This blog entry has been on my mind since this past August. The image truly represents what this entry means to me. This entry to more personal than my previous entries as this one is a window into my personal life and sharing more personal information that only a handful of people know. This does not share the total experience of the last five months. I appreciate the love, support, and check-ins my friends have given me. I appreciate the strength of my father and sister. I appreciate the support, love, ear, voice, actions, and understanding of My Love. I appreciate all who read the following as this is “MY FIVE STAGES OF A NEW SINGLE GUARDIANSHIP-HOOD”
STAGE 1: DENIAL AND ISOLATION
Last August I received a phone call from my sister to come and check on my mom as she was not ‘acting weird’. At this time, I was planning the Second Phase of moving from my old apartment, wrapping-up my summer teaching responsibilities, and prepping for my fall full-time teaching. That phone call would be the beginning of a long-road for my sister and myself.
Several days after arriving to my mom’s apartment and finding her is an altered state and calling 911, I would learn that see was suffering from Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. Which could have been brought-on by her years of poor life-style decisions and her previous condition of Lupus, this new syndrome came in and completely shut-down her health. In response I isolated myself from friends and family as I had so much added to my plate: seeking guardianship for my mother, filing paperwork, checking with her job, her insurance, filing for Mass Health, getting my sister ready for her first day of high school, figuring out how to pay my mom’s bills, cleaning her apartment, and then handling my own professional and personal responsibilities. I was in denial of what had taken place. I felt I could shoulder the weight and get things done because this should only be a few weeks of hospital visits. My mom would get her physical health back. My mom would get her memory back. My mom would be back.
Then the questions started. Why did this have to happen now? Who can offer support? How will I make time for everything? How do I ask for support? I needed to find answers and try to build supports. Building supports continues to be a process, but I could no longer be in denial once my mother went from the hospital, to a rehab center, to another hospital, missing my sister’s Birthday, then her own birthday, then my birthday. It was now nearing Thanksgiving.
STAGE 2: ANGER
The next few stages progressed in rapid succession. I had established a routine: Stay at my mother’s apartment Monday thru Friday, go home for the weekend (to wash clothes, iron clothes for the week, spend time with My Love, and relax), and repeat.
I had essentially become a Single-Parent during the last five months. I because responsible for my sister. She was beginning her first year of high school. We established a routine: Wake-Up at 5:30am, eat breakfast, lessonplan (if needed which was the case most of the time), go to work time 5pm, errands (if necessary), cook dinner, make sure my sister finished her homework, sleep, repeat.
I started to get angry about the current situation. I was angry that my sister’s father (we have different fathers) did not step-up and help take care of his daughter (although this was not a surprise since he has been absent in her life the last 9 years). I was angry that my mother did not get better and couldn’t remember anything because her short-term memory was gone. I was angry that I couldn’t handle all my mother’s finances because I couldn’t afford to, I was angry that I was about to spend my first Thanksgiving without seeing my mother and tasting her cooking. I was angry that there was so much to do, but little support to file papers for insurance, her job and medical leave, her bank account, my sister’s school paperwork, my own paperwork, and not being able to save money like I wanted to. I was also angry because I couldn’t be the best teacher I wanted to be in the classroom because I did not have the time to plan/prepare.
STAGE 3: BARGAINING
I began bargaining with myself and making sacrifices with my time. My mother had to be moved to another facility that could better serve her mental state. At this time, she did get her physical health back, but her mental stability has only remained stable. I made a bargain to see my mother less to give myself more time to lesson plan, relax, or get other errands done. She was now an hours drives away, so I bargained (what I felt was neglect) that I would only see my mother once a week because she wouldn’t even remember my visit after a few hours anyway. I bargained only doing teacher work on Sunday’s so I could have some weekends for Self-Care. I bargained that I could push myself to my physical and mental limits during the week, because I would have Friday night to take my foot of the pedal. I bargained that I would reach-out less, because I did not want to talk or deal with my mother’s health and potential long-term implications: What if my mother has to stay at the nursing facility indefinitely? How long can I keep up this routine of not being at my apartment? What is my mother’s government housing kicks her out because she is not living there? What is they charged rent based on my income because I am living there now, which means I can’t pay two rents, which means moving into a two-bedroom apartment, which means, what happens if my mom get’s better; where will she live? These are the questions I have bargained avoidance with Self-Care. However, this is not healthy.
STAGE 4: DEPRESSION
While I was exactly depressed during this time in my life, it has become incredibly hard. My Love and I cooked Thanksgiving Dinner and tried to make it as normal as possible. Balancing the different dietary restrictions, picky-ness, and choices, we was able to put together a feast that was not only acceptable to all, but pretty darn tasty.
But it was still not the same. My mac-&-cheese was not my mom’s. Our collard greens was not my mom’s. My apartment was not my mom’s. This is when I started to think about the enviable task of Christmas. Will my mom be home? I can’t bring her home because when her memory resets, she will think everything is fine and be at home so trying to drop her back-off would be a task: telling her what the last four months have been like, that she missed birthdays, etc. etc. These instances still do occur, I mean each time I see her or speak on the phone she ask the following questions: What did the doctors tell you? Am I coming home? So, what about your sister? What about my job? Where is my cell phone? and occasionally, where am I? Can you get me a drink/ cigarettes?
Christmas was the toughest time. While the routines established by my sister and I have paid off greatly: my sister’s grades are good, I am reaching some benchmarks I set for my students, and my mother’s cat was no longer peeing on the floor next to the litter box. However, this Christmas was going to be fewer gifts to receive, fewer to get, and only my sister and I as My Love was going back home. My sister and I visited my mom and they both cried because they both knew they couldn’t be together Christmas morning. I tried my best to save-face and be strong. It was tough.
STAGE 5: ACCEPTANCE
Post Christmas has been a time of reflection. While the timing of my mother’s health and current situation couldn’t be worst, my sister and I have gone through the worst of it: Missed birthdays, missed holidays, and missing. We both have talked about what is going on and accepted that we will need to continue waiting it out. While this is going to be hard to type, I have accepted that my mother will no longer build memories that we can share. I have accepted that my mother (unless improvements happen to her mental abilities) will not remember when I get married, have a child, my sister’s graduation from high school, and future holidays.
It is upon understanding the current situation facing my sister, my father, my mother’s family, My Love, and my mother, that we all can move forward.
We will move forward and tackle things as they come-up. I move forward with a growing appreciation for all the single parents out there because I know how hard it is to balance time, responsibilities, and the growth of a young teen. I appreciate all those who cook for the holidays because it is hard to get timing, cleaning, cooking, and set-up accomplished to make everyone happy. I appreciate all those who have experience similar circumstances.
Most of all, I appreciate you for reading this. The most common thing I am told, “if you need anything let me know.” But, the most common response I have, internally, is “well, what do I need?” Five dollar gift cards to Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or a local grocery store would be extremely helpful. Continued request to hangout by my friends are very helpful. But, the most important request I have for anyone who is my family, friend, or just a reader, is a check-in. Call my up and see how I am doing. Send me a random letter. Send me a random facebook message of a funny story. Send me a random text. Send this blog to a mutual friend who you think should know about what I am going through.
The best support I can ask for is support. Don’t sit-back and wonder ‘how’, just contact and ask ‘how’. This is a sentiment I am working on myself because I have friends and family going through tough situations as well. Let’s all aim to make 2015 a Year of Love.
EDIT (12/29/14 @6:42pm) I don’t want my friends to at all feel guilty or think I am trying to shame anyone for a lack of reaching out. If anything, this is my clear attempt to put what I have been dealing with out-on-the-table.