I waited until 9.00 and called my parents’ doctor. The day before dad had had a ‘turn’. When he described it to me it sounded like it needed to be followed up. He insisted it could wait until next week when they already had a doctor’s appointment scheduled. I felt it was more urgent. I made an appointment for 10.45 and called him to tell him that they needed to be ready, that I would pick them up at 10.30. He agreed without the opposition that I anticipated.
Mum dithered. We were impatient with her. She wandered about, uncertain of what she was looking for; over to the chair where her coat and hat now seem to live, then to the hall stand where she ruffled through some stuff, and then all the washed containers underneath it. Were any of them mine she asked? Did she need her bag?
“No!” we urged. “We have an appointment and we need to get going”.
We hurried her into the car. She stuffed around taking ages longer than she normally did. Now I wonder if she knew. If she knew it was the last time she would be at home.
The doctor sent us to the A & E room for further tests. She told us to expect to spend a few hours there. She was concerned about inconclusive results on an ECG the nurse ran.
In the hospital waiting room, dad told me to get her away from him as she bossed and fussed. Mum kept the men waiting for dialysis entertained. She wandered. “I have been here before” she repeated. “I know this place. I was here last year”. She went into the room where men were hooked up to machines and was escorted out. To pass some time and to distract her, I took her for lunch. She was angry with me and we hardly spoke in the car. At lunch she pulled the waitress aside and whispered to her, “I don’t know who this person is but I think she is related to me. She is a fucking bossy bitch”.
We always anticipated that something would happen to change the way they existed at home. This was it. Dad was admitted overnight for monitoring. I rang around and found emergency respite care for her. Emergency care for one night became two then three then we were advised that she should not go home. Emergency care became full time residential nursing home care.
Two weeks later, walking my dogs, I fell into conversation with a fellow dog walker. I don’t know his name but we often circle the oval chatting and hurling balls at our dogs. We chat about our daughters, our dogs, our Airbnb experiences. I told him about my latest Airbnb disaster, then I added, that it was made worse as it was the day I put my mum into full time care. It was as if we both knew that each other carried a shared grief as our conversation turned to our elderly parents. His father’s funeral is tomorrow and his mother had just gone into emergency respite pending full time care.
We talked about the tears we had both shed over the past two weeks; the hardest weeks we had ever endured. We talked about how our fathers had carried the burden of caring for out demented mothers and how they just ‘broke’. We shared stories of our mothers wanting us to take them home, the indignity of the disease, of holding their clothing and weeping and then at the point where he normally heads off in one direction home and I head off in the other, we acknowledged that we had done the right thing and we laughed about the ‘support group’ we had just started.