Chaos Attraction

Starving Kittens in Africa Aren't Funny

2004-11-08, 3:14 p.m.

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I skipped doing an election entry here. One is over here should you be desperate to listen to election whining at this late date.

Sigh. Another weekend with the family, another weekend of hell. (Note: grossness starts towards the end of this entry. Sorry, but you've been forewarned.)

I had to go home this weekend, no choice in the matter. Mom works for the local Rotary and had to work some fancy-ass dinner they hold every year, and she didn't want Dad left alone for 8 hours.

As I was getting off the bus to the train station, a guy was about to help me drag my laptop bag onto the sidewalk. I managed to get it by myself with a thank-you and a smile, but when I saw his "Bush/Cheney 04" sticker on his bag... my blood boiled, and I started thinking, "Oh, he wasn't being helpful, he probably thinks I'm a frail woman. Bleech."

Yeah, I know.

I tried my damndest to NOT discuss the election with my Republican, loyal, sheeplike Bush following mother during dinner, but she kept on trying anyway. She did say that she was surprised he won, but she is of the "you can't change presidents during a war" school. Gaaaaaah. I hate to say that my mom is a bad Republican stereotype who follows like a sheep, but....she IS.
I also found out that (a) she actually believed Bush is a cowboy ("Um, Mom, Reagan was more of an actual cowboy than Bush is. At least he played some in the movies."), (b) she didn't like Jimmy Carter because he wouldn't take a limo to his inauguration- "it was like he was too cheap to do it." (Jesus H. Christ, you carry a grudge because of THAT?) Naturally, she doesn't like the Clintons because he's a cheating dog (I ain't arguing that one) and because she's an uppity woman. Okay, Mom didn't outright say "uppity woman," but that was the gist I got. GRRRRRRRR.

With every year this goes on, things get worse. That's a given. My first night home, Mom was oddly querying me if I thought it was a good idea for her and Dad to get pictures taken. I was trying to be as vague about answering it as possible considering that my honest thinking on the question was "hell, no." Because, well... my dad looks like shit. He does. He hasn't looked not-bad in a photo since my high school graduation. (And looking at that photo and how he used to be makes me quite sad. I miss my fat dad.) Even before he became scrawny and wheelchair-bound, his face looks awful since this really started to kick in. He has this vague, bewildered, empty-eyed, wounded animal with gaping mouth expression all the time. What Mom describes as "he's not really there." I hate whenever someone wants to take photos in this family. It's bad enough to have to see on a daily basis, but... I don't know, it's probably horrible of me to say, but it'd be nice to be able to look back at an event years later without thinking, "God, he looks awful." I'm sure after he's dead I'll probably treasure every horrible photograph because it's all I have left or something, though.
Well, as you probably guessed from the vague querying, she already had had professional photographs taken of them... and the photographer was a fucking genius. He actually somehow made my dad look normal. Sure, he's kind of got an odd expression where one eye is more open than the other one, but for a few blissful seconds, he was looking okay. Not something pathetic. Not someone who's obviously eroding from the inside out. Oh, it was lovely to behold.
Mom, on the other hand, looks like a TV evangelist's wife in the photos, but you can't have everything.
Mom got photos to give out to everyone at Christmas, so they can have a good photo for once. She said she felt weird about giving out photographs as a gift, but given the situation and that was the first good shot of him since 1997 (and perhaps the last good shot ever), well...

I will say there was some compensating benefit to the weekend. Since I essentially had no winter shoes any more that haven't been destroyed in the flood or afterwards (my last pair of boots finally gave up the ghost this week), and Mom had to go pick up something to wear to this gathering, we hit a department store's massive Saturday morning sale. She found a sparkly sequinned pink and black top and jacket combination, and I found several skirts, a couple of sweaters, and a few tops. She bought me three pairs of shoes and a few things that I was refusing to buy for myself on top of that as compensation, I suppose.

I wasn't looking forward to Saturday night and being left alone with Dad. Mom and I have had many a discussion about how I just don't feel right um...dealing with certain parts of my father's anatomy. I keep thinking, that's just WRONG and the kind of thing that would normally get you arrested. She said once she wasn't too thrilled at having to do that with her father either. But as of this time, it was seeming inevitable that I'd have to well, see things I didn't want to see, not to mention deal with pee.

"You'll have to give him his pills. And feed him by hand. And make sure he has dinner. And take out the urinal."

Did I mention that my father, as of the last few months or so, has permadrool? (How the photographer managed to avoid permadrool, I have no idea. I hope my mom tipped him a C-note for that alone.) One way or another, he seems to be a giant puddle. I kept following him around with paper towels, not that that really stems a waterfall.

