. That’ll be at the end of this month. So this man in this coffin is an imposter who stole my hat to complete the ruse.

He would have loved that joke. And I loved making him laugh.

One final story for those who aren’t friends with me on Facebook or have hidden me because of my incessant opinionated posts.

When I was getting the things for my father to wear for his final trip, I happened upon a tape, in a box filled with casettes, titled “dad and Joshua and mom.” I knew instantly what it was because I had found similar tapes when I was younger. My parents couldn’t afford a video camera, so my dad made due with his rad stereo and recorded audio of us just doing mundane things around the house. That night, before heading to the bar, I tasked my friend to make a trip to Target to buy a walk-man. Surprisingly and luckily, they still sell them. Once we got to the car we split the headphones and listened to the tape. On it was my 3-year-old self playing in a pool and my father talking to me. He asked me questions and talked about the next weekend when we were going up to my grandparents’ house for 4th of July.

My father went to the hospital on June 27th, a week before 4th of July. My heart started to race as I did the math to decipher when this could have happened.

When we got to the end of that side of the tape, I flipped it over and it began with my father announcing that it was a warm Sunday morning June the 26th. I broke down crying because, here was a moment of a very different morning 31 years prior, where we were having breakfast as a family.

My father may be gone, on July 28th, but he will never be forgotten. He will live on in the memories and hearts of all the lives he impacted.