It was 10 days ago that my mother was admitted to the hospital for breathing problems due to her COPD, ignorance, and stubborn nature. Since then she has been taken off of life support and made improvements in her breathing and health to the point that she was discharged and has now moved onto a rehab facility.
Yet I haven't spoken to her in a week. I don't know when I intend to either.
The thing is I'm tired of being hurt by her. Unfortunately this has been a lifetime pattern and her recent medical issues just happened to intersect with her latest cruelty and the end of my limits.
I'm not fooling anyone when I say that we've had a strained relationship at best over the years. I don't agree with how she lives her life and we clash on many moral grounds. That's not uncommon between a parent and a child and of itself its not that big of a deal. Many many parents and children are at a similar juncture.
The part that kills me though is how she treated me when she came off of life-support. I fought with my sisters and my aunts and made sure that my mother's rights, wishes, and desires were followed no matter what anyone else's opinions were. I didn't agree with her choices and wishes, but I respect her right to make those choices and she deserved to have them followed. Specifically I am talking about her wishes to never be placed on life-support for any reason or any length of time.
I was really upset that I couldn't be there when she went into the hospital because my aunt and youngest sister allowed her to be put on a respirator even though they knew she didn't want that at all. That's akin to rape from my perspective. I know that sounds harsh and cold, but if you think about it you'll see that they are similar in that one person makes choices concerning another person's body despite the wishes of the other person. I know my aunt and sister just wanted my mother to live and truly meant the very best for her, I don't question that and I am in no way mad at them. It's a hard position to be in. But that being said, they made the wrong choice because that's not what my mother would have wanted.
So, when I finally got to the hospital the next day, I came with a living will for my mother to sign when she was able to. I spent the next 48 hours or so defending her right to make her own choice as to how she might die and I fought for her dignity. At no time did I let my own wishes or desires interfere ( I supported her being on life-support during this episode). It wasn't easy to do. My sisters and aunts were scared. I was scared. No one was ready for her to die and leave us. I kept thinking about the void in my children's lives that would result in her dying at this time.
But I truly believed then, as I do now, that none of that mattered. She wished differently and she had the right to make that choice.
My sisters and I talked at length about what to do with my mother once she made it through this episode and what we could do to protect her rights in the future. At times it got heated and we fought, many people would when caught off guard.
Then my mother came off life support. It was emotional and a big relief. She wasn't shy about her feelings from spending 3 days on life support. When my sister Teri tried to cheer her up and spin a bright side to it by telling her it was just 3 days and they were over, she responded by saying "that's not living!" and that she'd rather it had never been done in the first place. As you can see, she was obviously against this sort of action and unhappy that she had been forced into it.
I still think she was wrong for taking that stance, but again I respect her right to make that. Part of why I feel that way is because I've been trying to get her to see a doctor for the last 8 months due to my concerns for her health. She fought me every step of the way as I tried to convince her to do what was necessary to stay alive for herself, her kids, even her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Despite my polite determination to see her get treatment, she threw every flimsy excuse and tactic she could at me. First disagreeing with me, then placating me, then telling me it was her choice, when all I wanted her to do was see a doctor. But then the inevitable happens and she ends up in the ICU under life support.
But that's not where I feel she betrayed me and hurt me deeper than she normally has.
As I started to talk to her about taking the steps to protect her wishes and set up a living will, medical power of attorney, and an assisted living community for her to move into, she stonewalled me when she had the chances to make these choices. These same choices that she had told me she wanted less than a few hours ago. But I knew she had been through a tough weekend and she deserved to rest and take some time and I respected that. I told her that I wanted to be the one who took care of all this paper work and protected her so that she was never put in this position again. I told her what I thought she should do, but I said I would honor whatever choices and wishes she made.
Then I had to go to the bathroom. My sister Teri came back into the room and while I was gone and it was just the two of them, my mother told Teri that they needed to get a lawyer to stop me.
When Teri told me this, I could feel myself shattering like glass. I had fought so hard for her wishes, for her rights, and for her decency while I was scared and often outnumbered. I overlooked every indecent thing she'd ever done to me as a parent, and it's a long list. Beatings with baseball bats and motorcycle helmets, mental abuse, theft, manipulation, homelessness, abandonment, and rejection. I tried to be supportive for her in ways she has never been for me, or anyone that I have ever heard of. I was open and honest with her about my feelings, my intentions, and my willingness to honor her.
Instead, she went to my sister and tried to convince her that I was taking advantage of her, that I would make her do things she didn't want to, that I had a plan and the power to force her against her will, and she needed my sister to join her and legally fight me.
First off, the idea of getting a lawyer is absurd because this isn't a legal matter. Since she's (in legal terms) sane and had control of her mental facilities, I couldn't force her to do anything she didn't want to even if that was my plan. Secondly I told her I would do whatever she wanted because only she had "the right to make these decisions."
So why would she act this way and treat me like this?
I don't know.
But I know I didn't deserve it.
My wife was on her way up to the hospital via a hour and a half ride with my children so that she could bring the kids to my mother's room and lift her spirits when Teri told me of my mother's actions and words. That was the only reason I didn't leave immediately. But she came and I brought the kids to my mother and didn't cause a scene amongst my other gathered relatives and we left as quickly as I could politely do so.
What I do know is that no matter what I do or no matter how much I sacrifice or how much I support her I can not control how she acts or feels. And the 38 year pattern says she'll always hurt me or try to manipulate me.
So, it's been a week now and I haven't spoken to her. I don't know when I will again either. I don't have any plans to initiate any contact with her because I need time to process everything that happened and that she did. But in the mean time my family, especially my mother, won't know everything and I'll continue to get beaten up.
That's why I write about this. No one would believe me and this is the only thing I can control and the only hope I have of healing, but without my wife, this would be an exercise in futility.