Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lala Land Part1

Well, here I am sitting in Vancouver and checking in on my mother regularly. When I heard the news about her accident I quit my new job and got on a plane from Toronto.

She's in her 80s and in the hospital. Some days she's mostly there, other days she can't put two words together! She's slowly been losing it over the past few years.

Last year she had a mild stroke but seemed to recover without too much physical damage. The doctor thinks that she may have been having TIAs over the last few years which could explain this gradual mental decline (mini-strokes).

This year she fell while she was walking to the local mall to go shopping. Then again when trying to fix her bed which broke. My sister in law had told her that she would come by to fix it for her, but my mother, as is her nature, was impatient ... it had to be fixed right away ... and she could do it. After all, she'd looked after herself for many years now, she didn't need anyone's help.

The bed collapsed on her fracturing her spine in three places and creating hairline fractures on her hips. She had some osteoporosis and her bones were fragile.

She's now hospitalized, can't walk, and isn't coherent a lot of the time.

I look at this fragile figure who raised me (not an easy job, I wasn't an easy kid to raise and it was the 60s) and who helped me so much in recent years and it makes me wonder what it's all about.

There were negatives and positives in our relationship through the years. In some ways we were close and in other ways so far apart, but in recent years she was really there for me.

So what do I do with all these feelings, the disorientation that comes with seeing someone you care about deteriorate into helplessness and incoherence. Seeing the person that you know disappear slowly into a fog and become almost childlike.

She wasn't perfect, far from it, but neither are anyone of us. She did what she did, and now she needs us to look after her.

In her coherent moments I can see how much she hates being hospitalised and helpless. How she hates the degradation of wearing a "pad" because she can't get up and go to the bathroom, and it requires two nurses and special equipment to take her there. It's even worse when she has to take laxatives to clear the constipation caused by the daily doses of morphine she has to take to dull the pain.

I can see how she just wishes it hadn't happened and just wants to go home. The nurses had to put an alarm on her bed because she keeps trying to get up by herself and has had several more falls in the hospital. Her wheelchair has a seatbelt but it's the one thing that she's very adept at removing!

She's always been independent, started working as a Lab Tech after my father died, and looked after herself.

She loved to travel and see the world. She would come back from her tours with albums of photographs and stories about the places she'd been and what she'd seen. They uplifted her.

She enjoyed regular visits to and from family, friends, and friends of family. Her home was where everyone stayed and everyone visited until recent years.

Her routine until her stroke included two or three visits a week to the Seniors Center at North Shore Neighbourhood House where she would join her friends for regular exercise classes and then pizza at Pizza Hut once a week.

Daily walks (I had trouble keeping up with her on these strolls) twice a day included chats with the neighbours most of whom she knew and some she had known for 40 years, since we first moved into the area. She was at one point made Captain of the local Neighbourhood Watch program, calling me immediately to give me the news with great pride.

She was busy, happy, and enjoying her retirement.

How quickly things change.

So, here I am sitting in the house I grew up in, checking out the community I grew up in, noting the differences and the sameness of everything.

I don't want to be here.

I like Toronto, despite the issues I have to deal with there, Toronto is more my style. I've never really been a Lala Land girl (Lala land = derogatory eastern term for BC for those not in the know ;). I think New Yorkers have similar terms for California?

I tried to convince my mother to move out east and live with me when I saw her deterioration begin, but she loves Vancouver and hates the cold so she wasn't going to go along with this one.

So here I am.