- I expect that being the support person for an ill family member is probably a lot easier when it's someone who doesn't irritate the crap out of you. It's amazing the conflicting feelings caused by constantly feeling pissed off with and sorry for someone all at the same time. (Ultimately, though, I do realise that the things Mum does that make me feel uncomfortable are probably more about me than about her.)
- For instance, today I overheard her telling a (not especially close) friend on the phone, "I haven't opened my bowels since the operation, but I'm starting to feel it maybe coming on." Is that really something that other people need to know?*
- She keeps telling people I don't know that I will call them, meet them for coffee etc. I just won't. I can't imagine how anyone can do that with strangers. And some of her friends kept insisting a few days ago that I would be terribly upset and anxious during Mum's operation, and that I should come to their house to wait. If I am upset and anxious, the LAST thing I want to do is be with strangers and have to make polite conversation or (worse) turn into a mental wreck in front of them. Ugh. In the end I switched off the phone for a couple of hours and took a long, relaxing bath. When I switched it back on again, there were 13 messages waiting from people I don't know wanting me to call them back. Which I did. But it kind of negated the relaxing effect of the bubble bath.
- Today she railed from her hospital bed against Americans ("Those awful Americans are as subtle as a screaming red light, and their idea of humour is to hit you over the head with a laugh soundtrack. Not like us British**; we understand delicacy and tact"); against Australians ("Must be awfully hard to teach linguistics. To Australians, I mean. What with the way they mangle the English language. In fact, it must be hard to teach anything to Australians. A bit dense, the lot of them, aren't they?") and against Asians ("So horribly driven. They don't know how to have fun".) When I don't look appropriately amused by these sentiments she tells me I've been "infected by that nasty political correctness" and that I need to learn to relax.
- Mum is totally convinced she is going to die. She is writing letters to be given to people in case. Has updated her will. Took me out to show me her solicitor's office. Told me what sort of funeral she wants. If I suspected I was dying, I think I would make arrangements too, but secretively, because I would be worried people would think I was an obsessive pessimist.
- I am hemorrhaging money like a big money-hemorrhaging thing. Here a dollar, there a dollar, everywhere a dollar fifty. Yesterday alone I paid $14 for parking, and I've used up $35 worth of petrol in less than a week. If it was down to me I'd take the bus everywhere, or walk, but I'm ferrying other relatives and Mum's friends around everywhere too: picking up my brother from the airport, driving Mum to appointments, driving her friends to visit her in hospital, driving my grandfather around... I don't know how anyone affords to use a car for their main means of transport.
- Then I'm spending at least $5 dollars a day on fetching Mum cakes and cokes from the hospital cafeteria, since she is convinced that now she has cancer she will waste away to nothing if she just lives on hospital food. And then there's groceries and bills and "Could you buy me a new kettle?" or "I really meant to repot the plants on the front porch before all this happened. Be a dear and pop down to the shop for some new pots. And don't get those awful plastic ones. They are so cheap and nasty."
- Her welfare payments have been finalised, and although they will now pay for extras like a gardener, a cleaner, petrol for trips to the hospital and doctor, all her prescriptions and other illness-related expenses, Mum's total income now that she won't be working at all will be $100 a week less than her current budget (which she has trouble sticking to anyway). I've suggested getting rid of her cellphone, which easily costs her $20 a week, and that she maybe stop using things like her colour printer (she prints out all her photos and emails in full colour), try going just a month or two without buying new clothes, and if I were her, I'd get rid of the car. (She lives half a block from a major bus-stop that connects everywhere, and is within a short walk of a supermarket, or a half-hour walk of the centre city). But she has never lived without a car, and I can understand that she feels now that she is ill that she won't have the energy to use public transport. It just bothers me that she spends more than I do on discretionary expenses like new clothes, fancy brands of household items, a flash car, top quality insurance, home repairs, entertainment, etc, and then constantly complains about being short of money. Especially when I am subsidising her like I am at the moment, it frustrates me to know that she is spending my money on things I wouldn't buy for myself.
- If you are going to get a nasty disease, you might as well do it in New Zealand. As well as Mum's welfare payments covering the extras mentioned above, she has received a $600 voucher from the Cancer Society to cover a prosthesis and new bras, and will get another $600 for this every four years for the rest of her life. She also gets a free wig and hats, as well as various small things like cushions and face creams and wotnot. And in a few weeks she is booked in to have a free makeover and massage. My grandmother has had six hats and a lovely wig all free from the Cancer Society. And the Cancer Society are paying for my grandfather and aunt and uncle to stay in a motel near the hospital, since they decided Granddad was too elderly to cope well with the usual shared accommodation they provide. On the other hand, this makes me feel bad for people who have less well-publicised diseases and presumably don't get any of these compensations.
- Mum came home from the hospital this afternoon, though. So hopefully the next week or so will be a bit less frantic.
* I do see the irony in complaining about someone over-sharing like this when I spill out all the details of my life to complete strangers on the internet. It just feels different, somehow. And at least I don't tell you about my bowels.
** She is British when it makes her feel appropriately superior; but counts herself as a New Zealander when it is time to complain about the "whinging Poms".