Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Choose your Life and Choose your Death

Some of my father's last words to me were: "Don't ever let your mother be put in an old folks home!" I said, "I'll take care of her, Dad." And he died then in 1985. I was 37. He was 69 and she was then 66.

However, I was not able to keep that promise to my father. It all worked out okay until my mother was 82 years old. However, after my son who was then in his 20s had lived with her through college to look after her part time she went with me and my then 10 year old daughter to Scotland and Europe for three weeks. I thought my 10 year old would be the most difficult but she was a breeze because she was having fun. No, my normally, mellow and wonderful mother started turning into a confused grouch during this trip through Europe. I had no idea what was wrong at that point. But I later learned she was exhibiting Transfer Trauma,one of the first noticeable symptoms of both Alzheimer's and Senile Dementia(hardening of the arteries in the brain).

I and my family had to institutionalize her after she almost burned down her apartment. We had told her not to use the stove, only the microwave as she wasn't tracking well.
But instead she turned on the stove after setting a plastic tupperware bowl on an electric burner and then proceeded to pray that the flames wouldn't burn the apartment down. When my son returned from his work he called me and we both realized she had to be put in a facility. This was one of the most awful experiences of my life. To watch my mother from December 2001 go through about 50 different personalities and slowly regress back into childhood and now to a basically animal state. My most recent experience of her when entering her room was like a whimpering dog because she hasn't known who I was or who she is for about 2 years now. I realized I just can't deal with this anymore.

My mother was one of the most wonderful women I have ever met. She was not a rocket scientist but she was an incredible singer and very kind and gentle person and was one of the most intuitive Scottish Celtic people I have ever known(both her parents were mostly raised in Scotland even though they both were born here to Scottish born Parents).

So to slowly watch her physically and mentally turn first into an incompetent and then a child and then a 2 year old and now an animal who doesn't know me is a lot like letting your mother die and then watching wolves slowly eat her like carrion for 7 years. It's enough to make most people crazy. Since I have a wife and 2 daughters and a son, and 2 step kids and two god daughters and many friends and relatives I could not afford to go down into oblivion with my mother. I am sorry Dad but life is for the living!

Since that trip to Europe in 1999 I have learned one awful truth, Choose your life and choose your own death or you could wind up just a howling animal like my mother vulnerable in all ways to any and all caregivers good and bad!

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