Yesterday, I had the first of what I suspect will be a number of unpleasant encounters with Mom.
Without going into too many details, I called her and brought up a couple of issues that are of grave concern to her son and me. I’d spent the previous two days in research and talking to people who deal with end-of-life stuff, and I learned some pretty alarming things. Did you know, for example, that some states (one of which happens to be ours) don’t have provisions that make the next-of-kin the de facto decision-maker in times of medical emergency? Let’s say that Mr. Chili was in a fiery crash and the doctors weren’t optimistic for his survival. I, as his next-of-kin, determine that he wasn’t to be given heroic measures to save him. A random cousin, who hasn’t been a part of Mr. Chili’s life – ever – could swoop in and counter my instructions, at which point the hospital would have to stop everything until we went to court to hash it all out. A document called a Medical Power of Attorney is required in states like mine, and I don’t know if mom has one.
Anyway, she got very short with me when I tried to talk business, and the conversation ended. A few minutes later, she called me in angry tears and accused me of not being supportive.
I understand – at least, as much as I can – that she feels that I’m being callous. She wanted me to congratulate her on seeking treatment for her MS and going forward with the testing that her doctors want, and I didn’t do that; at least, not overtly. I understand – again, as much as I can – that she’s overwhelmed with appointments and procedures, that she’s frustrated to damned near the breaking point by all the things that have to be done that she can’t do (not to mention all the things she’d like to do that she can’t do). I understand that she’s in pain and that she’s frightened, I really do get all that.
None of that changes the fact that a good number of logistical things need to get done, whether her prognosis is favorable or not. EVERYONE should have most – if not all – of these things pre-arranged, regardless of their health status. Hell, I could drop today of an aneurysm; someone doesn’t have to be sick to die.
At one point, my mother told me, flat out, “this is not about you.” To a great degree, she’s right; I have no legal standing in the family and I have no interest in how things happen – beyond that they’re going to happen to people I love profoundly. What I’m not sure she’s seeing clearly, though, is that it’s not all about HER, either. If she doesn’t tend to some of these issues before she passes – or she doesn’t authorize someone to see to them for her – she’s going to leave a hellish mess for her son to have to sort through, and the effects are going to ripple out past him to her sisters and her tenant and her gentleman friend.
I’m building up a little bit of armor, here, but I can’t say that I’m not angry and frustrated and hurt. Then again, though, it’s not about me.