If you haven’t read part I of this series, please read that here.
My mom and I pulled up to the hotel valet entrance and the experience of just getting from the car to the hotel room we’d share for the next couple days was as challenging a process as I’d experienced getting her ready to leave her care facility. There is just so much stuff. To be clear, nothing I write is a complaint. Even the things that sound like complaints aren’t really. This woman rushed me to the hospital when I fell out of a tree and needed 20 stitches as a 3 year old. She moved me to a school with more diversity and educational opportunity when I was 7 even though she really didn’t understand the full magnitude of either of those things. She was there at every turn to teach me, to scold me, and most importantly to me as a kid who watched foster brothers and sisters come and go sometimes weekly, she was there to love me. So when I share the events of this weekend, even the hard ones, they really aren’t complaints in the normal sense.
Other than chasing around a house full of fairly bad-acting foster kids for almost 25 years, my mom didn’t really exercise. So now she moves slowly and needs a wheelchair to go more than 50 feet or so. Plus, sadly, she’s developed low-grade Parkinson’s, which causes tremors and some related motor deficiencies. After some difficulty, we got upstairs and settled and I realized the first big challenge of our time together – I was terrified to leave her alone. What if she fell trying to get to the bathroom? What if she needed something and couldn’t reach me? I didn’t even want to go down to the front desk – which I had to do to get an extra blanket – for fear that something might go wrong.
The first time she did need to go to the bathroom a mix of emotions and thoughts came to me. At 85 and in need of daily care, my mom is no longer particularly modest. But the fact remains that I am a male, she is a female, and she is my mom. So there was the relatively small but noticeable psychic hurdle I had to clear to help make sure the bathroom “process” all worked out. Then, as mentioned before, there was the medicated crème I needed to put some gloves on for and apply to a bed sore she’d developed on her backside. I worked as a Nurses Aide many years ago so the actual mechanics did not present a problem for me. But I thought about her emotions. Even with her frailty she still remembers being an independent adult and still wants some of that independence and privacy even though she knows on the one hand she really needs the help. This is the reality of caring for an aging parent who isn’t in great health. She and I got through it, several times over the weekend actually, but I couldn’t shake the deep emotional pit the thoughts slid me into from time to time.
The first day finished with a lovely dinner at a restaurant called Agustin Kitchen. Although my mom’s memory isn’t great, she remembers vividly her love of steak and shrimp! Hahaha. There is no better feeling than having the ability to do something nice for a parent that brings a smile to their face. Getting my mom changed and to bed once we’d gotten back to the hotel presented a host of additional challenges, not the least of which was her desire to have both the light and the T.V. on all night once she was actually in bed just for background noise. But we rolled with it, both slept somewhat spottily, and just quietly enjoyed spending the time together. The next day presented some pretty unique highs and lows and left me thinking a lot about what it is to be a low-income senior, about disabilities generally and about our healthcare system in a very different and direct way.