I’ve been working lawyer hours the past couple of weeks. It’s been a welcome distraction. And I’ve used it as an excuse to not write anything other than lawyerly documents. But it’s a rainy Sunday. It’s time.
There’s no word yet on my father’s cancer and whether it’s spread. For some reason the MRI has not yet been done, although it’s been weeks since the initial discovery of the cells around his eye, and subsequent surgery. As I’m waiting to hear the news, I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that he likely won’t be around much longer. I don’t know what particular condition will bring an end to his life, be it the cancer, or complications from dementia, but it’s coming.
My mother is having a difficult time caring for him, yet she will not accept help from an outside caregiver. She blames this on my father. When I talk to him about it, he says if she needs help, he’s okay with that, as long as they’re not “messing with” him. But someone’s going to have to mess with him sooner or later. My mother is near her breaking point.
I called my mother today to find out how the MRI went. My mother sounded hysterical when she answered the phone. She told me she had an “emergency situation” she was dealing with and couldn’t talk to me. From her voice, it sounded bad. Very bad. My niece took the phone from my mother, and explained to me that it was nothing serious. My father’s eye patch had fallen off and my mother didn’t have supplies (or the skills) to replace it. So she called an ambulance. And then she called my sister. In tears. My mother does not cry. The only time I recall seeing her cry was when her mother died nearly thirty years ago, and at my brother’s funeral in April.
My mother can no longer take care of my father on her own. Since the eye surgery, he can’t see. He can’t feed himself. So my mother feeds him. He can’t go to the bathroom. So she helps him. And because he has a bladder infection, she has him wearing diapers. He’s wetting through the diapers. He can’t walk from one room to another. She has him using her wheelchair. (She’s currently ambulatory, albeit with the help of a walker.)
No wonder my mother is crying. She is utterly overwhelmed.
I feel I willfully have been ignoring how dire the situation has gotten. Every time I have called, my mother sounded as if she was managing. Or that’s what I told myself. My father kept saying he’s fine. She’s fine. Ridiculously, I believed him. Even so, every time I called I told her it was time she got some help. She told me the same thing she’s been telling me for years–your father won’t allow it. He no longer has a choice.
I’ve begun the search for a good home elder care service. My employer has an assistance program to provide information and referrals. I hope to get something set up by the end of the week.
Getting busy and finding a solution for their care is not enough to distract me from my thoughts.
My father cannot go to the bathroom without help. He can’t see. He can’t feed himself. He’s wearing diapers. He’s in a wheelchair (even though he can walk).
Would it not be better if the cancer has spread? Would it not be better for him if he were to die sooner, rather than later, and end his life with some dignity? Or is just hanging in there, no matter how diminished his state, worth it just to keep living? To keep breathing? To be on this earth a little longer?
My father is not the kind of man who talks about these things. He will bear this burden on his own. And he will tell me he is fine.