Written by
Cynthia Close
August 2013
Written by
Cynthia Close
August 2013

Mom has either taken herself to the hospital, or coerced her neighbors to take her in the ER, several times this past month. It is hard to get her to be specific beyond the unbearable pain she says she experiences nearly constantly. She has been on some sort of pain medication or other for years now, and it was most recently kicked-up a notch, when her doctor prescribed morphine. She takes it herself, in pill form, along with so many other medications for all her ailments; I have stopped trying to keep track of it all. Evidently her doctor was not keeping terribly good records either as she was still taking oxycodone when he prescribed the morphine. The fact that she weighs about 100 pounds fully dressed, means there is not a lot of fat, flesh and blood to absorb these lethal drugs. Last week, the inevitable happened, she O.D’d – unintentionally, had a psychotic episode, threw her body against a wall, fractured her ribs and her left foot. They took a few X-rays, confirmed her condition, taped her up and sent her home.

I had been trying for months to get her to agree to some sort of in-home care, a visiting nurse a few times a week, or at least someone to come in to cook and clean. She rejects all help. She prefers to martyr herself. I think she rather enjoys her suffering. At least with her pain, she has something to talk about, she feels something. Rather than start the wheels churning to plan for her, what to me seemed obviously necessary, placement in an assisted living community, my mother opted to “stay a few days with the neighbors down the street until she ‘got better’”…and could return home to continue taking care of things by herself.

Talk about delusional thinking. At 88 years of age, after 73 years as a smoker, with no physical exercise beyond housekeeping to show for herself, there will be no “getting better” as far as I can see. Her physical and mental decline has been accelerating at a rapid pace this past year, and yet she lashes out at all who might even suggest it is time to prepare for the inevitable. I have never used the word “death” or even the more genteel, “end of life” in her presence. She would accuse me of being “hateful” or just trying to hurt her further in her suffering.

She keeps me in this double bind of her own agony, while rejecting all attempts I’ve made to assist her. A loving, caring daughter would travel down from Vermont to her mothers South Florida home to nurse her through her final days. But I’m not 100% sure these ARE her final days. Just for spite I could make the effort, and she could go on living for a year or more (the women in our family had great genes).

The other reality, is that I am not a “loving, caring daughter” just as she was, and continues to be; a frigid, manipulative, emotionally detached mother. Yet, here we are, a mother and daughter facing, or not facing the end of a very unsatisfactory relationship. Why am I plagued with guilt, compounded by a desire to somehow get something out of this in the end, or to “fix it”? How do you fix something that is broken beyond repair? I have no doubt my mother is living in a kind of agony – but for someone who never was able to experience real joy in her life, perhaps agony is the next best thing. Will I feel relief when she finally succumbs, or will I live with the continued nagging regret that I might have “fixed it”, made it right, if I’d only tried harder.


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