First my partner left, then my sister left, then my other sister and her boyfriend left. Now I’m alone with Mum and it is killing me. I cook for her twice a day. She’s not able to eat much and she’s convinced that certain foods are causing her to feel sick. Vegetables with the skin off. Lacto-free milk and cheese. Diabetic icecream. Nothing works and Mum continues to be in pain. I feel useless, unable to do anything to alleviate her symptoms.
I feel grateful that we are getting this time together, and that time has been running out for us to get to know each other before she passes. We’ve had some good chats, as adults. I’ve listened a lot, which is new… I liked to talk before, but now I’m more interested in what she has to say.
She likes to tell me how, although she loves us, she wouldn’t have children, if she could live her life again. Or if she did, she would only have two. Although I’m her third daughter, I don’t take offence to this. I find it funny as I have no plans on having children, although that may change. (Who knows, with all the medical advances, maybe my partner can carry our child and give birth to it, seahorse style. On second thoughts, Junior was a terrible film, so best just steer clear.) “You can be happily married without children” my mum says, sagely.
She’s refusing to start care on every possible grounds she can think of. She says she doesn’t have the money (even though it’s quite cheap in our area), then she says she would rather give me the money, which makes no financial sense as it would barely cover my rent on my flat, in Spain.
I’ve felt like I haven’t been able to take a long term job as I want to keep the freedom to come and spend time with Mum, but I definitely did not want to be left to cope with Mum alone, and to gradually start doing everything for her. She normally has prescriptions delivered, but when there has been a problem, I have gone to get them. Pharmacy, GP, pharmacy, home, don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry don’t cry. The doctor’s surgery Mum is registered at is a big, semi-impersonal practice, with a dickie fax and a problem with misplacing prescriptions. The thought of Mum being left without morphine makes muscles in my stomach contract as if a phantom has kicked me in the gut.
I decided to leave. I realised that my taking care of Mum had become enabling. I was only helping her to deny reality by not starting/accepting care, and as much as I had tried, I felt lonely, I felt depressed, and I missed home. I hadn’t lived in my home town for 8 years, and I didn’t want to start now, when I was feeling psychologically vulnerable.
I told Mum I had a job interview and was heading home to the Basque Country for a few weeks. Mum and I had a blazing row. I said some things that were true but unkind. She was very very angry. I think she was most angry that, for the first time in her life, she needed someone else; she is such a proud and independent person.
“I don’t want a carer. I don’t need one.” she said. “I don’t want them touching me and talking down to me. They speak to me as if I had lost it. I don’t want them touching me ever. I couldn’t bear it”.
I lay on the sofa, unable to get up, unable to watch TV. I was depressed and unable to stand or contemplate doing simple things like making food or even checking my phone.
Finally the day came to leave and I dragged myself out of my pit. Mum’s wrath had been appeased by Deborah’s arrival from London later in the day, so I kissed her goodbye, hoping it wouldn’t be for the last time.