I returned home to find Mom, still in her jammies at 5 in the afternoon, happily drinking a glass of caregiver Pauline’s wine and eating a bowl of ice cream. Checking the refrigerator, it seems she had reheated the bowl of spaghetti successfully for supper. Checking the sink, she had made herself a bowl of oatmeal that morning. Bobbe, my hospice nurse friend, might say that is enough food. If she’s hungry, she’ll eat.
“I’m getting better,” Mom said to me. “I’m going to get well enough to take care of myself.” Inwardly I groaned, but I didn’t contradict her. What does one say in the face of such determination? None of us know what the future holds. It makes me crazy when someone promises, with heartfelt sincerity, that a future event will or won’t actually come to pass. We don’t know the future!
Mom assures me “I can take care of myself!” Can she? Well, she didn’t burn down the trailer while I was gone. And she didn’t starve to death (hard to do in three days), or cut herself (no blood trails
anywhere), or burn more beans (been there, done that and have the beans to prove it). There is a mysterious yellow stain on her face, neck and pajamas that she can’t explain and I haven’t figured out, yet. However, she positively assures me that “I can feed myself!” As she gets more feeble, what are the odds that she will continue to do so?
I am beyond thankful, right now, that she can still dress herself, bathe herself, and go to the bathroom alone. She has, of course, ripped the toilet-paper holders off the wall in both bathrooms trying to pull herself up off the toilet. Now there are sturdy steel handles affixed to the studs. I do learn. However, isn’t the time coming when she won’t be able to do all that? I’m not delusional. That is a future I can predict with considerable certainty.
My sister insists that positive thought can make us better. Claims it sends “good vibes” out into
the universe, or something like that. She reprimands me for being so negative. When I’m negative, she says, I’m creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. She maintains that if Mom thinks she is getting better, she will get better. Really? At 96?
After being gone for the last three days, I find that Mom has gotten along fairly well. So should I back off and let her take care of herself? How much should I help? Should I let her fix her own oatmeal breakfast? Her supper? Or do I continue to bring her breakfast and supper on a tray? And when she’s not hungry at lunch, do I insist on making her a ‘fruit smoothie’ that she doesn’t know includes two eggs, yogurt, Breakfast Essentials, fruit and buttermilk? Since it’s sweet, she will drink it eagerly, even when she isn’t hungry. Okay, perhaps she is getting a trifle plumper.
She can, I’m sure, make her own meals. After all she’s done it, as she says, for 96 years. But my heart leaps to my throat when I think of her broiling the buttered Italian bread in the oven. The chances are beyond good that she will (a) burn the bread or (b) leave the broiler on for the rest of the day. Now my sister would say THAT is negative thinking, except that, hmm, yes, actually, she’s done it before–frequently.
And the gallon of milk is often left, forgotten, on the counter. Okay, eventually, she might notice it. And oatmeal boils out of the too-small bowl she uses, spreading, unseen—white on white—all over the rotating tray in the microwave. Okay, that, too, is not such a big deal. I can clean the tray. She can no longer see that the uncovered bowl of (burned) beans have splattered on the inside of the microwave. Dear God, can beans be burned twice? Spaghetti supper, carefully covered in plastic wrap before I left, neither splatters nor spills as it reheats, but how much spaghetti can she eat?
Her intent, evidently, is to go back to running the roads with Hubby Al. She told me she awoke from a dream with her head on his “hairy chest.” She misses him. Do I support her delusions? Or just go on saying, “Yes, Mom. I’m sure you’re getting better.” And keep bringing in the trays. And keep her from hitch-hiking to Florida to be with him.