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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Deconstructing Jane

Some find it so shocking when a person is killed by a member of their own family. Frankly, I have to wonder why it doesn’t happen more often... Okay, I'm kidding... mostly.

Two Sundays ago, I flew back to Familyland in the upper mid-north. I grew up there but I left half a lifetime ago so it's no longer my home even though all of my family still lives there.

My dad is scheduled to have major surgery the next day and my mother's mind is getting a bit too fuzzy to fully cope with this kind of stress. The surgery is necessary to repair a prior surgery-gone-wrong from last August. I won't say screwup or malpractice because pointing fingers serves no purpose at this point. I will say that this time I resolved not to be 1000 miles away and at the mercy of others to be my dad's care advocate. I will also say that in spite of my mother, my two brothers and their wives, my dad might only have survived last summer because of my former sister-in-law and a cousin who were good enough to jump in and demand some answers.

Oh, have I mentioned that I'm the family bitch? Yeah, I have the misfortunate character flaw that causes me to question authority and say what I think. The rest of my family does not make waves. They secretly complain about my differences but have no problem exploiting them when it suits. Whatever. Some times you just have to block out all the disfunctional noise that is your family and do what feels right.

The biggest reason I'm going back for the surgery is because my dad wants me to come.
But, oh, as long as I am packing up my B-ness and coming that way, could I have a talk with my mother about getting some help for her developing dementia, they asked. I mean, it's not like they don't see her every day whereas my contact with her is pretty limited. Bitter? A little.

So, in spite of a crappy nasal gomboo and a buttload of job-work, I take off for 10 days of family fun. I am actually thinking of it as a bit of a break. Sometimes my optimism is a bit misplaced.

The plane ride was fairly uneventful... except that my eardrum ruptured at 27,000 feet. Wow. At least the plugged up feeling is gone... in one ear.

My dad picks me up at the airport and takes me to their house where I soon realize an early Thanksgiving dinner is in the making... with the WHOLE family. In this case WHOLE doesn't imply a large family so much as it means every member of the family. Including my newest sister-in-law - who is not very new but I lack a better identifier. As much as I dislike her for the selfish witch that she is, I can be civil around her. She, however, cannot return the favor because she believes me to be the soul reason for the sad state of my brother's family relationships... but that is a complete 40,000 word blog of its own. My brother, with whom I once shared a close relationship, pre-witch, mostly pretends I'm not there because to acknowledge me with other than vague pleasantries would probably cost him sleep and sex for a year. My mother thinks that we will all be one happy family again soon. I have given up trying to teach her about reality.

The next morning we take my dad to the hospital bright and early. He is optimistic and ready to have done with it. The people at the hospital are SO nice. Really. Unless you have spent time in the 'Otas, trust me, you do not know NICE. Even the doctor is nice. Not curt or quick or all doctor-talky. My dad is off to surgery and 5 hours later is in his room to sleep it off. Growing up my dad was the strongest man in the neighborhood. He was the one the neighborhood called on when they needed some serious muscle. Now at 83, he is lying in bed, tubes snaking out of every opening with my mother looking on helplessly. I am suddenly aware that life has changed. A lot.

With the surgery out of the way, the next day I resign myself to getting some professional help for my throbbing, bleeding ear and drive myself to the quickie-clinic even though I feel like shit. My mother offers to take me but I can’t let her do that. I am 50 years old and she is 78. We’ve crossed the equator as far as who cares for whom and there is no going back. I don't 'want my mommy' anymore.

I tell the receptionist right up front that I have no idea whether my health insurance covers their services because I do not have the strength to track down an internet connection to find a ‘participating facility’. I even go so far as to tell her that I am pretty sure it doesn’t. No worries, she tells me. Why don’t we just run it through and try. She wants only my co-pay and neither my arm nor my leg. I am too sick to lecture her on how the wonton trust of her culture will surely bankrupt them. That nice thing again. I take a seat and wait no more than 5 minutes before my name is called.

I’m examined by a kindly, older nurse practitioner who sees my burst ear drum and raises me a double ear infection. Ten minutes later I head out with three prescriptions in my pocket and try to find a pharmacy based on my fuzzy recollection of one in the general area of… okay, I’m lost… and I’m sick… and I am driving around aimlessly in my dad's truck with an empty prune can rolling around the passenger floor - probably the remains of his last presurgery 'binge'. I am thinking that my life can’t get more pathetic than this. I am way wrong.

I struggle through the pharmacy experience and finally make it home. Oh my! My mother has plugged the toilet. I glance briefly into the bathroom and see her plunging brown water. I tell her that if she will leave it alone, I’ll take care of it later but I just can’t deal with it… right now. I hit the couch and focus on fighting my nausea. I drift off only to be roused by the periodic sound of plunger suckings, which join up in my mind with the brown water visual. Finally, it’s unavoidable. I run to the brown water bathroom and puke into the sink… several times. No way was I getting close to that toilet.

Meanwhile, my mother has called my father... in the hospital! to find out what should be done. He asks to talk to me. He says she is plunger-challenged. I tell him I will take care of it. I tell my mother that I will take care of it. I tell myself that I WILL TAKE CARE OF IT! What a big help I'm turning out to be. I finally sleep a miraculous, rejuvenating 90 minutes and arise to battle the crap clog. Once the pipes are clear, I notice that my mother has obviously been using a wire hanger... or something, to try to poke out the poop. There are black scratches all over the bowl. Not my problem... bitches don't do toilet bowls.

So over the next few days my dad's condition improves... and deteriorates... and he's better and he's worse. He's trying so hard to get out of the hospital. My dad, unlike his daughter, follows his doctors orders to the T. But he's a textbook case of what isn't in the textbooks. What should work doesn't. IV's in... IV's out. They try liquids... and take them away. The tests show that everything should be working. It's not. Then it is. My dad is very sad and I cannot fix it no matter how I try.

I put off the 'talk' with my mom until my dad's condition seems somewhat stable, which doesn't happen. My other brother, the one who put in the bitch request, keeps asking about my plans to take care of the mom business and about this time my own husband starts calling persistantly asking when I am coming home... and can I make it sooner. All the while where I once had ears it feels like there are large cotton-stuffed conch shells. I am able to hear less every day. But that doesn't stop my mother from talking to me... while my back is turned or I'm out of the room. Everything must be repeated at close range. Again... and again. I want to yell 'WTF don't you understand about I CAN'T HEAR YOU?!?!' The 'Ota nice is obviously not catching.

Okay, now go back and read those last two paragraphs over and over... at least 4 or 16 times and you will have an inkling of what goes on for the whole first week. I feel mean and unhelpful... and like I should not have come.

I run off with my BFF for yummy Indian buffet and some mad lipgloss shopping on Black Friday, then it's back to her house for mojitos and 'What Not to Wear.' We totally poke fun at everyone - even the 'experts'. Just the therapy I needed.

When I get to the point where I am almost completely deaf, I go back to another doctor... who gives me more drugs and the 'sucks to be you' rush. I am dreading the plane ride home. I am dreading the talk with my mother. I find ways to misplace my cellphone because I cannot handle even one more call from home. My dad wants me to stay another week. I feel like the worst daughter in the world because I can't... or won't because extending my stay another week would make everything else beyond difficult. I am a wimp and I am feeling depressed and totally ineffectual when I make a visit to my in-laws who feed me the world's best pizza and some empathy... and I leave feeling better.

And then there is more... but for another day if you can stand it.


Debbie said...

Oh the joys of the sandwich generation. What a terrible experience for you. I am feeling like a horrible daughter right now because I am here taking care of my son and my mom has a new broken arm and I haven't even been to see her.

Noanie said...

Oh wow Jane. I'm sorry you had to go through that. I can only imagine. All I can say is you are in my prayers.
Be well.

Laoch of Chicago said...


JennyD said...

Jane, omg, I found you. I've been gone so long that when I saw your post about "not posting" anymore on Spaces, I almost croaked. Now msn has made a new-and-improved Spaces and it's the pits. I can't figure out anything and I hate it. At least I know where you are now and I can come over and bask in your posts and know I'm not the only one screaming at life. I'm REALLY sorry to hear about your dad. I hope things start looking up. The stress must be eating you alive. Add to that your ear, and I know you must feel like running away from everything. Gotta love that old plunger of life, huh.
Ok, I've rattled on too long and I'm taking up too much space. I'll check back in later and try to be quiet about it -- oh shoot, you won't hear me anyway. xxx

jill said...

and to think i've been whining about a bee sting for 3 days... *grin*

wow....i got stressed just reading it....hope you are better and the plane ride wasn't too painful.

there's got to be a better word than "bitch" to describe the person that everyone turns to because of her strength and persistent personality. i admire your willingness to be there for your mom and dad...

Nadine Hightower said...

And that's why I don't go home.
I want to see my granny but I do not want to deal with my gramps. He's a pill.
I'm sorry that you have to go thru that....It's not easy when the old folks are in their 80's.
Hang in there.

Lorrie Veasey said...


Omg-what does that SAY ABOUT ME?

I am a crap person, but i can't help it.... Tell. Me. More.

If your ears are ringing right now, it's not the infection: it's me telling everyone I know about what a unique and interesting and funny and smart person you are.

When stuff totally overwhelms me, I always find it helpful to remember I'm going to die. But, um, I don't know if that's helpful or not.

*virtual hugs*

Jeankfl said...

OMG! What a trip! No wonder you can't blog.. I hate it when I feel like such a failure.. and parents and family can sure dish it out. I hope at least your dad survived his medical care! Please continue the story!

Diane said...

Oh, honey. Oh, honey.

I got nothin' else. Just oh, honey.

Sending you good vibes!!!

j said...

Jane dear you were missed. I'm so glad you're back.
You had me on every word feeling guilty for being kinda glad my folks are gone. Whew.
Hang in there gal.

Anonymous said...

Isn't is sad how we change? Growing old isn't for the faint of heart. I'm sorry for your experience and feel for you. My parents didn't live long enough to be "old" both of them died in 1989 and both were 59. I remember my grandmother's dementia and it was very sad.

Hope all is well with your father and that your mom seeks help.

Dana/Texas Mammie

Tracie said...

Yikes - not good!

Domestic Goddess said...

Jane, I'm so sorry that you're ill, and then had to deal with difficult family issues on top of it. One or the other would have been MORE than enough for anyone!

And I mean no offense, but it sounds like your brother either needs to grow a set, or reclaim his from his wife's purse


MaDukes said...

Good Grief Jane, you are amazing. Time for you to get some pampering and definately some rest. I don't know if I could have stuck it out as long as you did.
BTW - I'm guessing that no one did laundry while you were away, as they aren't allowed to touch your beautiful washer. You might want to rethink that...as much as I hate laundry I'd give a class on using it, just so I didn't have to.
I will down a few giant Margarita's at the pool at our hotel in your name. Rest Jane...
Talk to you when I get back.

The Lady in Pearls said...

Oh great! Put things in perspective why don't you? How am I supposed to be over there on my blog pissing and moaning about inconsequential crap when you have all of this going on?

I'm sorry you're going through all of this! It's that whole circle of life crap. Someday your daughters will probably blog something about you and a toilet. But I bet, even at 78, you'll still be able to dismantle the thing, go to HDepot for a new and install it all by yourself - yucky wax ring and all!

Ok, I'm rambling now. You know how you felt when you couldn't fix your Dad's sadness? That's how I feel now. I don't know how to make you feel better. Wish to hell I did.

But next time there's mojitos, Indian Buffett and "What not to wear" going on with your BFF, don't forget to call your VirtualBFF's! We'll be there for ya'! Love ya Jane!

Shana said...

Nothing like a BFF and "What Not to Wear" to make you feel better!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, man. Rough, J. Really rough. I hope and pray that things are looking up. How is your dad doing now? Is he home?

I already warned my mother to stay healthy and keep Dad healthy.

hugs, g

Joisey said...

I'm sorry for teasing you, but you know. With this posting of yours, you have an inkling of what's been going on with me. It sucks to be the "glue". I don't think I need to elaborate. Thinking of you.

Paige said...

Wow what a trip---glad it is over. I had the exploded ear in London when I was 16, so I saw that city for the first time through tears--I thought I would die.

I am the bitch in my family too--and I bet like you, you wonder what kind of bitch you are if you cannot tell people to handle their own bidness and leave you out of it, huh?

Shana said...

Oh, and Marissa really likes having her birthday on Christmas Day. She likes to say: "Don't say it isn't good, because it is." I think when she is an adult, she might feel that more people forget. As of now, I don't (and she sure doesn't) let anyone forget

thesleepdeprivedmomma said...


I'm sitting here thinking "Ive had such a bad week" and then I read this.

I was wrong.

mitchowl said...

You do have your adventures.

Shupe said...


My darling woman-
You do what you can. Don't regret anything-
You are a loving person- and also in turned highly loved....

BBB said...

Oh Jane. I feel so for you! Flying with a double ear infection is excrutiating enough, and then having to deal with everything you did. It is so difficult. Just know that others are thinking of you and pulling for you.

I hope you are feeling MUCH better!

Noanie said...

Just checking in on you and hoping you're doing well. You're on my mind.
Be well. Peace

MizAngie said...

Wow. Sorry, my dear. Been there, done that except for the fretting husband part. I'm our "family bitch" who will talk to doctors, nurses, and whoever we think needs to be talked to. You know the ones - the ones who don't like to be talked to...

Hang in there. Someday things will be better no matter what you do.

Lena Wayback said...

Awwwwwwwww Jane! How is ya daddy now? Did ya have the mom talk yet?

Only you can take the worst situation and put it in words that make it funny. You have a gift lady!

Hope your ears are on the mend and you're feeling much better.

Henry the Dog said...

My mum can truly empathise. That's why she's now happy to be living in France, away from all family. We love your blog. We found you through Diane's Ramblings and we'll be back if you don't mind:)

Miss Thystle said...

you know what you need? MORE BOOZE. The good, non-Youtah booze.

Domestic Goddess said...

Checkin in with you Jane. Hope you're ok