I have tried to start this post without typing the phrase “Holy Shitballs Batman”, but am admitting defeat: when it comes to summing up this past week and a bit of this new life, it really is impossible to describe it any other way.
So excuse me:
HOLY SHITBALLS BATMAN.
Where to begin?
All I can really say is that bringing our 90 year old Mum home to care for is remarkably like bringing home a newborn from the hospital. There is the delight, of course, of embracing a new member that will redefine your family, but also the ensuing thoughts of “How on earth am I going to do this? What on earth am I doing in charge of this person’s total welfare? WILL LIFE EVER FEEL NORMAL AGAIN?!”
Carers of the Earth, I salute you with a marching band, confetti and free lollipops for all.
So yes, week 1 of life as a carer: let’s start with the positive, shall we?
It’s wonderful, truly WONDERFUL to be able to have Mum at home with us. Around a family. Around young people – Bonnie, our youngest resident (aged 3) delighted Mum no end one night when she snuck into Mum’s bedroom, tried to turn on the light, discovered she couldn’t reach it, left the room and returned with a footstool, turned on said light, walked round the bed to give Mum a glorious goodnight kiss on the cheek, walked back, turned off the light and left without uttering a word.
Mum recounted that with joy for a good 24 hours.
It’s moments like that that we are clinging to – the moments of loveliness that make it feel so worth it, reminding us that we are giving her the two things she can not be given in any other place: FAMILY and LOVE.
And she is truly grateful. If bringing her home is like bringing home a newborn, it’s like bringing home the world’s most grateful and apologetic one. (I should add here that in her foggier moments she has literally called me “Mum”). She needs help multiple times throughout the night to make it to the toilet, and each and every time she apologies so profusely she starts to resemble a bumbling Hugh Grant (note: this description may just be my sleep deprivation talking.)
There’s the kindness: an old school friend posting us some beautiful essential oils to use in palliative care. A long-time family friend and doctor helping us to access the best care for Mum and making himself available for advice on the medical front. Angie (my sister)’s parents-in-law bringing over beautiful meals and treats plus rushing to the child-care rescue even at short notice when needed. These things mean so much at times like this. It really does take a village.
Then there’s the not so positive.
Mum’s massive decline in independence is a massive adjustment for all of us. It seemed to me that after about six days or so she couldn’t take it any more and erupted into a quite upsetting raging rant which unfortunately was aimed at me. I was devastated – I guess I should have braced myself, having heard that this is not an uncommon phenomenon between elderly people and their carers – however it was pretty damn awful. I dissolved into an emotional basket case for about an hour. Shortly thereafter when she calmed down and “came to”, I suppose you could call it, and realised how irrational and horrible her outburst had been, she could not have apologised more, she was so deeply upset and disturbed by what had happened and couldn’t stop beating herself up about it. I actually believe she was more upset by the whole thing than even I was.
Caleb asked me “How can you forgive her when she was so mean?”
“Because mate,” I said, “we don’t know how much time she has left. What if she died tomorrow, or next week? Or next month? I don’t want to waste all that time feeling unhappy. I want to make this time lovely and special and positive. I don’t have time to waste on getting ready to forgive!”
He shook his head.
Which brings me to the other element which is doing my head in: my kids and their feelings of being neglected by me, their mother, who is so completely consumed with caring for the “new addition.”
At which point I want to scream I TRIED MY BEST TO NEGLECT YOU FOR MY COMEDY CAREER AND YOU WEREN’T COMPLAINING THEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But yeah. They are struggling. Which feels pretty freaking awful because for the very first time in my life I feel like I’m choosing to focus on 100% family over EVERYTHING, but to my kids, who mean everything to me, they only feel like they’re getting none of me. Ella even told me she wishes I was just on the cruises again, because at least when I got home they had me all to themselves.
Sunday morning, Mum came down with a bit of a cough and spent much of the day in bed. By the early hours of Monday morning she was wheezing and rattling so badly that I made the call to ring the ambulance. She was carted up to the hospital and admitted that day. Influenza. And pneumonia. I’m sorry, did you just say: HOLY SHITBALLS BATMAN? Because I did.
She seems to be improving, she has said that she wants to fight it, she wants to get back home to us. So I know while she keeps wanting that, she will. She’s that kinda lady.
Sometimes when we are in the hospital room with her, she flat-out refuses to sleep, even when her eyelids are barely able to stay open, because she doesn’t want to sleep while we are there and she can be enjoying the company. I find myself wondering sometimes if that’s what she’s doing with life now: just trying to stay awake, just refusing to go, even though everything in her is telling her to. But she won’t give in, because she doesn’t want to go while we are here.
I want her to live. I want her to move back home so we have a chance to get good at this, to function more smoothly as a household, to access more support to make this more sustainable, to find that balance between caring for her and looking after my own kids, to make her happy and surrounded by love in her final chapter.
But I mostly want her – either way – to feel at peace.
I want that for us all.