Confession time today. Some days, nothing goes right. No matter how hard I smile, or what lilt I put into my voice, everything I say or do rubs my mother wrong. No matter how much she may struggle to hold onto a good mood or try to lever herself into or out of her wheelchair, Mom still needs a tremendous amount of help. And it frustrates both of us. Some days.
One moment yesterday, we sat watching Marley & Me. Mom likes Owen Wilson, and I reasoned this movie would give me a break from watching reruns-of-reruns-of-reruns-of-reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond. The next second, Mom insisted I get her into her wheelchair so she could go to bed. It didn’t matter that it was only 2:30 in the afternoon. If Mom gets the idea stuck in her head that she wants to go to bed, then to bed she goes. I convinced her not to change out of her clothes, but to stretch out and take a nap while she listened to her favorite oldies radio station. I snugged her into her beloved green blanket from head to toe and left the room.
I never made it down the hallway. She rang her service bell, calling my name simultaneously. I about-faced and fairly cheerfully asked, “What do you want?”
“Nothing,” Mom replied.
“Okay,” I readjusted her blanket because her jerking left arm had entrapped itself in the fabric.
I made it down the hallway and into the family room before she called me back again. Used to this routine, I still tinted my voice with good will as I asked, “What now, Mom?”
“Nothing,” she responded yet again. This time, though, she burst into tears. Her feet kicked back and forth as she struggled to roll onto her right side. Her left arm flailed a little. Then she started crying. “I can’t.”
“Can’t what?” I moved over to her bed, sitting in her wheelchair to bring us eye to eye. I waited. Then I asked again, “Can’t what?”
“Get . . . get. . . get. . . my leg right.” At this point her crying shut down her ability to speak. “Fix it!” she managed to demand.
I stood next to Mom’s bed in utter exasperation because I can’t “fix it.” She started trying to sit up, grabbing for her wheelchair. “Where are you going? Where are you going?” I asked. “What do you want me to do? Do you need to go to the bathroom? Bathroom?” I asked as she dragged herself into a standing position.
“Which way do I go? I can’t go.” Her frustration wept from her as I turned her into her wheelchair.
“Do you want to go watch TV now? TV or bed?” I waited a few seconds while she regained her composure. “TV or bed?”
And so our afternoon went—round and round, on and on until I found myself yelling at the top of my lungs because I just wasn’t able to get things right. I wasn’t yelling at my mother—well, I was—but I also yelled at the “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” I screamed at my powerlessness in giving her comfort. I bawled at the unfairness of our bad days and my failure to watch my tone of voice and body language. Some days, I feel hopeless. Some days.
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman