My Current Reality Bites

I’ve spent the past few days hunkered down, recovering from the holidays. I’ve stayed in bed until nearly noon the past three days, surrounded by cats. My refuge from reality.

My trip to Houston was overwhelming. I arrived to pick up my mother at the acute rehab hospital mid-day on Christmas Eve to take her home. When I entered her room, I found her belted into a wheel chair. The restraint-like nature of the belts was disconcerting. I immediately unbuckled them. I completed the discharge papers and the nurse wheeled my mother to my car, while I carried her belongings. Slowly, deliberately, my mother counted to three and moved from sitting to standing. She held on to the car, turned, inch by inch, and lowered herself onto the car seat. She lifted one foot, placing it onto the floor board, and then moved it farther into the car. She lifted the other foot onto the floorboard. She then shifted so that she was sitting further back in the seat, rather than sliding off the front onto the floor like a sack of flour. I encouraged her throughout, finding it excruciating to not help; to allow her to do for herself. We repeated the process again when we arrived at her assisted living apartment–car to wheel chair, wheel chair to toilet, toilet to wheelchair, wheelchair to recliner. And over again when we went to dinner later that afternoon, and again when she got back in the car after dinner, and again when we arrived at AL.

At my sister’s house the following day, my sister’s head was nearly exploding at the thought of getting my mother from the car into her home through the too-narrow door. I told her to go inside and check her roast. I could handle it. It’s really rather simple: I wheeled mom to the door, she stood, walked a few steps inside the house, held onto the kitchen counter while I squished the wheelchair together to get it through the door, opened it back up, positioned it behind mom, and she sat back down. No need to pop a vein. Mom needed my help lowering herself onto and off of my sister’s low toilet. (She has a lift on her AL toilet.) She also needed my help wiping herself. Yes, mom saved her poop for my sister’s house. I find this symbolic. I’d helped my mom with her toileting once before, many years ago, when she was very sick. I have no children, so wiping poop off bottoms is not familiar to me. And yet, I did not find it difficult. It had to be done. My sister, on the other hand, refused to help my mother with her toileting. She claimed she was too squeamish.

“How did you change your children’s diapers?” I asked her.

“I barely managed. When they threw up, I threw up.” Her husband handled much of the poop and vomit duty.

My mom’s new physical challenges may improve with continued therapy. I fear we’ve now entered a new normal with cognition, however.

As I often do, I awoke at 4 a.m. this morning. I noticed I had two consecutive voice messages from my mother from around 2:00 a.m. Both were about her concern that I’d sent dog food instead of cat food because the food had a photo of a dog on it. First, it was odd that she was up and worrying over the cat’s food at 2 a.m. Second, it was odd that she called me at that hour. I couldn’t call her back at 4 a.m. when I got the messages as I assumed (hoped) she’d gone back to sleep. Since I didn’t have a call from AL, I felt reassured that all was well, or at least okay.

I called her this morning.

“Mom, why were you up in the middle of the night worrying about the cat’s food?”

“They kept waking me up. Coming in and doing things.”

“Doing what things?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do you think I sent dog food? Because there’s a dog’s picture on the food?”

“Yes, there’s a dog picture.”

“Is it on the bin you poured the food into?”

“Yes, it’s on the bin.”

“But it wasn’t on the actual bag of food, was it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter whether the bin has a dog or cat picture on it. What matters is whether the food you poured into the bin has a dog or cat picture on it. Didn’t I send you cat food? Did the bag have a dog or cat picture on it?”

“I don’t know if the bag had a dog picture on it. I don’t have the bag any more.”

“Is he eating the food like before?”


“Well then I think it’s okay.”

“But it has a dog picture on it.”

“Mom, I have a coffee cup that has a picture of coffee on it. But I can fill the cup with water. Or coffee. It doesn’t matter what picture is on the cup. It only matters what I actually put in it. Just because there’s a picture of coffee on the cup doesn’t make the water I put in it coffee. Does that make sense?”


“The cat’s eating okay, right?”


“Well then let’s not worry about the picture. He’s okay.”


This is mom’s new cognitive normal. And while I want to be there for her, I also dream of the day I can escape from my current life. Not just from the stress of worrying about her deteriorating health and her finances, but the stress of getting up every morning to do a job I abhor. Escape from BigLaw. Escape from the cognitive dissonance of enjoying the holidays with my sister and her family. Her husband. Escape from my loveless, vanilla, monotonous, life.

Escape from my current reality, which bites.




  • I felt your pain as I read this. It’s never easy to watch your parents age and lose their independence. I went through that with my grandmother and mother. You do as much as you can, but you wish you could have your own time. Then the time arrives when you don’t have to be the caregiver any longer. That’s when reality hits. They are gone……………..forever. Cherish this time you have now and look for small accomplishments. Sending hugs to help you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’ve nailed it. That’s the toughest part: knowing that for this current reality to end, she’ll be gone. Caring for her isn’t the hard part. That part is meaningful and fulfilling. The hard part is knowing we are getting closer to the end.

      Thank you for the hugs. They do help. As do the photos of your boys wanting to brave the snow, but making the wiser choice to enjoy their new toys.

      Liked by 3 people

  • hang in there! we all need help at times, it isn’t easy when the ‘body’ doesn’t work well or the way it once did, accepting changes is a hard thing to do,
    but once accepted there is some peace

    Liked by 1 person

      • thanks, about my avatar, I was looking for a softer image, even tho I still have a tough topic I’m dealing with, which does not occupy my entire life.
        acceptance of our ‘condition’ is what helps us from the suffering that ‘a’ condition can cause us. acceptance is not always easy…which I’m beginning to have a ‘front row seat’ at…myself. what is helping me is my regular practice of yoga and my desire to DO meditation on a regular basis, not there yet! May you know peace and freedom from suffering! Happy New Year.


        • Meditation and yoga both help so much with acceptance of the human condition. Do you do yoga on your own, or in a class? I’ve been trying to establish a regular practice on my own and am looking for good videos for a gentle soothing practice. I’ve found a really nice app for meditation–Insight Timer. Maybe that help with your desire. 🙂


          • I’ve been doing Ashtanga yoga since 2003, in class and on my own. It is a powerful practice that anyone CAN do, I was once a beginner in it and my David has just started it! Let me research and find something that may help. Try looking at some Kripalu yoga…I started there, did it for 5 years before I found Ashtanga…I’ll get back to you. Any form of meditation will be a good start, personally I like Deva Premal and Miten and Depak Chopra


  • It’s a bumpy road. You deserve to rest. Your sister needs to grow up (but probably won’t) I love that mother’s day card.
    I can’t add more, but know where you are. (did you manage to get a cat pix pasted on that container?….she’ll keep calling. They don’t sleep much.)
    Cats are good.
    HUGS and wishing you some sunshine to brighten your day.


    • That mother’s day card is great. Luckily I am capable of wiping bottoms even though I never had children for practice. You’re right, she probably will not grow up.
      Pasting a cat pic on the container is a brilliant idea! She will forget it’s okay, without that reminder. I love it.
      Thank you for the hugs and well wishes. 🙂 No sunshine today, but furry blankets and cats will do in a pinch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • They get stuck in an incomplete cycle of thought: they notice detail/something’s not right, but can logically complete the line of thinking why it’s OK somethings not right. If you can short circuit that thinking, it helps…otherwise you keep getting the same call. You might as well consider it a game to figure out how to complete her thinking when she shows signs of getting stuck …keeps you on the ball (probably good for your brain health HA HA! Who needs computer brain games when you’ve got mom?) HUGS and cheers for a Happy New Year…(will the sun ever return? blankets and cats and warm socks)


        • The brain is fascinating, isn’t it? I see her getting stuck in those loops more often these days. I love the idea of your new brain game—short-circuiting the loops.

          Still bundled up waiting for the sun. I hear it may make an appearance tomorrow. I hope the realm’s inhabitants are warm and cozy. Happy New Year! xxooxx


  • Ella, I feel your pain both about your mom and about your family. I could also get real negative about most days in my life regarding my “job” but if I do that, I slide downhill. I’ve just recently been experiencing my dad being hospitalized (long distance) and not being there is so hard. I called the airlines and no they no longer give discounts for family emergencies. Eight hundred dollars + is something I don’t easily have to throw around. Then dealing with family … family I would rather not. I went for a LONG walk and turned my cell phone OFF. Even being 750 miles away from family can be extremely upsetting. There really is a reason why I chose not to have certain ones in my life. Anyways …. BIG (((HUGS))) and know I really get it, I understand. Hang in there …. and yes, my dad is up there in age (90) and slowly deteriorating. Accepting that fact is so not easy. Love, Amy


    • Amy, I’m so sorry you get it. Aging parents, deteriorating health, screwy challenging family members–it all gets exhausting. Going for a long walk with cell phone off is so helpful. After I wrote this post I did just that–no iPod, no cell phone, no Garmin (pace/timer)–just me, the fresh air, and the birds. At the end of the road I spotted a family of deer in the woods and stayed for a while, watching them watching me. It was a lovely moment. Tomorrow I shall go and have another look and see if they’re up for a visit. I hope you’re having a cozy and peaceful end to your year.
      Love, Ella

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hang in there, Ella, and take plenty of YOU time. It is exhausting dealing with so much all the time. If we don’t take care of ourselves, no one will. I will keep you in my prayers. Happy New Year, Hon. Love, Amy


    • Twenty-seven times is a lot. I don’t think my mom has reached that number yet. I’m finally learning that telling her she just called doesn’t do any good and just upsets her. So I answer and pretend it’s the first time I’ve heard from her. Some day I’ll miss the groundhog day phone calls.


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