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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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.

My Life Turned on a Quarter

Today will be two weeks from the moment my entire life changed with a single phone call. The one in which a stranger left me a message from my parents line to tell me that my father was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and she was waiting with my mother for me to arrive.  Five minutes later, panicked, I called back and got the details. I told my mother that I had to do an inspection first before I could get her. I was oblivious to the seriousness of the injury. Now, knowing everything I do, I would have left immediately instead of doing my job first. But I was in denial that it could have been anything worse. (This wasn’t the first time my pop went to the emergency room.)

After rushing through my home inspection I got in my car and hurried over to my parents to retrieve my mother. For a brief moment, during my drive, I had a spark of dread that my father would be dead and I would have to take care of my mother (who has alzheimer’s.) As the anxiety began to engulf my chest, I told myself to just take things one at a time. Everything would be all right.

I arrived to my parent’s house with the security screen and front door wide open, my mother was waiting for me inside, shuffling items in the dining room. She had packed up his wallet and all of “his pills” in a basket and was ready to roll. (It turned out they were her pills and not his. But, oh well.) She was already fearing the worst, and I, uncharacteristically, told her not to think that way. We didn’t know yet, and to do so would only make it worse.

She agreed and continued to spin the lone quarter in the palm of her hand.

We arrived at the hospital, with no knowledge where to go. Even the quick description from the security guard in the E.R. was super vague and not at all helpful. When I finally figured it out, I called around and eventually found out he was in surgery.

My mother was beside herself, even then. Again I told her to not worry, we would find out what was going on when he was out.

For the next thirty minutes I calmed myself by playing a game on my phone as my mother babbled on with nonsense about “jesus” and “the Christians”… her usual go to commentary from her diminishing brain.

I am almost certain that doctor’s take a course in medical school wherein they learn to deliver bad news. The moment the surgeon removed his net cap I knew my father was gone. There wasn’t a doubt in my body. However, what I would soon learn was that he wasn’t “gone” physically, but rather mentally. He had arrived unresponsive and stayed that way until the end.

As it turned out, my father had fallen and hit his head when he had gotten up to pee in the early morning. What time that was at I have no idea. Getting a straight answer out of my mother is near impossible, and her story (which she recounts in graphic gory detail) changes each time.  My father had asked my mother for help, and her response was to run outside and call for it from anyone who might hear. She encountered a bus driver who told her the number to dial an emergency (you know, the one everyone fucking knows) and when she got back inside she forgot it completely, thus she returned to the front yard. This is where she encountered the stranger who called 911, like a normal person, and took care of my father as instructed by the emergency operator.

After the surgeon removed a portion of his skull to relieve the massive amounts of bleeding, he was moved to the ICU. Room 11 for child 11. It was there that I was handed the gauntlet to be the one to make all of my father’s decisions. My mother couldn’t even grasp what was happening, and was distracted by my father in his hospital bed. So the nurse’s calmly rattled off their assessment of the situation and asked me how we were to proceed. I wasn’t ready to make these decisions. This man’s entire existence rested in the palm of my hands.

I had concluded that the hospital should keep him on life support until my Aunt arrived to say goodbye. Once she had had her moment with him, I gave the order and they removed the tubes. I told myself I wanted to be there when he went, but I regretted it almost instantly as I watched him arch his back, take his last breath, and hear his heart slowly stop beating. It is an image I will never forget.

Today, two weeks from being told my father was mentally gone, I have to put on a brave front and lay his body in the earth. But before that, I must deliver his eulogy. One in which I most likely will not write and just deliver off the cuff; against the advisement of the preacher, but fuck him. However my own hatred to spite another person will only harm myself and I will inevitably detest myself for not even attempting bullet points.

Historic Parallels

I need to write. It has been some time and I feel all of these emotions welling up inside of me. In usual “Josh” fashion I will decompress by letting some of it out for mental relief.

Last night, when I was attempting to sleep, I would slowly drift off and then wake up in an abrupt panic. To what I can remember, one of them was that someone was in my bedroom and then the other was about my mother. After the one regarding mom I turned on my ringer, just in case.

My mother has been having delusions. She had them awhile ago in the form of thinking that my cousin, her nephew, is dead. Legitimately no longer among the living. I had to video chat with him to prove he wasn’t. My mother was elated that he wasn’t gone, however even among that proof her brain somehow turned his death into “in prison.” For whatever reason, with a few more days under our belt, that all went away and she never spoke of it again.

After her brain scan, showing the substantial decrease in brain mass, the doctor prescribed her something for the delusions. But first we had to get her off the Lexapro the previous nurse practitioner had prescribed for the misdiagnosis of “stress and depression.” Once she was weened off of that we began these. That was a nightmare.

After just the second 1/3 of the actual dose, she was becoming aggressive and manic. As a knee jerk reaction I told my father to stop it and we would try again down the road.

For awhile she was okay, but not good. It wasn’t until this past Saturday when my mother was explaning to me about seeing people in the mirror, who moved and talked, that I decided it was best to try again.

This had the same result as it had before. So much so that my father tossed one of his xanax down her throat to calm her down, because she would not sit still, would not stop crying, and was basically “freaking out” (per my dad.)

I went over to visit her the day he called and she was there, happy as a clam. I guess after getting some sleep she was doing alright and had mellowed out. We then decided to try again, but this time at night (which should have been last night.) My biggest worry is that she freaks out again, and my secondary being my father not even giving it to her because of how she had responded. The second I absolutely understand. I don’t know how I would have handled the situation at all. Especially since I don’t have a bevvy of pills at my disposal. Thank god my dad is a prescription drug addict.

Whats funny is I have been in this reality once before.  When I was six, my father had a mental breakdown and ended up in a mental hospital. He was seeing demons coming out of the mirror and was out in the backyard swinging around a broom trying to kill them. He did the second for so long that he gave himself blisters and had to wear kitchen gloves to keep going.

When I brought this up to my mother about her seeing people in the mirror, she dismissed me out of hand. She said something to the effect of “yeah but that’s the physical realm.” The woman can barely find the words she wants to use to express what she wants to say, but she pops off with “physical realm.” (Jesus… shoot me.)

When the husband and I visited her on Tuesday, she was herself. Calm and collected. She even understood how “crazy” she had been. What we also learned is that her cousin (who she explained had been born a couple months before her and was her best childhood friend) is not long for this world, from alzheimers.

I remember my mother coming home and explaining how her cousin had acted weird at he and his wife’s 50 year wedding anniversary. It wasn’t long after that, that he was diagnosed with alzheimers. Now, he’s dying. The beginning of this tale was maybe 2 years ago. Now… He’s dying.

This last part feeds into my own diagnosis. I estimated my mother maybe had a year or 2 years left. I concluded this just by the brain scan and seeing how quickly her mental health is declining. And then hearing this… Maybe I’m not far off.