I am typing this from my childhood home where I am holding up residence for the second time this year. No, I didn’t run away from home. I’m caring for my mom who’s had an active 2014 surgery schedule. That’s her with her hookah pipe to the left.
This time it’s hip surgery. We chose not to do rehab because it’s the prime place to pick up infection. In fact, in hip class (yes, they have that) we heard the word infection 38 times. Nothing like putting it in your head.
But apparently it’s one of the biggest complications next to the hip popping out. The doctors are even categorized on the down low by who has the “least infections.” We picked #1.
The doctor and the hospital can color an experience and we scored high numbers on both this time. A shout out to Mercy Medical in Redding, California, primarily thanks to Peggy Manning who I can simply not praise enough. What a difference that makes in the whole experience to have someone with such high standards. A fantastic experience–the best we could hope for under such a scenario. Even the food was delicious.
Since we skipped rehab, though, that means yours truly is the 24/7 caretaker until Mom can get moving independently again. This also means that all those other things I do in normal life are put on hold which makes me feel torn to say the least. For example, this weekend I had to miss my son’s swim championship meet which made both me and my mom sad. My husband did a great job of being head cheerleader and giving me race times via text. These are long weekends and that’s no easy breezy task. (Thanks, Honey.)
My 2014 nursing stints here at Casa Little Jamie have taught me things about Mom and about myself…and about other caretakers out there in the world who do this on a semi-permanent basis. To those caretakers, if you’re reading, I bow down. I have unbridled respect for you. You are the unsung heroes of this world.
Back to my lessons. Here’s what I’ve learned about my mom.
She’s a creature of habit. I knew this before, but I know it at a whole new level now. Everything in its place. Everything.
She’s a survivor. Can’t even imagine how it would feel to go 5 days without a shower, but with hip surgery, that’s what you have to do. And you can forget about shaving your legs.
She’s the best listener in the world. With surgery just six days ago, I’ve listened to call after call of people calling to check on her and telling her about THEIR problems.
She’s a good friend. It doesn’t seem to bother her at all that 90% of the conversation is about the other person when she’s the one with the new hip.
She’s incredibly independent. Even though I can go down the hall to get her glasses in two seconds flat, she insists on doing it herself to practice moving.
She’s a great patient! She studies the books, highlights, makes notes and follows her directions to a “T.” It’s incredible, really.
She’s so appreciative of all I do. She gushes over all the meals I prepare as if I’ve been to the best Culinary Institute around and was the star chef.
Here’s what I’ve learned about me. Some of these traits I’ve inherited, and on some counts, I’m exactly the opposite. Take the direction thing. I am direction-challenged in a big way. My mind is wired for making the rules far more than following them. Even on the rare occasion I want to follow rules, I struggle. It’s just something I live with.
Here’s what else I learned about me. I have such great back up. My husband was awesome at handling the swim meet weekend and my son’s friends, meals, and all that while managing to visit us and carpet clean the pee that our dog decided to leave on Grandma’s floor. My son was so understanding about me missing his swim meet and came by to visit with his friend, Kyle, and watered Grandma’s plants. My oldest son wrote his Grandma the most touching letter to boost her spirits and my baby left a welcome home message telling Grandma he was thinking about her. What a great team.
The other thing I’ve learned is that caretaking is so multi-faceted. I imagine it’s exhausting for people who do this full time. It’s quite easy to forget to meet your needs when you are helping someone that can’t get meals, and showers, or their underwear on by themselves. (As we were both laughing hysterically at the role reversal, I told my mom I never signed up for this naked thing. Even though I’m a quasi-nudist, seeing your parent nude is a whole different gig!)
Caretaking for a parent is far different than taking care of a child. I’ve been a parent for 27 years and it feels wholly different than Nurse Jamie. There’s just a funky role reversal dynamic involved in the parent part. So many differences in so many things. For one, my mom prefaces everything with, “Okay, Love, before you sit down…” My oldest son is on his own, gloriously independent, but my teen never addresses me that way. Instead, he goes like this, “Mom, mom, mom, mommy, mom, MOM!” assuming I don’t respond promptly enough on the first or second “mom.” And that’s what you expect, right? It’s developmental.
Not that I’m complaining at all on either count. I can imagine, while my mom speaks kindly to me that there are a number of parents out there who are mean and demanding because they don’t feel good and they’re frustrated. I’ve heard stories. How difficult to be in that situation where you know your parent needs help, and you’re the selected one, but they’re mean to you. I’m so thankful that’s not me, but I have developed empathy for those going through that.
While it’s no vacation in Mani Lani, I cherish these lessons and this time spent with my mom, talking about our dreams while sipping tea, sharing meals together, and sitting quietly. And, yes, even changing underwear.