I spoke with a relative this morning; let’s call him “Bob.” We had not spoken since last year, I think. He asked how my Mom was doing. I could have sworn I’d told him that she had Alzheimer’s or at least dementia, but what the heck, he said he didn’t know. When I told him that Mom could no longer walk and was wheelchair-bound and incontinent, he said something along these lines, “Too bad they have to keep her alive like that.” I guess “they” referred to the doctors and nurses at the nursing home, but I’m not sure. He told me about a friend who was ill and on dialysis who chose to take her own life by unplugging her machines at home. She invited all her friends over for a party and died two weeks later.
That’s all well and good, but my mother cannot unplug her own life! She isn’t on any machines right now, and yes, she is deteriorating physically and mentally, but I do not have the power or right to end her life.
When I told a former (emphasis on “former”) dentist that my mom had Alzheimer’s, he said, “If I had it, I’d just shoot himself.” Then he said, “Now, I’m depressed.” Hey, man, thanks. Another clueless cocksucker.
I felt like I had to defend myself with Bob. I told him how I downloaded music on my iPhone and hooked it up to speakers for her to listen to, showed her movies and was planning a museum trip. I told him that I was active in the Alzheimer’s Association: how I did the Memory Walk every year and went to the Advocacy Forum in DC last May and that I spoke with congressional aides and heard various speakers and learned about the latest scientific developments.
Why did I feel I had to defend myself? Was it that low self-esteem creeping back into my bones, that feeling I wasn’t doing enough for her or that I wasn't a good enough person or because I don’t have kids? I don’t know. I explained why she wasn’t living at home with us: we could not afford a round-the-clock nurse and my house was not wheelchair-friendly and we could not afford to re-do the whole house. Why did I say all that? The more I think about it, the more pathetic I feel.
Anyway, as my husband Lorin said, “consider the source.” Bob is a widower, although he is still very active and has children and grandchildren and travels frequently. Lorin said he is lonely and probably doesn’t have much to look forward to anymore, and that might be true. That doesn’t stop me from feeling shitty, though. The call transpired at 10:00 a.m. but I didn’t feel the effects till later this afternoon. I took a walk at lunchtime and started to cry. Am I going crazy or can I blame it on Friday the 13th?
I would appreciate any advice or clues as to why people say such hurtful things and why I let them bother me.
In the meantime, I will defer to Al Swearengen and my other pals from Deadwood: