Today I made my mother cry. Were there Olympic medals for stoicism, my mom would be in the running, so this was no mean feat. We both cried. (Well, leaked a bit from the eyes. Generally speaking, that's as close to crying as my mom and I am wont to get. And then, rarely. Oh, so rarely.)
Fortune turns on a dime. Just last night, as part of my renewed gratefulness practice, I had been thankful that today I would get to move her from the skilled nursing facility, back to her home in assisted living, to rejoin her regular life and her beloved kitty, Missy. We'd had her second care conference late last week, and all had agreed today was the day; the assisted living facility had said she could come back.
They also made it clear that this was the last time; the next time she had to go to the hospital, she would be over their highest level of care. As it is, she's been right at the top, and we weren't sure she'd be able to go back last time, but she worked like a trooper, and got herself at the level necessary. And again this time. All was well for one more round, and we were hugely relieved.
So I was working away this morning before I left, and about 10 am, the phone rang. It was the facility, asking them if I'd gotten their phone message from yesterday. (My phone, amusingly, loves to occasionally hold onto messages for about 24 hours, then puke them up. It's a delightful habit, and seems to increase relative to the importance of the call. So that was terrific.) Naturally, it popped up just as we were talking.
They had decided on Tuesday to stop accepting patients at Mom's level. She could not come home. (Mind you: This is two and a half HOURS before I am to pick her up and take her home.) All of this gets very complicated and limiting with Medicaid. While Mom could technically return for 90 days, if she left the first-class skilled nursing facility, she would likely not be able to get back into it. In a flurry of panicked phone calls to all and sundry, I discovered this was, indeed the case.
So off I flew, to get a treat of a nice lunch sandwich, and take it to soften the blow of breaking my mother's heart.
She had a number of appropriate reactions. "This does not sit well with me," about their recanting. No, Mom, doesn't sit well with me either. My favorite part was when that administrator (and owner) told me that I was "in an impossible position." Why yes, I am. And you put me there, so thanks for pointing it out. Mom is too.
With horrifically limited options, Mom decided the best of the bad was to stay where she is. It's the best facility available to us, but it is still a nursing home. The relentless slide of diminishment continues. The room is tiny. She can't have her cat. That was the moment that took me down, when my stoic mother leaked a tear or three and said quietly, "So, Missy is not my kitty anymore."
But she's also still Mom. When I asked her if she wanted to go today to say goodbye to Missy, and to pick out her things, she thought for a minute and said firmly, "No. Today I would be too tempted to stand in the lobby and shout, 'Fuck you!'" Me too, Mom. Me too.
Watching the diminishments of age is hard. Seeing them in others, in loved ones, so bitterly difficult. It has been a slightly different version of the nightmare each time I've had to see it. Close family friends. My father. And now Mom. It's also not skipping through daisy fields to see in oneself. Losing so much of my hearing, and the attendant fun of vertigo and hyper-acusis, has certainly slowed me down and made me take a hard look at the inevitability of aging. (Not enough to act healthily, mind you, but enough to look. Oh, look! See that over there? SQUIRREL!)
This is not a new road I am on. Millions have trod it before me, and millions will after. It's just that, like so many roads, it looks a lot different when you're actually on it. It is heartbreaking, utterly heartbreaking.
However, in the spirit of that gratefulness practice i was just working on, here are the things I can be grateful for, even after an utter shit-storm of a day:
- Mom got into this place after her last hospital visit, and was in the best possible place to be if this happened. We'd tried before, but there wasn't an open bed. It's difficult to get into, as it's consistently rated at the top in Whatcom County.
- The administrator at the skilled care facility was wonderful. She came down, explained everything to Mom, and told her, "We would love to have you stay, if you choose to. You are already part of the family here."
- My husband is a rock. An utter rock. He will be moving Mom, yet again. On little notice, while he's swamped with work.
- My friends are wonderful. So much support and love today.
- Missy has a terrific home to go to. Did I mention my friends are fabulous? One of my besties had a backup plan for Missy, and it's still viable. She will either be the home companion of another elderly lady, a/o a nursing home cat in Burlington. Since Missy has never met a human she didn't love, either way it ends up will be a blessing.
Naturally, I want to go to bed for a week, and that is not how this will work. But I am profoundly grateful for all the help and love Mom and I received, and have had offered. That will help us get through these next few difficult days. And somehow...