I am happy to report that despite drinking a vatload of water that Saturday night, he never actually managed to use said urinal, thank GOD. He isn't at all good about covering up the er, goodies (part of my motivation for making him a poncho for Christmas, ahem, something to flip over it. Thank god normally I sit behind him when he's whipping it out.), so I knew damned well when he called me in to remove it, I'd get an up-close-and-personal. And no other major disasters occurred, which was a great relief considering that had something occurred, I couldn't have done shit about it.

Something really strange about this disease is that when he's not speaking completely incoherently (and as usual, I had no damned clue what he said the entire night. Occasionally, I could get him to point.), he starts laughing whenever he has to do anything with his mouth. Such as, attempting to speak, or eat, or take a pill, or take a drink...he laughs almost uncontrollablly all the way through. While sure, at first it's flattering to think that all of my smartassed remarks are getting a laugh, after awhile it's just like, "STOP LAUGHING! THIS ISN'T FUNNY!"

I attempted to discuss things that weren't funny with him while putting crap into his mouth, in hopes of for once stopping the heeheehees.
"Baseball isn't funny."
"The election! That's not funny!"
"Starving people in Africa! That's not funny!"
"STARVING KITTENS IN AFRICA ARE NOT FUNNY!"
He laughed hysterically anyway.

The pill-stuffing didn't end up going that badly for me, though this was probably because I followed him around with paper towels and HOLDING HIS JAW SHUT until he had the water ready so he wouldn't drop it out as usual. Maybe Mom needs to do that. Feeding him was well, not that bad either, but I had to look away when he chews. Jess gripes that her older son is bad for chewing with his mouth open, but Dad just plain doesn't always bother to chew food, so you have to yell at him to finish it first. Even worse on feeding was the next day, when ("Now that you've done it before, you can always do it. It's good for you to help him.") Mom made me feed and pill him again and he wanted Cheerios and milk for a meal. It was extremely wet and drooly and he laughed every time he wanted a bite and blew Cheerios all over the place. I said, "Yeah, now I know why you wanted Cheerios. I bet Mom doesn't even let you have them any more, does she?" She said, "You should see him eat soup."

I didn't fuck up this trip (well, except for when Mom got home and saw my apartment isn't unpacked yet and yelled at me for it, and I yelled back, "WHEN HAVE I HAD TIME TO DO IT? I'M BUSY EVERY WEEKNIGHT AND THEN YOU MADE ME COME HOME!", and she yelled at me for signing up for classes in the first place, and I yelled back that when I planned out taking classes, this was when I was supposed to have been moving into the apartment in mid-September when things are dead for me, and that she has no right to judge how messy my apartment is when I'm too busy to do anything when she has the same problem. That kinda shut her up.) with regards to taking care of Dad, but frankly, I'm sure that day will come. Soonish.
I'm still not a good caretaker person, and the more I see Dad get worse, the more I think, "Shit, if I ever married someone, there's no way I could take care of him 24-7 if he got sick without being bitter and resentful and mean and screaming. To his face." I have enough near-breakdowns after asking Dad to repeat himself for the 20th time and he's not even trying to make any noise besides heavy breathing/sounds like a wounded buffalo/gurgling any of those times. Hell, I'm amazed I didn't end up puking this weekend. I cannot be a caretaker of someone and devote my life to taking care of them without being evil and selfish and nasty about it. And if I can't do that, then I have no business ever pledging "in sickness and in health." But hell, I already knew I wasn't cut out for family life and real womanhood. I don't know why I keep thinking that's news to myself.

He's obviously driving Mom nuts. Any time she needs to be in a hurry, or do anything at all, he's suddenly having some sort of toilet crisis that can't wait, or he wants food, or it's pill time, or something else that'll take at least 45 minutes to deal with. And in turn, she goes nuts- "I need to get going here! I can't be dealing with this now!" On Sunday she was telling me she wanted to leave by 5 p.m. and I said, "You know that all depends on Dad. And that he'll probably want to go to the bathroom at the last minute." She said, "Oh, don't say that!" I don't even need to tell you how well this plan worked out, eh?
She also said she was disappointed that we haven't really had Christmas (i.e. decorated or had a tree up) in the last few years and she wants to this year, and I told her outright that we can't have Christmas any more. That since she has to spend almost every minute taking care of him, and I can't come home until the 24th (even before Dad became handicapped, I did most of the Christmas prep around the house when I was home) to do it for her, there's just no way in hell she can humanly manage decorating any more. She said, "Well, that sucks!" Yes, it does, but what can you do about it, Mom?

I have tried to discuss her getting a nurse, but all she'll say to that is, "It costs $20 an hour to hire someone, and I only make $12. I might as well just quit my job and stay home." That and "There's nothing anybody can do to help me."

*sigh* My parents are a sinking ship. And short of giving up my life to go home and quit working and take care of everybody, which I'd stink at, there isn't anything that can be done.

I suspect some day I will be asked to move home and take care of. I don't know what I'll do.


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