Gaining perspective is hard when you live with your mother in a hell hole (her phrase, not mine). It is hard for the one WITH Alzheimer’s and it is hard for the one who is the caregiver. But on a bad day (one that involves a broken hip and rehab), gaining perspective can be near impossible. Below is an excerpt from my journal. You will learn about a VERY unfortunate perspective my mother and I got sucked into, and a saint named Angie who gave us hope and saved our lives.
April 21, 2013
A woman named Angie hobbled into my mother’s rehab room today. She’s been a short-term resident in the unit for about a month. Slightly disabled since birth, with arms and hands very different from my own, she has a keen mind and big heart, both brighter and bigger than most I have experienced. This heart is what led her to visit my ailing mother most every day.
In this visit we came to learn that Angie raised two biological sons and two teenage foster sons, all positive contributing members to our society. She broke her hip last July and recently had surgery on a bruised tendon in her leg. In and out of rehab for the last 9 months, she told us that she’ll be discharged this Tuesday. My mother remarked that she must be eager to get the “hell out of here and go home”.
I’ve noticed my mother is saying the word hell a lot.
Angie welcomed my mother’s question. “Eager to get out of here? No, not really. My husband is either asleep or working long hours. My computer is broken and I have no way of getting out and about. I’ll miss it here. Here I can greet people, enjoy a cigarette with a friend and have company at meals. At home, I’ll be isolated and alone.” My mother’s ears perked up at the word cigarette. Usually repetition is due to her Alzheimer’s. But I’m quite certain her lack of cigarettes was the reason for the ongoing use of the word hell. No matter what question you asked it was either a “hell no” or a “hell yes“. And if she didn’t like what a therapist was doing to her or what her suite mate left in the toilet it was, “What the hell?”
Hell this. Hell that. Hell, hell, hell.
Poor Mom. (And can I say, poor me?) But that would be having a pity party and THAT is not how to nurture hope. (I had the pity party anyway. Hope Waned.)
As I listened to my mother and Angie go on with their dialogue, I recalled a conversation 24 hours earlier. “This place is a hell hole,” my mother lamented. “Yes, Mom you are so right. This totally is a hell hole.” What a great description. My mother was completely right. It was a hell hole! There was NOTHING good about this place. I just found my new favorite descriptor.
But today, here was Angie standing in our room telling us that this place gives her life. How in the hell could this be hell? A saint didn’t hobble into my mother’s rehab room, she floated. Today, I stand corrected by this saint named Angie. I hope mother is too. She and I have a lot to learn. Clearly our perspective needs to change. And clearly my mother needs her cigarettes back. And clearly I need to plant some seeds.
A note to gardeners: Usually I plant seeds in late March/early April. Mom fell and broke her hip just as I was getting ready. I ended up not planting cold season veggies that year. Oh well. I focused on warm season veggies once she was discharged in May. I still had a great garden that year.
My apologies to those for which the word h*&@ is offensive. But, it’s an important (and dare I say funny) story that deserves to be told and heard. If you don’t want the full truth, then you probably shouldn’t keep reading here. I say that with all respect.