Friday, June 8, 2007

Fresh Rant Friday!

My blog traffic has really fallen off lately – I’m not sure why, I don’t think I’ve gotten any more boring than I’ve always been, and other than this week I’ve been posting my boring dreck regularly. I must have said something that ran some people off. Oh well. For the six or eight people who still check on me now and then, I have a Fresh and Piping Hot Mother Rant:

My mother has to have elective surgery next month, she has a problem with her wrist. It is not a risky procedure, it is outpatient surgery, it takes a few minutes and a couple of stitches, but my mother is obsessing with it already. And of course, bemoaning the fact that I can’t be there with her. Her neighbor, a nice retired lady a few years younger than my mother, has offered to go with her, because I cannot take off work to be there. Sounds like a good solution, but not good enough for my mother – she doesn’t want to “inconvenience” her neighbor. Not when she can make herself a burden on her daughter! I have no vacation or sick time to draw on since I came back to work, neither does my daughter, because she had to use all of hers to care for me, and we both have too much going on and too much work responsibility to be able to drive across the state to deal with this. I told her to schedule the surgery for when her neighbor can drive her, because I can’t do anything about it. And my mother whined on, for another 30 minutes, and I finally had to practically hang up on her. She was still talking when I clicked the “end” button.

And I am frustrated and angry, because this is the situation I tried to avoid for years, when I tried for so long to get my parents to move closer before my mother was left on her own, so I could be there when I had to be without wrecking my own life to do it. If she lived in town, I could drop her for the surgery in the morning and pick her up when it was over, and not have to drive across the state and lose over a day at work when we are understaffed and slammed with work.

Now that time I tried in vain to get them to prepare for has arrived, she’s 81 and alone and needs this or that, and I simply don’t have the time, energy or strength to deal with it. I did all that I could to make this situation manageable, and I deeply resent that now I get these phone calls from her, as if I am somehow supposed to make things different at this late date. And I am angry and resent the hell out of this, because I am being painted as the selfish daughter who won’t take care of her mother, when I did all that I could to be able to be there for them and my parents refused to give an inch. They lived in denial that this day would ever come, and now that it’s here, I’m somehow supposed to fix it.

In case anyone hadn’t noticed, my life has not exactly been a bowl of cherries. I am not whining about how awful and hard I’ve had it, oh woe is me. I don’t have time for self pity. I’m actually damn proud of myself for dealing with all of the major life traumas I’ve had to face in the last few years. But the reality is that I have to work hard for my money. I am not very well off, I have a lot on my plate and I am still struggling at times, but I deal with it and I’m glad I can do it. I am glad I have a good job that pays the bills and provides good insurance and such, because I am in an industry that is currently going through massive layoffs and I’m still employed. My own company has had three rounds of layoffs, I’m still here and needed, but the workload for the survivors increases with each cut in staff. That being the case, I cannot run off across the state when my mother needs something. I have to keep this job because there aren’t too many others out there right now. That is simply the reality of the situation, and I cannot change it.

I also can’t change the reality of my own health – I received a slap upside the head (inside the head?) from my own body in February, I cannot continue to act like Superwoman and ignore my own needs, because my body has a breaking point and I was at it. I survived something that should have killed me, and you don’t get multiple chances to do that. Sleep and exercise and yoga ain't just nice things to do anymore, they are keeping me alive. I can't help the work stress, I have to manage it because I have to eat, but dammit, stress like the emotional blackmail my mother inflicts on me is very bad for me, and she knows it but apparently can’t help herself.

So when my mother started going on and on about her wrist surgery, OHMYGOD how will she ever cope with this, I finally said, “Yeah, you know, I realize now that there’s some advantage to collapsing with a brain hemorrhage and having to have your skull cut open for hours of risky brain surgery. I didn’t have time to fret about it.” My mother had the good grace to be momentarily embarrassed by her own carrying on, but two minutes later was off and running again. And because she is under stress, her crazy is coming out.

