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This will (unfortunately) continue to explore this idea of anger.  Let me please preface this by saying I am completely torn at the moment since I’m trying hard to resolve my current anger with deep breathing, mindfulness, and empathy.  Despite my best efforts, I’m still very angry.  Here is the situation.  I was enjoying a nice ride on a summer afternoon, simply commuting, but really taking notice of the sunshine and the lack of heavy traffic and the way the grass was so so so green along this stretch of rather unremarkable road.  I was lost in thoughts about colors and sunlight when my sister, the middle one, called and told me that mom was looking for me because her knee went out….again.  I was maybe 20 minutes away so I just drove over.

It feels like a broken record just skipping over and over again.  Mom goes from managing to complete break down.  Everything in everyone’s world must accommodate this.  It is 11 p.m. and I’m just wrapping up a day’s worth of unplanned-for care-taking.  Forget that I was invited to a gathering of friends I had not seen in a couple of years…I had to go get groceries that we had no room for in the already over-stuffed fridge.  I had to water the unplanted plants that I begged my mom not to purchase knowing that nearly two months after the green spree they would still be sitting in their little containers on the the patio…in fact over-running the patio so that no one can even sit in a chair out there.  I had to do the ridiculous pet-feeding.  Can someone verify that this is indeed a vet’s inside joke?  Okay, the dog gets a little dry kibble, a mix in of organic meat and veggie thing, and a scooping of canned green beans (it is a scoop of pumpkin pie mix if it is in the am) – then that gets microwaved for 9 secs and 70% power.  The cat has a similar deal, minus the pumpkin/green bean thing – but, yes, still microwaved.  Then I went grocery shopping.  Then I started dinner.  This is where the evening began to go downhill.  It began when the dog was pawing at something underneath my mom’s recliner.  I flipped the chair back expecting to find a dog toy, rather I found a Vicodin.  Okay…stray nacortics….great.  My mom has been hitting up the Vicodin, no shock.  I got a prescription of Vicodin for RA pain too.  I also got it post Gallbladder surgery and other procedures.  I still have it all in the old prescription bottles.  I barely use it, if at all, since I have felt so friggin’ high on it and because it kills my already messed up stomach.  So, there is that.  Next, my mom, who claims to be on Weight Watchers, wants a wilted lettuce salad.  Well, here comes bacon.  Someone please tell me if I’m wrong, but having to combat RA is bad just on its own; throw in obesity and (as I know) that can only make things worse.  The joints of a healthy, but obese person, are already under stress just from weight alone, right?  And, here, today, this knee joint is acting up…so, it would then make sense to fry up bacon, use the remaining BACON GREASE, add SUGAR, SALT (yeah, there is something else an obese person needs), and other stuff to create a “dressing” that then is dumped all over the lettuce so that it wilts into a greasy, sugary, salty, plus crumbled bacon, SALAD?  I don’t get that.  I asked my mom if we really needed to do this “salad.”  She asked why I was asking, to which I replied, “because I don’t want to have to clean up the frying pan.”  This was a truth.  She told me that, at most, she only has bacon maybe once a week.  This has to be impossible.  There was one week where the frying pan had to be cleaned following bacon at breakfast, then I had to clean it again following a BLT for a late lunch, and then the next day it was a fried ham steak – just fancier and thicker bacon.  So this conflict over the “salad” escalated and turned into the typical, I’m mean and my mom suffers more than is humanly possible to understand or empathize with.  My dad showed up and things just kind of got worse.

This down-turned economy has hit him hard.  He is extremely worried about how to make ends meet.  As part of my mom’s many issues, she now has had an audiologist offer to design a hearing aid so that she can hear p, t, th, and some other vowels more clearly.  My dad freaked a little a the cost of this designer hearing aid and asked my mom if he could get the specs for the device and then shop the hearing aid around.  This is what my dad does.  I think that the Jeep dealer maybe made $100 comission by the time my dad ran deal after rebate after promotion over him.  My mom was not going to have any part of that.  She blew up, starting bawling about how she is “a cripple” and how my dad could just take it go to all the stores he wants….and so on and so forth.  Two seconds later I was asked to go fetch her sleeping pills so that she could retire to her recliner.  I brought down a pill and then was scolded for not bringing the whole bottle.  Then I supervised the dog’s peeing, fetched a pillow, and somewhere got the dishes from dinner done, noticing how the green beans that I had to cut and trim the bad parts off of, all got thrown away…so that was a great investment of my time there.  I was getting madder by the minute.  My mom had my dad dig out crutches, which then she snapped about how they were not sized right and who messed with them…and my dad tried to fix them only to be told it still wasn’t right.  Then my mom had to go to the bathroom.

