“Hello, my name is Linda, and I am the adult daughter of an elderly mother who is making me nuts.”
That would be my first admission to a group titled 4MN, if there was such a group. At 4MN, we would all have the same complaint, though different evidences of our claim: “My Mother Makes Me Nuts!”
There are women out there whose mothers have passed away, and they miss them terribly. My heart goes out to these women, as it does to those who never knew a mother’s love at all. When I think of these, I hurt for them deeply. I realize my complaints are petty, and I should be counting my blessings. And I do, I really do. Mom is a sweet and wonderful person, and I’m so fortunate to have her still with me. But–and there’s always a but–she’s making me nuts!
I want to be able to make that claim without feeling the guilt the motherless can heap upon me; however well-intentioned their motives, those who say, “Be grateful for every day you have with her,” make me feel guilty and defensive. I am grateful, but that doesn’t change the fact she makes me nuts. I want to vent to people who know I’m just venting. I want to get angry in front of folks who realize anger doesn’t mean I hate my mother. I want to cry, and stop being strong, and hand all the decisions over to someone else for a while.
It’s like this: I’ve been living at her house since the end of March. She’s been ill–nothing life-threatening, but some painful problems, some irritating problems, a couple of new problems. In other words, it’s been one thing after another for her, and we can’t seem to get her body out of its rebellion.
Most recently, her red blood cell count dropped to 7.8 per whatever-unit-it’s-measured-in. That’s 7.8 out of 12, which is considered normal. Mom won’t ever be “normal” again because of some physical problems, but 7.8 is low, even for her. In the not-too-distant past, the doctor has given her a blood transfusion when she’s as low as 8.4, but this time, the doctor didn’t. I don’t know why–she tried to explain it to us, but we were so rushed for some reason, no explanation seemed to stick in my head. Mom got an iron-drip IV just before the office closed, and another later in the week.
But over the weekend, the one time I get to see my husband, she was dizzy-headed, weak, lethargic–all the signs of anemia–and her home health nurse wanted to send her to the ER for a blood transfusion. Since I was out on a rare date, Mom talked her into waiting to see what I said about it. What I said–me. The one who wanted her to have a transfusion in the first place.
This was Saturday night. I heard both sides:
“She needs a transfusion,” the nurse said.
“I don’t want to go to the emergency room,” Mom whined.
So we didn’t. Since she wasn’t going to do anything all weekend but watch TV, we waited until Monday when she endures her scheduled blood draw anyway. We could decide then.
The nurse came early the next morning, and took her blood with intentions to have it tested STAT, and talk the doctor into giving Mom a blood transfusion.
“But that’ll be another needle,” Mom whined. And I understand. She gets three shots a week plus the blood draw, and I know she feels like a pin cushion, but–
“Don’t you want to get better?”
“I’ll miss my allergy shot.”
“No you won’t,” the nurse says. “I’ll bring it to you in the hospital if I have to.”
“What about my hair appointment?”
Okay, just to interject here: this is what I’m talking about. Her hair??? She makes me nuts.
“Your hair appointment is tomorrow, Mom. We’re going to try to get you in today.”
“Oh.” She looks up at me with sad sulky eyes, and I just hurt for her. I know what it’s like to believe that getting well is an impossibility. And when the very treatment being offered as the avenue to health involves a needle, I know how it feels to dread being stuck again. Been there, done that.
But at some point, I want her well enough I can go home for awhile. Is that asking too much?
The results come in, the nurse from the doctor’s office calls. “Her count is 8.4. Up five points. Do you still want her to have a transfusion?”
I tell Mom what the man says. “What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. What do you think we should do?”
And this is where it really starts to hurt. She is showing improvement after the IV even though she’s at the exact same count she was the last time they threw her in for a transfusion. She doesn’t want to go to the hospital, doesn’t want a needle in her arm for hours on end, and I understand.
But she’ll feel so much better with the transfusion. The dizziness and lethargy will end, she’ll be able to do more without tiring so easily, her heart will benefit.
And I’ll get to go home. Which is the rub. I want her to have the transfusion, but am I being selfish? Shouldn’t I wait and see if her count continues to climb?
Letting her count climb on its own can take weeks–even months. I’m so homesick, I get teary-eyed at the very thought of having to stay here a minute longer.
The decision is on my shoulders. It’s up to me to decide the best course of action.
And I want to be three years old, and hide in Mama’s lap, and let someone else figure out the hard stuff.
Her eyes are so sad, her little arms bruised from needle-pricks. She’s so weak, but seems better than the day before. Maybe tomorrow will be even better. Maybe.
After the mental battle to wrestle a decision from indecisiveness, I say no to the transfusion.
Thirty minutes later, after I’ve given myself a talking to and convinced myself I made the right decision, she says, “Maybe I should have that transfusion. It’ll make me feel better faster, won’t it?”
She makes me nuts. She makes me absolutely nuts!