Some of you know the story of my life over the last few years. I have tried to keep things up to date both for you and for myself. I think it is time for me to jot down some things, since there have been some significant changes.
Let me back up a bit . . .
In 2006, my mother, at age 56, had a massive aneurysm rupture. When the dust had settled, she was paralyzed on the left side, blinded on the right side, mentally childlike, and unable to talk. I was in Frisco, Texas pastoring at Stonebriar Community Church. I made what was, at the time, the most difficult decision I had ever made. I could either stay at my dream job, pastoring with Charles Swindoll, or I could move home to Oklahoma City to help take care of my family (my dad, mom, and two sisters). Two factors were influential in my decision to move back home: 1) my sister, Angie, had committed suicide just two years before my mother’s aneurysm and 2) my dad was trying to drink himself to death due to the grief of it all. I knew my dad would either die, or be in jail (multiple DUIs) within short period of time.
I sat down with Chuck Swindoll and talked about my options. He said something that was very influential to me: “You will never regret taking care of your family.” So, that is what I did. In 2007, I packed up my family and moved to Oklahoma to be the “savior” of my family.
I will not say that I made the wrong decision. I don’t really know how to think about this, or communicate it. I wrestle with my emotions all of the time concerning what I thought I could do, and what my exact goals were compared to what happened. Most of all, when I am down, depressed, angry, and/or [insert any word that expresses self-pity], I yell at Kristie and say “I should have never moved from Frisco. I had it all-together then. Now, I have fallen apart!” The reason I yell this at Kristie, my wife, is due to my attempts to place just a little bit of the blame in her lap. After all, she is the one who always wanted to get back home to Oklahoma. However, she knows that these moments are my moments in irrational darkness, and have nothing to do with her.
I need to continue with the story, before breaking out in song from a broken pulpit.
When I returned to Oklahoma, things progressed just about as I anticipated. This does not mean I was ready for it (as I thought I was), or should have done what I did. Dad kept drinking. Mom’s condition never improved. Dad kept getting DUIs. I kept trying to be the “savior”. Mom still lived at home, just sitting in a chair or laying on a couch watching the same movies over and over and over and over again.
In March of 2010, all the strength I had was exhausted, and I fell into a dark, unfamiliar hole of depression. I limped through the next years emotionally, and found meaning to all this in the Credo House and what it was becoming.
There came a point in time, where I was the only one who could lift my mother. She weighed about 180 pounds and needed to be deadlifted from place to place. I was on call for showers, diaper changes, and putting my mom in the car of whoever was willing to take her on trips. I was trying to do the noble thing. I don’t know why I was the one singled out (probably because I was the only boy), but my mother always said, “Don’t you ever put me in a nursing home.” So that is what I did. I kept her out of the home.
Eventually, I was spending so much time on duty at my mother and father’s house that I had to move in with them. My family came a few months later. We lived with my mother and father and took care of them both.
A year after we all moved in (last November), my father finally died at 66. While the official cause of death was pneumonia, the real cause was I-will-do-anything-to-die-cause-I-lost-everything. So, there I am . . . with my mother and family at her house.
We decided to stay. I would continue to take care of my mother and keep her at home. I would still be the hero and rescue my family even though I had long been in need of being rescued myself. Over the last eight months, the degenerative disc in my back became more and more painful. It did not help that my mother was now over 200 pounds. I began to dread every moment. Diaper changes, moves to the bed, restarting the movie, putting her in the car for someone, and our 7am routine of clean-up, breakfast, and pill became the consumer of all my emotions.
Then, two months ago, the DHS showed up at our door. They had been called by someone who said that we leave my mother alone at the house. Besides the fact that this was never true (she has been alone for 30min total since 2006—15min were accidental), they did not ask any questions attempting to understand our situation. They immediately began to accuse me of “Freeloading” and demanded all bank statement and receipts for every bit of my mothers social security I had spent. They said that if I did not have them, I was facing criminal prosecution.
Whether they had the authority to say these things, or the power to do them did not matter. I was confused, scared, and angry. Everything that we had been through and now I faced jail time (remember, this was just two months ago). We got a lawyer who confirmed that they could follow through with their threats and that criminal charges might be filed. I waited for weeks for them to start the investigation. I figured there was no judge on earth that could hear the true story and say we were doing anything but giving my mother the best of care. However, the DHS has never been heard from since. Of course, this is a good thing and a relief.
After all of this, I made another very difficult decision: though we don’t qualify for aid, I decided to put my mother in a private pay nursing home. This was last Friday. She has been there almost a week.
Though I am not sure how we are going to manage the payments on this, it was necessary. While I have a deep sadness, I know that there was no other choice. I could not do it anymore. I love my mother so much. She deserves so much more. But I could not do it. She seems to understand.
So, here I write in my office at Credo. I have been here all day. All day! I have a freedom I have not had in so long. But this is the final step (I hope) in an eight year campaign to be a savior. I don’t blame myself in trying to do what I did. But if I had it to do all over again, I would not have gone in this direction. It drained the life out of too many other things.
Remember, this is a blog. And this post is a blog in its truest form. Just chicken scratch of my life with typos all over. I am not running this through the editor.
36 replies to "On Caring for My Mother"