Parenting the Parent
Contributor

My mother called at 5:45 am this morning like it was normal.  It was, to her.  I was wide awake, another sleepless night for me.  Getting two kids back to college and one back to highschool has my brain working overtime.  Wish I got paid for those hours. 

"You sound wide awake," she said on the phone.  I took a deep breath and replied.

"What's wrong mom?"

There was no sorry to wake you (if she had), no wish I didn't have to bother you again- nothing.   After five calls yesterday, I thought my day with my mom might be an easier one today.  Wasn't it my sister's turn to lend a hand?  Brother's? No, she preferred me.  The sensitive one.  Probably because I did my best to listen.  Tried to understand and didn't hang up on her.  Never told her to go to hell either.  Have been tempted on numerous occasions! That's my sister's routine.

My mother was talking and I was having difficulty listening.  "I'm cold and anxious," she mumbled. "What should I do?"

"Take your Xanax mom and turn on the heat.  Do you still have the a/c on? Are you wearing pajamas? Is your comforter out of the closet?"

 "Ok hon, that's what I'll do. All those things.  Thank you." Click.

I kept the phone to my ear for a sec to make sure she did hang up. If she didn't, she'd hear my husband's, Now What?"

Conversations like these have taken place with my mom since I was 15.  At 45 I realize that my mother, although undiagnosed, is bipolar.  She's undiagnosed because as soon as her doctor mentions mental illness she switches doctors.  She's had a lot of doctors!  

While taking care of my mom as a child and young adult was never easy, it has gotten easier now that I am a middle-aged (gasp!) woman who is aware of mental illness. Raising three teens has put me on the edge of insanity once or twice- bringing me to a place of better understanding when it comes to mental illness.

 I now look at my mom as a  child; one who doesn't mean to be ignorant or selfish.  Her mind hasn't grown past her highschool education.  She's still where she was when she dropped out of school to work- 15.  In her defense, she can be very loving,  sweet and giving at times too.  AND, she did give me life for that matter. That's a positive.

As soon as the cold hits, my mother gets depressed.  She suffers from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which makes caring for her twice as hard as winter itself. I wonder if the harsh blood and pain of the Great Depression ever left my mother's veins. Today she has 13 cans of tuna, 11 cans of tomato sauce, 14 Comets, 10 perm sets, etc... in a small home with no storage space - because she can. 

In her eighties, my mom acts more like a teenager.  She's moody one day and affectionate the next.  She hates life and can't wait to die, then can't wait till tomorrow to see The Help, with popcorn and a frozen Snickers. Honestly, raising three teens has prepared me for raising my mom.

My sleep deprived self wonders which of the four "kids" I'm raising will grow up first. I think I know which of the four it WON'T be.

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