I'd just gotten home from taking a diarrhetic dog to the vet and then grocery shopping to be informed by Gary that his mother had fallen (again) last night, and broken her arm (again). Only this time it's her left one and not the right, and it's her humerus, and not the forearm. She spent last night at the hospital, and he's going to get her and bring her here.
"She can sleep in the recliner chair in the front room" <my writing chair!> "because she can't use the stairs."
"She says we can still go to our dinner at our friends' tonight...she can be left alone that long."
"Gary, that doesn't make any sense. Her home is set up for her and is comfortable for her. it's all on one floor and she doesn't have any steps to get in! If she needs 24 hour care it makes more sense for you to go and stay with her at her house. She has everything there she needs."
But Gary's in full ride-to-the-rescue mode and nothing will do but to put his mom here, in the middle of our living room, where she'll be sleeping (hopefully, if any of us get any sleep at all tonight) when I'm trying to get up to leave in the morning to go see Toni. Toni's son died just before Christmas, and except for the memorial, freezing rain and company obligations have kept me from going to her.
"It's ridiculous, Gary. If I had a broken arm and was in pain, I'd want to be in my own home where I know where everything is, where I can watch TV if I want to
Just when I thought I was done with boundary issues, here comes a really big test. Many is the time she's tried to turn me into her personal physical therapist. She is very dependent, but the polite fiction her self-image depends on is that she's very independent and no trouble at all. I can maintain the fiction for short bursts, but I'm depleted now after 2 weeks of the boys being home, and just thinking I was free after the company left. Her self esteem is very brittle, and when it cracks she's explosive. Now she's not at her best, because she'll be in pain, and I'm not at my best because I'm exhausted.
I have a bad feeling that the task of Making Her Comfortable is going to fall to me, since, after all, that was my professional bailiwick. But it's been 10 years + since I treated a patient, and she would have been one I would have cringed to see coming through the door.
One of the first tangible benefits of divorcing Gary will be that I am free of any daughter-in-law obligations to her. Clearly I've waited too long.
Wish me strength. I'd better go. I've got a bunch of unexpected work to do to get a spot ready to receive her.
Back from dinner at our friends'. Gary never made it there. He’d told me to go ahead with the boys, he'd meet us there, but I really didn’t think he’d be coming. He ended up taking her to her house, and I’m not sure if it was because I’d protested so much, or if it was because she ended up wanting it. He came home and got some of his stuff and went back to spend the night. I’m planning on, or I WAS planning to go see Toni finally tomorrow; the roads are finally clear and safe to travel. So I’m feeling uncomfortable with the decision in front of me. Basically I’m running out on Gary and leaving him with the dueling responsibility of the boys and his mom. I won’t be available, if I leave, to offer my suggestions for making her comfortable or setting her up with a system for getting up and down from chairs…plus if I leave when I was planning it means the boys will be alone in the house for a while; it means Gary has to come up here to get them or else bring her up here. I’ve left the boys alone in the house before for a couple hours; I’m planning on leaving here around 8 or 8:15, so they could be alone for a few hours. But now I’m uneasy…if something bad happened it would be sure to happen when I’m gone when I “should be helping my mother-in-law”. So maybe I should have been more sanguine about her coming here.
So I’m struggling a little because I know the ‘acceptable’ thing to do; I know the ‘expected’ thing to do.
It’s like years ago when I was visiting Denver and my great aunt Mil suddenly called my grandmother, her sister, and said she wanted them to come over. I was supposed to go to a friend’s for dinner, and then to another friend’s for the night. There was no other night I would have been able to see them. They didn’t ask me, my dad and grandmother, to go with them, and I felt like they wanted me to offer, but I didn’t. I’d just been over there earlier that day with my niece, and she (Aunt Mil) had seemed fine. When I asked my grandmother what was wrong, why she wanted them, she said she didn’t know, all she had said was she wanted them. Later my father talked about how hard it was to get her into the car to take her to the hospital…I could have done that. I never asked, but I’ll bet they were all disappointed in me for sticking with the plans I’d made and not canceling them without a second thought. So I could be there to help.
I don’t know if I really feel bad about that or not. I got to see two friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and I had a satisfying time with each of them. Weigh that against sitting in an emergency room for however long it takes, and my presence wouldn’t have changed the outcome of that.
I could have made things easier for them; I guess I weighed that against whether or not they really needed me. I suppose if she had said she was lying on the floor when she called and she thought her hip was broken I’d have canceled my other plans…I guess I made a decision that it was something they could handle without me…if I’d felt my presence was necessary I would have stayed. I did feel my presence was necessary with my sister…
I stopped over there at my MIL's house, with the boys, on the way home from our friends'. She was asleep, under the influence of pain medication. Made a few suggestions to Gary about how to get up from one of the few chairs that might be suitable for her to sit in. Her place has really deteriorated since I saw it last; cluttered, dirty, bad smell. It's really not a good place for the boys to be in for an extended amount of time.
So now I have my friend Toni, who is bereaved, who I was planning to visit. And I have Gary, who I could help by staying home with the boys, or going over to MIL's and adding in my professional .02 as far as positioning her. I really want to see Toni. Basically, the sticking point I guess is that this adds some extra effort to Gary’s life to juggle his mother and juggle the boys. And they won’t like having to be over there all day, most likely, so if I choose to go to Washington that decision means some discomfort for them. Which probably means discomfort for Gary too. And I’m sure it’ll seem like his discomfort is my fault because my presence would have made things easier.
Oh my aching head.