Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Clash Between Apathy & Guilt

Almost six months ago to the day, my mother was in the ICU fighting for her life with breathing problems. To make a long story short she hurt me and I felt betrayed by her actions after she recovered. You can read about that in detail HERE on my original post. I bring this up because this happened again in an almost mirrored sequence of events to the last time.

I feel extremely awkward at this time since I have almost completely removed myself from my mother's life after this last event. The only time I talked to her was when she called me last month on my birthday (despite knowing I didn't want to talk to her). I was very polite, but I gave one word responses and did not engage her in any way to further the conversation. I was enraged that she called me, because I knew she was aware of my wishes and I wasn't ready to talk yet.

The sad part is that through my counseling with Ivan, I was getting very close to the point that I felt I could have a conversation with her and present my feelings and positions without blowing up in a loud rage. Her phone call set it all back and she left Illinois and returned to Arizona to live with my sister Teri.

So here we are with my mother back in the ICU and unable to breath on her own, potentially close to death, and I am not on speaking terms with her. I may never get the chance to have that final conversation with her, and this is where the guilt begins to creep in. Make no mistake that I still deeply care for my mother and I do love her, but the events of our past have led to near dissolution of the mother-son bond. I feel very strong that she is responsible, wholly responsible, for that situation, but my morals and values are such that even if I were to come to a point that I told her I would never speak to her again I would still be grateful to her for giving me (and by extension my children) the gift of life. In addition I would still love her and continue to hope that she would correct her routine of bad choices and get her life turned back around.

Yet despite the above, I am quite apathetic to this current crisis. My wounds from the last one have not healed and even if she was back here I would be loathe to visit her or take on any responsibility because of the betrayal from the last time. The apathy wouldn't be over whether she lives or dies, and for the record let me state that I really do hope she makes it through this crisis, but over events and decisions that are currently being made. This apathy comes from the fact that I can't do anything about what she's going through because like an idiot she did not set up the living will I had been imploring her to do since she came off of life support. There is also the resistance I would get from the rest of my family and that their fighting would also render me powerless in this instance. Since I have no power or influence to assist for all the above reasons, apathy is now in effect. The end results will play out with out me.

This situation just makes me wish I would have had a better life growing up and a better family. Yet this is what I was given to work with and overcome, so it is what it is. Basically my family sucks is the mantra here. I feel that it is irrelevant what I say because no matter what I will be vilified for my comments, actions/inactions, and recent past and stance. To that I couldn't give much of a shit.

That last statement comes into play because once again my mother is on life support, which is against her wishes. When I talked to my sister Teri about this on Thursday night I felt she was rather defensive and a bit rude. She seemed upset that I had called to inquiry about situation and how I even knew about it. Despite that, I asked her three important questions:

How was mom doing?
Was she intubated and on life-support?
Did the hospital know what her wishes were?

Unless I find out otherwise, I will believe that my sister was just stressed out and frustrated with everything that she was now responsible for. Who wouldn't be?, I know I would. But I also got the impression that Teri felt I didn't have a right to be inquiring. She said nothing to this fact, but it was just an impression I divined from her tone and choice of words. None of the above troubles me beyond one point, and that was her answer to the third question.

I'll be blunt, I feel she lied to me. She said the hospital told her that since my mother didn't have a living will the hospital would make the decisions concerning her treatment and that there was nothing she could do about it. Although the Living Will and DNR laws do vary from state to state, I didn't imagine them being too much different from the laws of Illinois, which state that in the absence of a living will when the patient is unable to possess full mental capacity, decisions will be made for them by a spouse, or if one isn't available, then to the patient's children. Back here in Illinois that meant Teri, Traci, and I were the ones who would make the choices regarding her health and medical care. Unfortunately a majority rules and Teri and Traci were overcome with the emotional state of the situation and vetoed my desire to honor my mother's wishes.

But Teri led me to believe things were out of her hands and that she didn't have a right to make a choice. Well, after searching through a few thousand health statutes in Arizona's law records, I discovered that they are almost identical to those in Illinois and that Teri did have the right to make choices, yet she told me she didn't.

As soon as she told me that and I smelled a lie. I said nothing because arguing over the phone with her wouldn't have done anything but made things worse. She then got off the phone with me rather quickly; I think this was because she didn't want to hear my further questions nor come up with more lies if needed.

The saddest part is that I am apathetic to this situation and there was no need lie. Had she come forward with the truth I would have told her that she was the one in charge and that it was her call to make; that if my mother really wanted to avoid this, she would have taken care of this over 6 months ago (and had she created the living will in Illinois, it would have been honored by Arizona). Then I would have asked her if there was anything I could do for her. But she's very much like my mother and sees me the based on some sort of distorted image she's built up over the years instead of judging me by who I am and my actions.

This just serves to feed my apathy and add to my guilt. Apathy will win out because I've developed some finely detailed boundaries for dealing with my family. I'll still love my mother and if she ends up dying I will grieve her. I also try to believe that Teri's responses were more in line with ignorance of the law on her part, mixed in with her own (selfish) desires. I don't fault her for the latter because it's an incredibly weighty situation for anyone to deal with, and bless her heart she's going it alone.

In the end I will most likely be branded an asshole by people with stunted moral growth and emotional inadequacies. I really don't care though because I'm proud of how I've handled myself through this and of everything and since that's the only thing the only thing I can actually control, it is how I will judge myself.

1 comment:

Collins said...

just keep swimming, Chuck.