Yesterday I did my usual shift at Lifeline. Family holidays are difficult times for a lot of people so, with Easter looming, I was expecting it to be a busy shift. And it was. Busy, and bruising. Despite glibly thanking MS for making me forgetful, two of the calls will stay with me. In both cases I was in awe that the callers were still functioning. In their circumstances I suspect that I would be velcroed to the carpet under the bed and flatly refusing to come out. And there was nothing I could do for either caller except listen to and to some extent share their pain. It didn't feel like enough. It isn't enough.
So I came home, knackered and still bleeding for them and for other people I had spoken to that day.
I knew that I would have trouble sleeping. So I read some trash which should have sufficiently occupied my mind. It didn't. On line to check out some blogs. And joy, Elisabeth had a new post. Her work is an education and a joy, and her prose beautiful. But yesterday and still today it hammers on my buttons. She was writing about death and dying, specifically about her mother who is in very poor health and whose death may be imminent.
So I went back to bed, and tossed and turned. I remember looking at the clock a little after 3. At about 4.30 I woke myself, my partner and both cats shrieking as a particularly nasty cramp/muscle spasm locked my calf tight. It still feels bruised and walking on it is painful.
A few hours later I gave up and got up. Thinking, thinking, thinking. My mother died just after Easter 2004. Memories. She had a massive stroke nearly a year before and had spent much of the intervening time in hospital, before moving temporarily to a nursing home. While in hospital she played hospital staff against family and attempted to play family members off against each other. As one example I was very, very tired having visited her each day and told her that I was not coming in the next day - I was going to have a rest. Shortly after nine the next day the hospital rang to say that she was in tears because I had said I was never coming back and that they thought I should come in and reassure her. I went.
She was adamant that she wanted to go home, and despite the fact that she was going to need 24 hour a day care the hospital administrators helped her to achieve her aim. Significant household modifications had to be made and private nursing care arranged. And yes, I was responsible for arranging both.
She had been home for nearly two hours when she had her first fall. She had always sat on the floor and, when her carer left the room she tried to sit there again. The carer rang me and I went down and helped her back into the chair.
The next day the carer rang me again. Mama had rung up her local supermarket and arranged delivery of bottles of wine and cartons of cigarettes, despite being without either for over ten months. The pattern continued. The carers would ring me several times each day and often I would have to get to mama's home (two buses away) and sort out a compromise.
Ten days after she returned home the carer rang me to say that she was very far from well and refusing medical treatment. When I got there it was obvious that she needed treatment so I called the ambulance, who took her straight to hospital. She was very, very angry and told the ambulance officers and the carer that I was being selfish and just wanted her out of her own home. True, I did, but that wasn't why I had called them. The hospital rang me just before 1am that morning to say she was dying. I rang my youngest brother and my partner and I met him at the hospital. She died shortly after we got there without ever gaining consciousness. And in our last interaction we were both angry. And I wonder whether if I had known she was so close to dying I would have allowed her to die at home. I will never know.
I did a lot for my mother over the period from my father's death to her own, but I did not do it with a good grace. Her alcoholism and manipulation made her very, very difficult to like. She went from a woman I aspired to emulate to one I was afraid I might become. And I still feel guilty, despite knowing that guilt changes nothing.
So, why am I pouring all this out? I read a truly lovely post this morning from Marie reminding me that I don't need to appear to be invincible. Just as well because I am not. Both yesterday's calls and my mother are haunting me.