I've had a lot of personal thoughts on my mind lately, and they've really worn me out. One tangent has been Bruce's mom. Her birthday was March 30 and I found myself thinking about her a few days before that and since. Before I went to Florida where I ended up helping her through hospice, a situation I NEVER would have expected to find myself in, I'd only met her in person once. She came out to stay with Bruce and I for awhile the year before she died I think it was (I am bad at timelines) Bruce was nervous and I was terrified. His mom was like a Southern Belle and had a lot of expectations of what I should be like. I don't think I was many of those, if any. She herself was an extremely clean woman and I cannot say housekeeping has ever been my strong suit. Plus, she was fiery, dramatic and given to doing things and causing scenes I couldn't really imagine. I was really pretty scared. When she came I could almost see thoughts, but graciously she didn't express them. Mostly. When we'd go out to eat, which we did fairly often during her visit i learned how particular she really was and I would bring a tall stack of ones, adding to whoever served her a dollar for every infraction of courtesy (my perception). Some of those folks got some whopping tips. But to me she was very kind. She appreciated little things and I came to relax and find a lot I really liked about her. She loved to be catered to so I catered when I could. This was mostly little things, go get her the paper and a doughnut in the mornings, play cards. Bruce and I took her to Mesquite to play Bingo (she LOVED Bingo) I stayed with her and she had about 4 sheets going and was watching mine (I'd never payed bingo before except at home when I was a kid) She would wear her jaunty little cap and bright red lipstick an she had a whole caddy of markers (a gift from Bruce, mostly Elvis themed) We stayed a night in Mesquite and she wanted to stay in our room which made me uncomfortable but ok.... In the middle of the night she sat bolt upright in bed and yelled out, "Good GAWD! Does she always snore like that?" We had our own on subsequent outings. We took her to see Bryce Canyon and stayed at Ruby's Inn, in adjoining rooms. In the middle of the night I heard the faint sound of an alarm clock going off. It was faint but I wondered who would leave the clock going off like that. Eventually it dawned on me that it was coming from Inez' room. I thought no one could sleep through that sound right next to their head, so I woke Bruce up to ask him what we should do. we decided to call her room and so we did. No answer. For a long time. By that time we were thinking she had died in the night and we went to the front desk to get someone to open the door. Well they had keys for the door sure enough but she had latched the thing and apparently they did NOT have a tool to unlatch it. I wanted them to break a window but they would not do this. We were all conferring outside her door listening to that alarm for a long time when suddenly Inez sauntered forth in a nightgown and a beanie wondering what all the fuss was about. But she was frail and we cut the trip off short as she fainted 3 times on us. I took her to the emergency room in St George but they didn't do much. We thought it might be altitude related and so she flew back to Florida a little sooner than expected.
Inez loved to have fun and Bruce was really happy when one day she called and said she was going on a Bingo bus trip across several states. We were excited for her. But she fainted on that trip and her daughter had to drive several states to go get her out of the hospital. Back in Florida she was in the hospital again very soon. Bruce wen down when the situation started seeming pretty serious. Inez had move from her beloved Virginia to live right across the street from her daughter Yvonne, but although they each wished to be close it seemed impossible. In fact after I got there I think they were both glad they didn't need to interact as much. I knew neither of them wanted it to be that way, it just turned out always to be hurtful. Bruce was always his mom's favorite. He is 15 years younger than Yvonne and Inez always wanted a son. the difference in how she treated them was night and day. Butd she is a masterful button pusher and Bruce an she would go round. he would call me and tell me how frustrated he would get dealing with her and be very mad at himself for not being as patient as he thought he should be. He offered to stay in Florida with her. He really would have stayed for the rest of her life. I was really surprised and think it was the most unselfish thing she ever did when she told him to go home to me, to go back to work and take care of his family. I really thought she would want him to stay. ""Send LeAnn", she said, "She has a heart". It was very like Inez to say something like that.
So I flew to Florida. Inez was in the hospital again when I got there so I got to meet Yvonne and her husband Fred. I really liked them. I had no idea what i was doing. But Inez was definitely glad i was there and from the first day I could tell the nurses were too. She was a fairly imperious and stubborn person, but for some reason when i was there she was much more cooperative. the nurses started ordering meals for me so i would stay.