My mother is still convinced that the hospital “killed” my father last year. She believes that he died of an infection from his feeding tube that the hospital somehow caused, instead of the aspiration pneumonia that really killed him. My father had lost the ability to swallow, was on oxygen and a feeding tube, and when you lose the ability to swallow, your saliva doesn’t “go down the right way” and is aspirated into your lungs, which leads to pneumonia, which led to his death. The last time I saw him (before he was unconscious and dying) I marveled that he was still hanging on, he looked near death to me, so thin and gray and frail and barely able to speak one or two words at a time, and he was indeed gone a few weeks later. To hear my mother tell it, my father was doing very well until the hospital killed him. She conveniently “disremembers” that he was taken to the hospital for the final time in an ambulance, barely conscious and near death, he rallied a bit for a couple of days, though he was still incoherent and mostly confused and obviously Not Okay at all, and then he deteriorated for the final time. Nope, that hospital killed him, and the doctors covered it up. Yup, that’s what happened, she knows The Truth, and I’m a fool for not believing her.

So now this poor unsuspecting surgeon wants to do her outpatient surgery at a clinic near the “hospital that killed your father,” and she’s all freaked out about it. She’s convinced that if she has “complications” they’ll put her in that hospital and kill her too. The date of her surgery is six weeks away, and I know from bitter past experience that she will whip herself up into a full-blown frenzy of crazy by then. And there is nothing at all I can do about this without risking my own health and sanity and job and survival.

So this weekend I will avoid her calls, get my hair cut, go to the gym, and hopefully finish painting my bedroom. But my self-protection only gets me so far, because I can’t completely avoid dealing with this emotional vampire of a mother. I do my best to keep her at a level I can manage, but she is one of the worst ongoing sources of stress in my life.

So, how was your week? ;-)


Jan said...

I don't know that there is a happy medium for your situation. I had one very much like it several years ago. I decided to hang on, tough it out with my Mom, and avoid arguing with her. No amount of arguing would change the way she saw things, so arguing was wasted energy. Whatever she said was just the way it was for a while. Of course now that she's gone, I'm having to "deal with" all the things I wanted to say to her but decided not to. Except that the way I deal with it is just to avoid thinking about it. There is not a damned thing I can do about it right now or ever.

I hope you'll make use of the "nice retired lady". Don't even try to argue with Mom or make her see sense. It ain't gonna happen. It's a non-winnable argument. Just let it ride. It's the only way to survive.

Catherine said...

I AM making use of the nice retired lady, it's my mother who doesn't want to! I told my mother to schedule the surgery for when it was convenient for her neighbor, because it was great that she would go with her, because I cannot, because remember I just went back to work after nearly DYING and having brain surgery? You do recall that, Mommie Dearest? I do not argue with her delusions, and I do let it ride. I ignore the stories about how the Hospital Killed Your Father. But the bottom line is that I am the one who has to deal with this, and I need this shit like another hole in my head. I would be delighted if she quit talking to me, but that will never happen, so I have to screen her calls. It's an insane way to live.

Donna said...

Thank god I have two sisters to help deflect the load from my mother. I wish I could loan them to you for six weeks ;)
Lie to her. Tell her the doctor said you shouldn't drive long distances yet.

Catherine said...

I've already been over to see her a few weeks ago. I don't have to lie. I cannot take the time off for anything short of a critical illness, and this ain't it. I am part of a small crew of people keeping the company moving forward, and I will not abuse their goodwill by asking for time off for anything short of a bona fide emergency. She has alternatives.

Ginnie said...

I wish saying just tell her what you just told us would help, but clearly she refuses to hear what you are saying. I am sorry about that, but you are doing the right thing. Right now you have to put yourself first, unless it is a major illness or injury with your mom. I knowyou are ok now, but you don't need excess stress. Which I know you know.

Anonymous said...

so sorry for you that your mom is like that. i think my sisters and i have a vision of dealing with stuff like that down the road with our passive/aggressive gonna drive us nuts mom. i can also feel for you on the job front- with all the years i have had my job working in a neuro icu,my family does not understand why i can't just come on a moment's notice. sigh. families, they fuck you up as the saying goes. suec

geogrrl said...

It's understandable she's going to get under your skin. She's your mother and knows how to push your buttons.

Good for you for standing strong and not giving in to emotional blackmail. Especially as you do not deserve these guilt trips.