Four months ago, when Joe Boxer ran his very hard head into my ankle and broke the bone causing me to break two more, I would have never believed it was a good thing. I mean, being dependent on someone for food, and care is not a good thing. Being confined to a space because you’re unable to drive is not a good thing. Being unable to do all the things you’d like to or need to because your body isn’t working the way it should is definitely not a good thing.
But it was.
Because I came to California to “deal” with the Mom to sort of get a handle on what she will need as she ages and falls apart. And if I had not sat on my ass in my own home for four months unable to do things, I would have approached this whole trip in a different way. She would not have cooperated with any of my suggestions, gentle and subtle they might have been. We would have had more than a dozen fights about nothing and everything and my mother would have fired me a dozen times.
Because taking away any control from the Mom is a war waiting to happen. This is a woman who refuses to get a cell phone so we can’t reach her whenever we want to. A woman who, and I am in no way exaggerating here, is trying to find a proctologist that will do her colonoscopy without putting her under. Funny enough, no one wants to sign on to shove a tube up her bum while she’s awake and able to comment.
My friend sent me a book during Broken Ankle when I mentioned that I’d be going home to California after and trying to determine what we were going to do with my mother and her aging body. “Read this book first, ‘Being Mortal’ by Atul Gawande.” She said.
And I said I would but really didn’t want to. I don’t do well when my world is falling apart and even less well when the world is falling apart. I didn’t want to read non-fiction about ‘medicine and what happens in the end’. I wanted to read trash with happy endings and fluffy feelings. But she deals with death and dying everyday so I listened and I read it. And wow.
This book should be required reading for every adult. Period.
We seldom know when we will be asked to contemplate the end of life. We rarely ever ask the questions of our parents or loved ones how they want to leave this world until it’s too late. Or if we ask the questions, the answers are given somewhat flippantly without much consideration. I’m sure we all might have an answer to whether we want to be resuscitated if our heart stops. And we might all have looked at someone in a nursing home bed and said, “I don’t want that to be me.” But have we asked and answered about the quality of life we want as we age?
For each and every one of us, the more important question we need to answer is this: If time becomes short, what is most important to you?
My Mom had a bone marrow transplant in 2004 which thrust me suddenly into a parenting my parent role. I did not like it at all and my mother liked it less. Being a control freak in charge of herself for 60 years, being told what to do and when and how by her obnoxiously anxious daughter was a recipe for disaster. Mom and I fought constantly during her treatment and convalescence – which likely made her determined to survive to just prove all the doctors wrong. And to she ignored all my attempts to help her, accused me of trying to kill her and generally was a shit to live with. But she survived. In fact, her twelfth ‘birthday’ was yesterday!
Twelve years ago, we made sure she answered those questions about resuscitation but we didn’t honestly look at what she was getting into and how knowing what the treatment would do to her would affect her answers. Before shoving a bunch of toxins into your body, you might want to have aggressive treatments and intubation. After, when your hearing has been messed with and your thyroid has gone rogue, and your body is suddenly ten years older, your answer might be much different.
I know I have a weird habit of ‘solving’ the “What if so and so died?” problems in the dark of the night. What car I would sell first, how would I deal with the loss, would I stay in Tennessee? But selling a car or not selling a car or moving has been the extent of my weird problem solving. Whether I’m pulling the plug or getting resuscitated have been too but how I want to live, that wasn't a question. Till now.
My question has changed from the obvious medical ones to the should be obvious quality of life one: If time becomes short, what is most important to me, to my loved ones?
I have Mom’s answer to that question. I have my answer to that question.
Do you have yours?
My name is ej. I'm a girl. I say that because with the short hair and the short initials, folks aren't always sure. More brilliant insights to who I am in About me