Said my mother, to my brother, when he was talking about being so busy as the worship leader for his church. I don’t begrudge my brother one bit, he does work hard, but I damn near choked on my own saliva when I heard her say that, as I washed dishes in the background.
I haven’t had a break in 7 years. I mean that quite literally. I haven’t had a day off, I haven’t had a day of rest, I have been switched on, taking care of her 24/7 for 7 straight years.
“But John,” you might ponder, “didn’t you go see a Star Trek movie here and there?” and I reply to you that I sure did, but that’s not a break in the sense of getting time off to regenerate and rejuvenate one’s mind and body. That’s the equivalent of getting 5 minutes to grab a snack or a cup of coffee before getting back to your 24 hour shift. In some technical sense it’s a break, but in reality it doesn’t even scratch the surface, and I deal in reality.
Hell, even when I went to see the Star Trek films, my phone stayed on (vibrate) in case I needed to be called back home for any reason. It’s like being a doctor on call, but perpetually, and without time off over the course of 7 years. My body, nor my mind, gets to rest. The other night, I had to wake up 7 times, during the night, to take care of something she needed.
So to hear her say “everybody needs a break! No one can work like that for weeks without getting burned out” to my brother, as I washed dishes, did the laundry, changed her bandages, ordered new medical supplies, cooked dinner, dusted the furniture, scrubbed the toilet, readjusted her position in her bed, and filled her water glass, made me want to choke.
She interrupted my dinner twice this evening. I haven’t had an uninterrupted meal in many years. I don’t listen to music very often, because I can’t wear headphones in case she needs me. When I try to read, I have to keep a bookmark handy because I *know* I will be called upon before I finish a single chapter. It has been this way for 7 years, and before anyone asks, before then I was doing the same thing, but it didn’t require all of my time.
When mom was first disabled in the mid 1990s, I was still in school. I would come home from school, and take care of what she needed. My time was 40% school, 10% personal time, 50% caregiving. In the early 2000s, she started to get better, and could walk again, to some degree, and so I was working 40% of the time, with 30% devoted to caregiving, and 30% devoted to personal time. That would be the highest it would get.
In the mid-to-late 2000s, she started to decline in health somewhat, and I had started a new job which took a lot of my time, so it became 50% work, 45% caregiving, and 5% personal time. It was after her kidney surgery that things turned as southward as they did, and my caregiving went full time. Currently, it’s 100% caregiving, no job, no personal time.
To give you yet another example, in the time it has taken me to write these 556 words (as of *this* word), I have been called upon 11 times. I don’t write my novels anymore, I don’t write songs anymore, I don’t write poems as much anymore (the brevity of poetry works in my favor at times). Do you know what this does to a person’s brain when they don’t get enough time to eat, sleep, to daydream, to rest their mind? My mind is like a sieve, nothing stays in it, it just leaks out. I’m to the point now where you can tell me your name three or four times, and I’ll still have forgotten it by the end of the introductions.
I don’t know, it’s just the statements she made bother me so much. She is right, in that one must take a break every so often, because otherwise one will get burned out, but she said it with me standing 10 feet away. It’s almost like I wasn’t there, or didn’t matter. Now, I’m not saying my mom doesn’t think I matter, but it does show how much she takes me for granted. She tells me she’s sorry, and she tells me it’s not her fault, and it’s really not her fault, I know that, I mean who blames the person for the disease (if you’re not GOP, anyway)?
The problem is that it doesn’t fix anything. If you shoot someone in the leg, saying sorry doesn’t remove the bullet and heal the physical wound. There is a long path of devastation and destruction behind me, and my future looks like what remains of the Roman coliseum, as it crumbles before me.
I know she has to know this, or maybe she doesn’t. I know the stroke caused some minor affectations, and I think that may have been one of them. Who knows? Regardless, I need more than a break. A break would be inadequate at this point, but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve one, too.