Guest Post by J.O.B – Caregiver Part VPosted: May 14, 2014
Please see “Guest Post by J.O.B. – Caregiver Part I” if you need to catch up or need the link to J.O.B.’s blog.
When February rolled around, the dark days had arrived. Mom wasn’t smoking anymore, only because she could not muster the strength to walk to the basement. Most of her time was spent laying on the couch with a bucket placed next to her for vomit. I would come home from school on some days and empty the bucket. I would place and dab a cool wash cloth on her head. A head that had prickly little hairs on it that just looked like death. This must be the definition of caregiver that we all discuss.
This became the new normal. Debbie would stay with Ma in the morning while I was at school. And I would relieve her at 3:20. There were days where Mom could function. She would be able to get off of the couch and use the bathroom. Even make a meal, and manage to keep it down. But there were days that were filled with nothing more than pain and tears. I remember on two separate occasions that after being fed dinner on the couch, she was to weak to even turn onto her side to vomit, so she threw up all over her chest and shoulder. After cleaning her up I would lift her torso up to remove the sheet and replace it. As I gently laid her head on the fresh pillow, she would look up at me with the saddest look. It had to have been the look of utter shame. A Mother who brought a child into this world, and was supposed to grow old watching and experiencing all of his accomplishments. But currently, she lay there helpless with her baby boy having a front row seat. Cleaning vomit off of her. Feeding her. Bathing her. I’m guessing this could not have been what she imagined the end to be.
Come mid February things went from bad to worse. Ma would go days without eating. Not because she didn’t want to but because she didn’t have the strength. The good days were pretty much gone and Debbie was reprimanded for using all her sick days at work. Which resulted in my Father speaking to my Dean and counselor which enabled me to take days off of school. When Bill was able to get off of work he would come over. Probably just to give me a break.
I remember one day particular that I was kneeling next to her rubbing her head with a damp cloth. All of the sudden a tap on my shoulder startled me. It was Bill (Brother). He asked, “How is she doing?” I asked him, “Are you kidding? Look at her! She’s dying. And there’s nothing we can do”. “Why don’t you go out tonight? I took off of work tonight and I’ll stay with Ma. You should just go out and relax a bit”, he said. I told him I was just going to go to my room, which I did. An hour later I had a knock on my door. It was Bill, and he wanted to know what was going on. I told him, “Nothing, I just didn’t feel like going out”. He told me, “Look, I know Mom is going to pass and it is unfair to you. But you need to know that she would want you to live your life. And I want you to live your life. We are all in this together”, he said. “I’m your Brother, and I will be here for you……..no matter what!”, he told me. “We are in this together and that is how it is”, he said.
Bill’s help was huge, but as each day went by things got worse. It got to the point where the O’Brien Matriarch would spend ALL of her time laying on the couch. Moaning in pain with tears coming from her eyes. This woman who stood seventy inches tall and once weighed one hundred and seventy pounds had been reduced to a shell of herself weighing no more than one ten. Every day that I was there was filled with pain, and despair. I contacted my friend Sean. He was a chemistry genius who was able to extract THC from the marijuana plant and bake it into food. He made cookies and brownies. I purchased quite a few brownies from him and was able to talk my Mother into eating them.
The amazing thing is that I feel no guilt over this. I felt NOTHING but guilt with the cigarettes. Even to this day I don’t like discussing it. But with the “THC” brownies, I have no problem. I think it’s because it worked, somewhat. She wasn’t in pain so much any more. She could eat without throwing up. But most importantly, she seemed to be able to enjoy the little bit of life that she had left.
Ma had two favorite categories of music. One was classical, which I grew up learning from her on the piano. But as much as she loved classical, and the piano, she loved Motown, and her favorite was Otis. I remember purchasing “The Very Best Of Otis Redding” cassette so that we could listen to it. Her favorite song was…………………….