Last week my bi-polar mother was taken to the hospital after taking ill with pneumonia. She was out of it for the first day, and spent the night in the critical ward. The next day she started to be well enough to eat but was so weak that the food was at greater risk of ending on her Johnny Gown, so I picked the bowl and fed her the pea soup.
I felt an internal fog horn go off, the grim klaxon of duty. ‘Let’s just get this over with’ I thought, and began feeding her. At the second spoonful she remarked ‘You should try to do more for me.’
A few years ago, when my Dad was on his last legs, I groomed him and fed him all the while cheerleading him into the grave as the pancreatic blastoma ate his guts. I had a 359-degree blind spot about what was happening. However, this time, with my bi-polar mother sapped by the lung infection, understandably, not her fault but the thought that went through my head was that she’s already used up more compassion than four people get in a lifetime. That aside, at the moment she flat out couldn’t eat and despite the years of acting like a manure spreader at garden party, that couldn’t be held against her at that moment. It would have been unethical.
The focus of these rants is to help me think aloud and I have been reading a lot about caregivers rights when tending to the mentally ill, but we cannot have any cogent discussion about rights without obligations. She needed to eat, and not assisting would have been cruel. Despite my occasional tendency to laugh in her face and tell her to ‘Fuck off’ you can’t sit on the fence out of exhaustion. If you’re exhausted, get help but the withholding of critical care — food in this instance — even though I’d be dancing if the Old Man’s Friend had come with a tighter embrace — would be unethical.
It was overwith in a few minutes. Sure an orderly would have done it eventually she needed the nutrition. And given her tendency to only want to eat sugary fruits, a bit of pea soup wouldn’t have killed her.
Of course, her remark that I should try to do more for her was childish. But, it was a reaction of helplessness. I remember once when my grandmother fell and in the immediate agony of the fall, manufactured a reason to blame the only other person in the house for the event. People do strange things when they’re prone with pane. Don’t hold it against them.