On feeling conflicted in the face of change

My mom’s in the hospital. This has been long overdue. I’ll spare you the details but she has problems pretty much head to toe, many of which of her own making. Just as an example, she used to try to fix a tooth on her dentures with super glue, while they were still in her mouth. And she’s smoked for years despite developing condition after condition as a result of it. 

In any case, she’s in the hospital now. She just had surgery to remove a large benign tumor from her ovary. She’s in a lot of pain, understandably. If you’ve read this blog at all in the past, you know that my mom is a hoarder and that she’s the main reason my dad didn’t seek medical treatment late last year when he was showing disturbing symptoms that turned out to be heart failure. She’s also the reason why numerous offers to have various appliances and plumbing issues fixed for cost were turned down. 

She was admitted after a completely fed up 911 call from me last Saturday. By Tuesday, I’d called up my cousin and her boyfriend had installed a new toilet in her house. All it took was a $100 in materials. It was that easy. I was feeling conflicted about this then because even though I knew I did the right thing, I still felt like i went behind my mom’s back in some way. 

Okay, so fast forward to yesterday. We went to visit my mom. She was expressing a deep worry that they would send her home the next day but she couldn’t fathom how to make that work. Prior to the toilet fix, she had to schlep outside to turn the water to the house on every time she wanted to flush the toilet, all because there was a leak in the pipe that fills the tank. “I can’t walk outside to turn the water on and off all day anymore, I don’t know what I’m going to do.” 

So I spilled the beans. “Don’t be mad,” I said. “But I had [my cousin’s boyfriend] come and install a new toilet for you.” 

“You did what?!?” she asked. Her tone was indignant. Here we go, I thought. 

But what happened next truly surprised me. She burst into tears. She thanked me. She was filled with gratitude. “You mean, when I go home, I have a new toilet?” I nodded. “Merry Christmas!” she said.

I was waiting for the confrontation. I was gearing up for a fight. I was prepared to call her stubborn for the millionth time. But she accepted it with gratitude. 

And I though this will make moving forward to make additional repairs easier, her acceptance and gratitude broke my heart. 

Would it really have been that easy all along? Could I have made my dad’s last few months better if I’d just grown a set and got shit done back then? Of course, I didn’t have $100 to front to a project like this at that point, either. That was a big part of the problem. 

So now, once my mom recovers and spends some time in rehab, she can go back home to a nicer house where everything works. Where it’s more comfortable and not filled floor to ceiling with useless crap. Where there’s some daylight. I’m working on getting her a day nurse and maybe a maid once every couple of weeks. Because she’s still a hoarder. She needs help with that. She’s hoarding in the hospital, even. After her surgery, she took her hairnet off and instead of having me throw it away, she asked me to put it in her drawer. I had to laugh. The problems are still there and they will continue to be problems. And her issues are outside of my capacity (and willingness) to fix entirely. 

But the idea that she can have a significantly better life after all this kills me. My dad deserved that. He deserved better. I couldn’t provide that for him then. And my mom made sure he didn’t have it. 

So here we are on the cusp of major change and the shifting of roles between parent and child. And here I sit conflicted, wishing she’d continued to put up a fight. Wishing she didn’t thank me. Wishing she remained as ungrateful and nonsensical as ever. Hating her is easier. And I don’t even think I have the emotional capacity to deal with the implications of that right now.