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.