dealing with elderly parents


The cosmos just knows when you are burdened to the point of mental dizziness, loaded up like a wagon cart heading for the promised land which just happens to lie a couple thousand miles off – past the prairies, over the Rockies and across the desert. It also knows that the only thing you are likely to find is a junior wife position in the Lion’s House.

Things stack up. A little bit at a time, but eventually there is nowhere left to pile. Kind of like the inside of MIL#1’s double wide. An Oprah intervention in the making.

For the last week my younger brother, CB, has been calling to vent his spleen and general mental unhingedness on me. While I continue to feel quite badly for him, I am not unaware that he needs me more as a go between than as shoulder. He gets nowhere with our parents when he is in one of his “moods” and though it seems to me that he is no longer effing his life up on purpose, it is really effed up, and he is going to need some cash to start righting it. Cash, by the way, is not something that a 42 year old high school drop-out armed with just a GED and a couple of decades worth of working under the table contracting is going to be able to come up with easily in the economy today.

Because Dad has been ill and largely unable to hold up his end of a conversation, I have been reduced to leaning a bit on Mom. Have I ever mentioned that she is not a crisis manager? Pressure and Mom mix like oil and water.

I know I am heartless, but I believe that despite what they have given monetarily to CB in the past – they still owe him a bit more. The sum he needs to escape Marin and retreat to Tahoe to “get a grip” is pocket change to the parental units. My position is pay him. It will ease the situation for a while, and we could all use that.

However, another wrinkle – that sly universe again – came into play when Dad’s doctors hospitalized him yesterday. Pneumonia and fluid on a lung. Serious in an 81 year old man with pulmonary disease.

My conversation with CB yesterday went something like:

Me: Dad’s in the hospital. Mom will talk with him about the money when all the testing is over, and they know what is going on.

CB: Okay, so when do you think that will be? Because I need the money by the 1st.

Yeah, CB is a bit ego-centric, but as Rob reminded me – aren’t we all – in this life for ourselves kind of thing? Unless you are Mother Teresa that is. Oops, bad example. Or maybe an apt one because as self-less as we are all capable of being, what ultimately makes us happy, content or whatever, is having a life that is stable with people who care about – even love – us.

I googled the whole “fluid on the lung” thing last night then. It was not cheery.

  • infection
  • the beginnings of congestive heart failure
  • cancer

Dad’s lung doctor doesn’t think it has anything to do with his existing lung issues or the pneumonia. This leaves us with two ugly scenarios.

Mom called me after they siphoned off two litres of bloody fluid. She told me – without my bringing up the subject – that she simply could not deal with CB or his request. To which I replied,

“So just send him the check then.”

Because the way I see it, she will worry and feel bad if she doesn’t, and since money isn’t an issue for her – why not use it to buy a little peace and happiness for herself and CB?

And me. Let’s not forget about me in all this.

Later in the afternoon, DNOS calls and tells me not to bring up CB again.

“I didn’t,” I tell her. “Mom brought it up.”

“Oh.” Clearly she had wanted to be bossy and now couldn’t, “Well, Mom had one of her freak-out’s about it.”

I go on to explain my theory and plan. DNOS reluctantly gets on board and agrees to make sure that the money goes out this week and then says,

“I really don’t care about CB anymore. I would be upset if he…expired…but I just don’t care about him.”

And I get that. I have a list of people I should care about more than I do too.

My gut tells me I need to be prepared to hop on a plane and go soon. I know I will have to go without Rob. He and BabyD will remain here until Dad dies. I will have to do the hospice thing again on my own and being the rock and go-to on top of it. I don’t know if I am up to this or not, but life doesn’t need our permission for anything it decides to do. There is no point looking for a whale belly to ride out the storm.

Bad timing and life. Go figure.