We had some really tender bonding moments and some incredibly bad ones where i wanted to fly home right that second. The nurses changed so often it did not seem like they even read her chart. She was supposed to take a pretty big handful of pills and she was supposed to do it with a nurse present. I asked the nurse if i could just monitor her because the problem an what eventually led to inez' death was that she was unable to swallow. Radiation for breast cancer and for a sinus cancer had ruined her ability to swallow. Eating was agonizing for her and she really liked to eat but it took a long time and she choked much if it back up. She was ending up in the hospital so often because she would aspirate the food into her lungs causing pneumonia.
I am getting a bit tired of writing now and did not mean this to be a full chronicle, but inez and I went through a lot together. One night, fresh out of the hospital, I thought she was in bed and woke up to sounds and found her scrubbing her immaculate laundry room in the middle of the night. I tried to get her to go to bed but she wouldn''t. I did and at about 2 a she came into my room angry as all get out an demanded to know whether i was just going to lay there in bed or whether i was going to help her. I told her it was the middle of the night and I was going to lay there in bed and so should she. (I WAS exhausted, there were a million stressful things to do every day and I was hoppin) The next morning she called me into her room and told me she wasn't feeling well- she asked for some pepto bismal and her inhaler and I brought both. She asked me if i would hold her and I did. It was such a naked moment. but I knew something was more wrong and so I called her health care nurse who advised me to call 911, which I did. Off tto the hospital again I decided to take a shower before I followed her thinking I would arrive very soon after and I did. But not before she threw a raging fit in the hospital and tried to refuse treatment. They told her she was having a heart attack and she would not believe them. When I got there she calmed down and let them begin to treat her but they Baker Acted her anyway and nne of us really wanted her to know that. It meant she had lost all rights to her own decisions and if there was anything that would be unbelieveable and terrible to Inez that was it. She was in and out of the hospital all the time. she hated being in. The doctors put her on oxygen and I would explain to her but unless I monitored her constantly in the night I'd find her with the canula off or she, attemoting to walk around would get all tangled up in the tubes and then distressed that she needed to be untangled. And she could have a terrible mean streak- One day I literally told her she was the nastiest woman I had ever met in my life and felt terrible for saying it but it felt true. Later she broke my heart when I told her one day that I was having bad menstrual cramps and felt terrible so that if I snapped at her I didn't mean to and she looked at me, her blue eyes as innocent as a baby's and said, that''s how i am too. There were the more amusing blowups, such as when I tool her to Walmart for shopping and medication on a pretty good day and she was riding on of those little carts and I said, "Inez! you need to watch out for people, you're going to hit someone" and like a totally willful child she said, "They need to watch out for meeeeeee!" In that same walmart she was opening bttles of pills, I know she was just trying to see if she could swallow them but I was telling her she couldn't just open the bottles and put them back and she tried to sneak away on that cart and do it anyway. People were walking up to me telling me I was a saint. I knew i damn sure wasn't. But we managed t get home and I managed to care for her and she managed not to eviscerate me. There was topless chili... she was trying to teach me how to make chili they way Bruce likes it (a painstaking process- he says he could taste the love, I believe him) and she was refusing to wear a top. (I notice that a lot of the end of life people I met in /Florida had an issue about wearing clothes) But she had health care appointments and refused to put on clothes so I told them we'd have to do it another time. It was always a balance of what she wanted and what she needed and I was constantly wondering if i was doing right by her. On day, she mapped out activities for me and got imperious as only Inez could and I fnally broke and said, "Inez, I am not your slave" "You're not good enough to be my slave she said, and oh my god, she meant just that!" that has become a family joke. Bruce says he would have said, "Ad what makes you think I have any desire to be your slave" but I was just fightin shock and anger in that moment. On the contrasting side Yvonne asked me one day if I'd like to go swimming with her and Inez said, she is here to take care of me, not to go swimming with you, she can't go swimming. I was stunned. It was pretty much a 24 hour a day job but I was shocked that she would say that. After yvonne left, Inez surprised me by apologizing immediately, and asking if i really wanted to go swimming. She said she just felt like she needed someone to be with her and she didn;t mean to speak to me like that. she really did need someone to be with her. there are so many memories of hot times and tender times I have.
What I was thinking about was that family is not so muc a matter of blood. t is a matter of need and nakedness and who finds a way to be there, no matter what, for the people they count as family.