Flashback to Christmas of 2008.  Same thing, or something like it.  We are all gathered at my middle sis’s house.  My mom and dad are really, really late.  My mom has something give and the whole holiday, I kid you not, the whole holiday is completely efffffed up…not because something medical requires attention, but it is HOW she whips the whole matter of fact medical thing into a life or death, she should just be dead and out of our hair, and why, why, why, why me thing.  At that point, my maternal grandmother had been deceased a little while and we had all of her nursing home things in the basement – along with wall to wall and floor to ceiling other relics (a la hoarding issues). So my dad put my mom in her mom’s former wheelchair.  Then we had to put this high-chair toilet thing in our 1st floor tiny bathroom.  Well, that toilet thing made a reappearance tonight and it just reminded me off all that wonderful holiday drama.  Our family is supposed to meet for father’s day on Sunday at this lovely park.  I doubt that we can do that now.  It is frustration all over again.

What is more frustrating is that I’m now considering if I’ll actually be able to do this ELECTIVE surgery that I’ve been working up to.  I’ve saved up some money to cover what the insurance can’t, yet, I’m worried about the burden I’ll be on my family as I try to bounce back from it.  Will it be just one more thing to stress my dad?  My youngest sis is scheduled for a lumber fusion at the end of July.  I’m scheduled for mid July.  Then, who knows what my mom will ask of this ortho-god-doc who she wants to have do a knee replacement operation on her STAT.  How is that fair to my dad?  My youngest sis absolutely needs the fusion.  My mom will probably also absolutely need the replacement.  Where does that leave me?  I believed that I need this help too – mostly so that I don’t slide down the slippery slope of despair into my mom’s poor quality of life.  I asked her tonight if losing some significant weight would help this whole knee thing…I asked while I was obliging her mood by frying up the damn bacon.  She said no.  She assures me that really overweight people get knee replacements as much as normal sized people.  But again, if losing weight, even just by making a smart choice in the realm of what is a healthy salad and what is an excuse to eat bacon, could help the situation, then wouldn’t that be something to attempt with a real attempt at attempting?

I’m so frustrated.  I helped.  I did everything that was asked of me.  I had to go against my better judgment.  I had to listen to the moaning, gasping, and sighing that went on and on (like it does even on “good” days).  I had to hear my parents fight.  I saw how tired and old and beaten down my dad looked when I glanced at him working on an order, punching the keys of his laptop out of frustration and regret.  Sometimes people ask me, “if you could go back to some point of your life, knowing what you know now, would you do something differently?”  I think I know where I would go and what I would do, but I wonder about my dad….would he think to have never married my mom?  I know he will be loyal and dedicated until his dying breath…but is her spiraling into these snaps and breaks on an ever-more frequent basis draining the life out of him….her sole provider?  It is all so irrational and messy and dark.

This is that anger.  I take and deep breath and I try to imagine myself in her shoes.  I can and I can’t.  I have pain – all the time, sure, I’m not taking medication.  I’m twenty-six years younger.  I have crunching noises that I started to hear in my knees last December…they hurt and I often marvel at the capacity of our skeletal system to endure the things humans slam it with.  I can’t empathize with my mom’s situation.  I drove by a road-kill fox on my way to work today and I empathized more with it.  This makes me feel like a mega-brat.  How can I care more about a fox I never met than the now complete invalid of my mom?  What is wrong with me?  I pray to God that I will not go to my grave without having ever achieved some sort of forgiveness/reconciliation/atonement with my mom.  She has buried her sister, mother, and father and never really achieved healthy relationships with them during their lives.  My mom was always, and continues to be, a very angry human.

As much as I don’t want to be her, I get consumed by my anger in moments like this.  I can be so peaceful, so positive, so intellectual, so proactive…and then I’m thrown from my tracks with my mom having one her crisis situations.  I’ve tried so hard to be this somebody, anybody else, that the anger of having to try for that fuels the fire more.  Simply put, I have mom issues.  It breaks my heart to see this suffering that I perceive in my dad, the ultimate caretaker.  I can sympathize forever on that, but I can’t with my mom.  Going back to being little kids, my middle sis can’t understand why I just can’t be nicer.  “I did what see asked me to do for her,” I counter.  “But you weren’t caring or warm about it.  You did it like it was a job,” she would say…..and, that is the truth.

The term “Caregiver” implies “care.”  I’m not that person.  I don’t do this routine over and over again because I care.  I do it out of birth order duty and proximity.  My youngest sis is too far, the middle sis is too busy being a mom.  The pure fact of my singleton status, leaves me.  I’ve seen the news magazine stories where the one family member is plagued by some life-changing thing: brain damage, ALS, cervical trauma, and the family members rally around this one individual showering him/her with love, attention, devotion, positivity….they care.  I wonder if my mom believes that she should have that too.  We do what we have to and that is about it.  So sad.  So so so sad.

I’ve said that I don’t suffer from RA. I do, however, contend that I suffer because of RA.  Tonight is the perfect example of how this shadow of RA (mom’s RA) continues to impact my family.

I promise to get back to something more positive as there are other things to discuss in the larger scheme of things.  I’m just fired up on this right now, so – as I thought it would – my writing has been cathartic…phew!

August 2017
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The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki