My mother, the superheroine. Bet you never thought I'd write that. But her power is not a blessing, but a curse. She just says no. No to everything. Saying no and refusing to listen to rational thesis is not a way of life. It is a curse. It is antithetical to life. No to her daughter visiting. No to a driver so that her daughter can have a stressless visit. No to personalizing her tomb in the nursing home. No to second opinions. No to discussing how she would like to get out of the nursing home. No to looking at pamphlets of assisted livings. No to participation in any activities. Her whole world centers around when the meals come and what is on the Channel 13 Saturday night movie. If any of these two goes awry (pledge week, etc) her voice quivers with anxiety and she becomes disoriented. She behaves more like a superannuated senior who emulates the antiheroes in Fielding or Smollett than like Grandma Mazur in the Stephanie Plum novels which she used to enjoy. That would be BZ. Before zombification.
My mother cannot concentrate or persist, which is why she probably doesn't read. Social Security refuses to pay for PT/OT, as she will not walk again. She will not discuss privately paying for somebody. She doesn't want anything in the room, or anybody in the room.
When you ask her what she wants, she will say she wants out of the nursing home. But it is magical thinking, because she will not plan a path out. She won't even plan for what she might want that is actually obtainable within the next hour. Within the next day.
If I express an opinion, I am the wicked one, because, I "am not respecting her wishes." Good Glenn, the genius brother, is her ally. This, by the way, is a reversion to my childhood. I always felt that there was the three of them, allies, and then me. All alone, like the cheese, whatever that meant. Good Glenn, the genius--were they allied because he has the easier temperment, because he is XY, or a little of both? Evil Sharon, who feels like Dulcinea at the bedside of the ailing Don Quixote, begging him to remember, because Dulcinea only exists in his imagination, and if he goes, what will become of Aldonza the abused? What will become of me?
She doesn't realize how she makes me suffer. This is projective identification. She is forcing me to vicariously experience her Dickensian childhood, cared for by indifferent or outright sadistic relatives. When she cried, they stuffed cookies into her mouth. To control her, they ran the vacuum cleaner, because she feared the noise. By the time she was four, all her teeth were decayed and she was obese. Now she is in the hands of indifferent, understaffed institutions and I feel her helplessness. I hear the anxiety in her voice. Her tremulousness. Her restriction of affect. Her quotidian life is filled with fear--what if the Medicare van is late to transport her to the Wound Care Center. What if the meals are late? What if the aides are late to shower her? And the weather. Oy the weather. She was always obsessed about the weather--the wind, the rain, the snow, the heat. Now it is her obsession. I can't do this anymore. No one is there for me. I am overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated. I can't even pay for someone to pretend to care. Instead, I end up having to perform for them. There is no one to say, "Ahah baby" to me.
You'd think that my literary friends from my bookish past would console me. Alas, that is not to be. There were no slow dying literary characters. Camille just dies, tuberculosis rendering her even more lovely. Emma Bovary offs herself, as does Anna Karenina. The young and lovely volunteer to die. There are no old people in Jane Austen. Elizabeth Bennett will always be 20. As will Emma Woodhouse. The girls in "Little Plum" are always girls. The girls in "Little Women" become young women (except for Beth, who dies young and lovely of some mysterious literary disease). Did Carrie ever age? Grandma and Grandpa Joad die, sad, starving, and poor, but they don't linger. And they were just cranky nonentities anyhow. Male characters are little different. Theoden comes back to life, motivated by what Rohan was and could be yet again to become a warrior king again. Denethor, driven mad by the death of his heir, immolates himself. Sure, it traumatizes Pippen, but it's over with quickly and at least he saved Faramir. And what about Harry Potter. Where are the old wizards. Do they lose their powers. Do they need to be kept safe from errant wizardry. After all, most of the spells involve significant cogitation and concentration. The only vision we get of dotage is the omenous St. Mungo's Home. Strangely, it is portrayed as the wizarding version of Bedlam. Old, insane wizards are warehoused there, isolated from society. Even when you are a wizard, this is no country for old shamans. Raskilnikov just showed them the axe, not the empathy. The Happy Hollisters never dealt with aging or sickness (which is why they were happy). Nor did Nancy Drew. Or the "gang" in the Archie Comics. Or Bertie Wooster.: there would always be a Jeeves. The only old people in Dickens were all lively and spry, whether they were admirable or not: Miss Havisham, raising Estelle to "break their hearts." Aunt Betsy Trotter, who saved David Copperfield from the abusive Murdstone. Wemlick's "aged p" was delightful and appreciative. Even Scrooge showed a lively wit. Mr. Pickwick, who decided that along with his friends to start having adventures. Dracula was thousands of years old, but he was still sexual. And gosh, could he bite. Even Bilbo, at age 50, setting off on adventures and deciding that he didn't want to be the sort of hobbit that everyone could predict what he would say before he could say it. No, the only hobbit I am left with is poor Frodo, trudging up Mt. Doom, every day a torment. I just don't want to be sidelined with the martyr and his press agent.