After deciding to leave my career to become a full-time caregiver to my mom, I almost changed my mind. A life-changing event made me re-think my decision.
Caregiver Chronicles: The Decision
We’d been discussing it for a while. And after the neurology appointment on December 1, 2020, the one that took almost 5 hours (including transportation to and from the appointment), I knew we had to go forward.
The next day, I told my boss, the owner of the company, that I was going to have to stop working, in order to care for my mom full time. I’d only been employed since Monday, June 1, 2020. And I was going to have to quit.
He completely understood. He acknowledged that he was aware of my coming in late, and being gone for long stretches at a time. He never admonished me for it, however, for which I will be forever grateful. But the fact was, with a job as demanding as mine, and a mother who had a myriad of health issues that also demanded a lot of time and attention, along with doctor visits and treatments, there was no way I could give both the adequate time and attention that they equally deserved.
My boss accepted my resignation, and expressed his empathy over what I was dealing with. He and my other co-workers clearly recalled my mother’s first seizure in August.
That was the first. There would be another.
The month of December went by in a flurry and a blur, as it typically does in commercial property management. We were in the thick of budget season. Obtain new contract quotes. Meet vendors to determine if new services are needed for the upcoming year. Winterize mechanical and landscaping systems. Hopefully negotiate the same contract price for services for the upcoming year. After the mind-boggling year of 2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic, we desperately needed to keep expenses in check.
As the end of the month approached, I started having second thoughts about giving my resignation. Maybe I could still work full-time and manage my mom’s medical appointments, since my husband also helped getting her to many of her appointments. Maybe, just maybe it was doable.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020.
I was dreading this day, but facing it with a determination to make it worthy and memorable.
It was the fifth anniversary of my dad’s passing.
I got up and dressed in a suit, complete with one of my dad’s ties to honor him. I was rehearsing a post I was going to make on social media, to finally thank the many people who had supported our family during that awful time. And to remember and honor my beloved father on this milestone date. My dad. My Daddy Poppers.
Dressed and ready to go, I looked in the mirror, peered deep into the reflection until I saw my dad, and knew that I would make it through the day without a breakdown. I could do this. I was ready.
The day was going by pretty quickly. I remember going to one of my properties and then talking to my cousin in the car on the drive back to the office. She asked how her auntie (my mother) was doing and I told her things were going great! She was doing well and things were pretty stable. We laughed at something (I can’t remember), said our goodbyes, and she told me to tell Auntie she loved her. The day was turning out to be really good.
Tuesday, December 29, 2020, 6:21 pm
I came out of the office, much later than usual, as I was desperately trying to get as much done before my last day of work, New Year’s Eve (which was going to be a half day). As I walked to my car, I looked up and saw a beautiful full moon. I could NOT believe it!! Since my dad passed, a full moon has become the physical symbol of my dad. He was visiting me on his heavenly birthday! I gazed at the moon, spoke to my dad, and snapped a picture, as I always do when I see this ethereal celestial body. At that moment, I felt extremely calm and peaceful. The day was almost over, and I was going to be ok. I had just about made it through the day. I was going to go home and finally make my tribute.
I got into my car and started the drive home. I was gazing at the moon as I drove eastward toward home. The moon was above and ahead of me. My guide home.
About 10 minutes into my commute, Daniel, my husband, called me. He never calls. We normally communicate by text.
He was out of breath and clearly distressed.
“It’s your mom. I think she’s had another seizure. She’s not responding and we’ve called 911. I found her on the floor in her room. I picked her up and put her in the chair. She’s breathing, but she’s unresponsive.”
Devastation. Fear. Worry. Concern. Dread. I started taking deep breaths, and kept my mind focused on the moon.
I was instantly transported back in time, in an out-of-body type experience, five years prior to the day, when my mom called to tell me my dad was not responding. A few moments later she called me back to confirm that he had passed away. That day, in 2015, I had to drive to my parent’s home outside of Nashville, TN, because I needed to grip the steering wheel for stability. This day, in 2020, I did the same, but this time I had the moon as my guide.
On August 14, 2020, my mom had her FIRST seizure, the one in which the doctor’s found a tumor. A cancerous tumor they believed had spread from her endometrial cancer. I was at work that day, and my husband and two youngest children were at home. I rushed home then, struggling hard to drive within the speed limit. And on this day, my husband and two youngest children were at home when the event happened, while I was at work.
“Daddy, are you here to take mom back with you? Are you ready for her? I know you love and miss her but I’m not ready to take her back. PLEASE don’t take her today. But if you do, I KNOW I’ll be ok.”
I arrived at home and ran into the door. I had the presence of mind to call my neighbor on the way home, and ask her to go over to offer any assistance need to my husband and children. She was there, with her grown son. They looked somber.
I walked into my mom’s room and looked at her. She looked so peaceful, like she was sleeping or taking a nap. No distress, no discomfort, nothing. I expected her to wake up at any moment with all the commotion going on. Within minutes after my arrival, paramedics arrived and took her away. They couldn’t get a gurney through the doorway so a couple of them picked up her limp body and carried her into the kitchen where the gurney was waiting. The wheeled her out of the house, put on sirens and sped away. We did not bother to try and go to the ER because Covid-19 cases were spiking again and we knew they would not allow us into the hospital. We would just have to wait.
My mom was gone. And we were left standing, all looking confused, bewildered and concerned. We hugged our neighbors and they then quietly left, believing we needed time alone as a family. The four of us embraced, and my daughter, my strong girl, broke down and cried and cried, something I’d NEVER seen her do before, in all of her 23 years.
I don’t remember the rest of that evening. I know at some point we made contact with the hospital and they told us that we’d have to ask for “Quebec Doe” for updates. This was the name they’d given my mom. I asked why that name, when they had her ID, which we were careful to send with her. I was told that when a patient comes to the ER and can’t tell medical personnel their name on their own, they are known as a “Doe”. “Doe” becomes the last name and they start with an ‘A’ first name at the beginning of the day and go through the alphabet as the day progresses. When my mom arrived, they were on ‘Q’, so she became Quebec Doe.
At that moment, I realized that I’d made the right decision to stop working. It wasn’t a decision I liked, but it was the right one. Because life with my mom, with “Quebec Doe”, was about to get a lot more demanding, as I instantly became a full-time live-in caregiver.