27 October 2012


Yesterday a friend at the bus stop asked if I was busy working on my book. This is the third inquiry I've had on this subject this week. Without being too blunt, I explained I don't really have time for that right now because I'm caring for my very ill mother. He listened compassionately but suggested it's still really important to find some time for myself in the day.

Um, yes; that's a delightful idea. As a mother it's a foreign one, but delightful nonetheless. I would love some time to write. Or shower, sleep, shop, empty my dead plants from their containers, finish organizing my garage, or complete any of the myriad projects that are stuck in limbo as we focus most of our time and energy on my mother. And I 'm not even her primary caregiver. That would be my sister Erin, who teeters precipitously close to the edge of a nervous breakdown at this point, having been with us since July. Every time we think we might get her back to Arizona to see her girls, Mom suffers a decline. At this point, we're pretty sure Erin is here for the duration.

Each time Mom's needs change accommodations happen across the board. We just got her an adjustable bed, which necessitated relocating three sets of mattresses, two side tables and four lamps. The bed is important, though, because her physical abilities are very limited now. Even the most insignificant actions require exertion, which means oxygen. Our primary focus is to conserve oxygen, so Erin and I help her with most of her "activities of daily living," as they say. We have become masters of the pivot-out-of-bed move, as well as supreme handlers of the draw sheet used to reposition Mom in bed. All the Coakley women tend toward stubborn independence, so it was a sign of real personal growth when Erin actually woke me up the other night to help her move Mom up in bed because it's no longer a one-woman job, y'all.

It's important to note that the only reason Erin and I can spend time helping Mom is because the rest of the family helps with my "real life." My in-laws food shop when I can't, drive boys when I can't, fold clothes when I can't. Pappou cleans my kitchen at least three times a day, and is our go-to man for runs to Fairway Market for Supreme Blend coffee. One cannot underestimate the importance of good coffee when one is running on fumes.

My job is to accommodate the extra people/furniture/food. I also function as the Emotions Manager/Great Communicator, but that's a post for another day. Since the beginning of September, there has been a steady influx of relatives and friends, as well as health care professionals who assess Mom and help attend to her needs. There is a nurse who stops by twice a week and a home health aide who visits three times for ninety minutes each day. We try and schedule the majority of visitors for Saturday so we can all have one weekend day to recover, but it doesn't always work out that way. I'm pretty sure I didn't see the outside world last Sunday at all.

The visits make Mom happy because there are so many people that want to share their love for her, but it's draining to have so many people coming and going. Even though I know I don't have to make a great effort for family, there still needs to be food prepared and tables set and children entertained. And all of that takes time from what I really want to be doing, such as writing. Or talking to my husband, watching a television show, reading a blog, or say, driving across Montana in a pick-up with Jason Aldean. All the activity makes me cranky after a while because I'm generally overtired. See? I'm not a saint after all.

On Wednesday, Erin and I cancelled all of Mom's appointments because she wanted a quiet day. After she fell asleep we sat amongst the piles of laundry on the couch and watched two, count 'em TWO, television shows in the middle of the day, both featuring hunky, shirtless guys. It was the perfect stress reducer, seeing as how I don't drink any more, so we decided we need at least one afternoon like that each week. We'll see.

I actually started writing this post two nights ago and it went through three revisions before I decided to publish it. I had this idea the blog should be entertaining, and this is a rather depressing subject. But I remembered I started writing the Diaries to share my true experiences as a woman, a mother, and a writer. Welcome to the next unvarnished chapter.


  1. Big love and fgbvs and light to those magnificent coakley women and their valiant support squad.

    I can't fathom the emotional and physical toll this is taking on you but you seem to be handling it with the strength and grace we have all learned to expect from the Lone Woman.

    And of course anytime you can work in therapy in the form of staring at shirtless men...go for it.

  2. PS to the eager fan who reminded you to take time to write, just do what I do:

    Smile patronzingly and then reply, "Great, what time will you be there to clean my house?"

  3. My heart goes out to you all. It isn't easy, I know. But it sounds like you have a handle on it and it is a wonderful thing when highly independent people learn to ask for help when they need it. I'm glad you have a support squad for the essentials, like coffee and laundry. Love and hugs and FGBVs to you and yours.

  4. Your book will wait. It isn't going anywhere. Your mom needs you now and you need to care for her now. It's a simple as that. Exhausting? Absolutely. As an ex registered nurse, I know that the stress of long term illness falls on the caregiver. While it's wonderful to say take care of yourself, it's much harder to do in the reality of just making it through the day and then waking up exhausted and starting all over again. I'm so happy that you have family that can jump in when needed, but even then it is never enough.

    And the writing. It will come back later. It will even be better later as you will use it to express feelings and insights gained from this experience. It may even become the balm to soothe the pain.

    Sending love and hugs to all.

  5. WEBS. To me, your post doesn't sound depressing so much as matter-of-fact. This is what you must do right now, so you're putting your head down and powering through. And the fact that you are the designated regulator for everyone else's emotions means that your own won't be addressed at all for the time being. I honestly don't know whether that's a blessing or a curse. Probably a bit of both.

    Big love and hugs to you.

  6. I helped my parents with caring for their parents (my grandfather had cancer and my grandmother had Parkinson's), and it is not an easy road. Even though my grandmother had round-the-clock care while she lived with us, it still took a major toll on my parents, and my brother and me.

    Sending lots of FGBV and positive thoughts and hugs for you and your family. And hey, that shirtless man therapy? Best therapy option in my book. Work it in as often as possible.

  7. I'm so glad you are surrounded by such a helpful, caring family. But, no, it never is enough, is it? (((hugshugshugs)))

  8. I know what you're going through. I did the same thing with my mom taking care of my dad for 3 years until he died. You just have to do what you can when you can, as you know. Glad that you are having little moments of television with your sister or writing your blog.
    While I'm anxious to read your book, I understand and I'll still be eager when it's a reality.
    Glad you have your sister and your mom has so many people who love her.

  9. WEBS. thinking of you, dear, and sending all the FGBVs I can muster.

  10. We're not here to be entertained, but to connect!

    Sending good wishes for you and Erin to get your little laundry pile tv day each week. And prayers for your mum too.

  11. Everyone already said it all. So I'll just add some hugs. Plus a great big thank you, for checking in. And being you.

  12. Hey, Megan. Didn't want to bug you with email, but wanted you to know I've been thinking and fretting about how you all came through the hurricane. Hope you and yours are all as well as possible.

  13. Just spotted the update in your header. Nice.
    (It works perfectly.)


Thanks for reading! Unlike other Diaries, this one isn't private. Feel free to share your thoughts. Politely, of course.