Life turns on a dime

There comes a day in every adult’s life when they have to face the mortality of their own parents. Nothing you do in your life prepares you for the moment when you realize the person who was once so big, so tall, occasionally scary, usually loving, the one who knew all the answers has now become the child and you, the child, are now the one with the money and the answers and have to be in charge.

It is a dark day.

Mine came in December of 2003. I knew my dad had an incurable lung disease and I knew it was only a matter of time. I’d been out shopping that day, getting ready for Christmas when I came home and got “that call” on my answering machine. “We took dad to the hospital…”

He survived that round (barely) and lived just over another year. I spent that year flying back and forth to New Mexico and learned how to drop everything and go. Don’t think, just buy a one way plane ticket and go.

My dad passed in 2005 and so at two years out I was starting to feel a bit more relaxed. I will always fear the sound of the ringing phone, especially at night, but it has lessened some. My mother struggled for a while after my dad’s passing but had taken control of her life and moved into a community of active elderly people. Her health is good and she has my aunt and uncle to check in on her.

So this past week when my sister called and told me “mom doesn’t sound so good” and that she had been sick for two weeks, I was nervous, but not too upset. My mom is prone to flu and I was sure that was the case.

I put off calling her until Saturday. Talking to my mom is not to be taken lightly and must be done with a strength of ego and confidence because she will break them both down in an hour conversation.

Saturday I woke late, lazed in bed, then decided to call my mom and get it over with.

Only to find out my aunt was taking her to the hospital that day. She was convinced she had “Valley Fever” since they are doing construction next door to her apartment. The blood tests earlier this week said no. She’s had problems with ear tumors in the past, maybe it was that. It also shows all the signs of meningitis…..

So my sister and I geared up for the all too familiar. We both paid whatever insane fare the plane people wanted and flew out immediately.

The hospital sent her home with anti-nausea drugs and some incredibly powerful pain meds and set up a doctor appointment for tuesday. I’m going out of my mind because this could be anything from a really bad case of the flu to a really bad relapse of the tumors.

And I’ve spent the past two days tending to, arguing with, and caring for my elderly mother as though she were a child. Her snippy demand that my sister NOT take her temperature will go down in the annals of family lore……

With some pain meds, forcing liquids, getting her to eat and cleaning up her place, she seems to be back on her feet, wobbly, but upright. Don’t know if we are out of the woods. I do know that I don’t like being in this all too familiar place. And I’m sort of rebellious that I missed what looked to be a fine weekend.

But that’s my job as one of her three kids. I can’t abandon her, I can’t turn the other way. It’s the circle of life, right? Painful tho it may be.

In a few days I’ll go back to work and everything will be fine. But every time I have to drop everything and catch a plane to tend to a sick parent some part of me, some childhood wonder and joy goes dark.

The darkness of losing a parent is unlike anything I can describe. You simply, endure.

I don’t think I have to look at that yet. My mom will be kicking for a lot more years…but I wonder how many more times in the coming years I’ll be asked to hop a plane and “don’t think, just fly”.

For now, I’m ok. She’s ok. We’re…calm.

But it’s left me……


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  • Natalie

    Hmmm… after reading this, I’m thinkin’ “thoughtful” is contagious.
    This type of situation is one (of the many)reasons I decided to quit my job and move home. My mom is still quite young and robust but there have been a few blips on the radar causing me to have tremendous concern.
    I know how hard it is to be so far away and have to rely on other people to tell you what’s going on. It’s unnerving and upsets your whole life.
    I haven’t lost a parent… my mom is the only parent I know while my father, who lives in Vacaville, is someone who only occasionally shows-up in my life but always… always… from a distance.
    I’m glad ya’ll are okay and calm.
    I hope you can get your thoughts to settle and that your mom is truly back on her feet.
    One of the coolest things my mom ever did for me was to get long-term care insurance and make her best friend the executor of her will. She said she did this so I could deal with my emotions versus that “business of death or dying” and could deal with our stuff.
    But I’ve got to tell you… it was one of the weirdest conversations and “birthday” presents I’ve ever had from my mom.
    All the best to you… and your family.

  • Karen Fayeth

    Thanks, Natalie. I really appreciate the good words and good thoughts.

    I’m back in the Bay Area as work has kerploded on me. My brother is there now dealing with crazy vieja. She’s refusing to to go emergency despite the fact she NEEDS to be there.

    The saga continues. And I’m physically, mentally and morally exhausted……

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