It was getting harder to manage working full time during the day and caring for my mother. The routine was I would wash her in the morning and give her breakfast and her medication then leave her a drink in a thermos cup with something for morning tea.
My sister would call in to see her before she went to work at 10 am. My other brothers and sisters were supposed to phone her during the day when I was at work. I would come home for lunch, give her lunch I prepared the night before, give her medication and a drink and leave something for afternoon tea before heading back to work. I finished at 5pm but sometimes couldn’t get away till 5.30pm as I worked at the District Court and sometimes the Court sat late.
The routine worked for a while but as she started to decline I noticed little things. I would come home for lunch and her morning tea hadn’t been touched. When I asked her why she hadn’t eaten the orange I left her, she was embarrassed and replied, “I tried and tried but I couldn’t peel it” and she couldn’t unscrew the lid of the drink. I felt terrible that she wasn’t able to access it. It coincided with her telling me she was lonely when I went to work, it was a long day for her. I looked at her beautiful face and I knew she was not one to complain but this was important to her. Something had to change.
The next morning I went to work and resigned. I didn’t tell her until I arrived home half an hour later. When I told her she cried, the relief on her face told me I did the right thing. I gave her a cuddle and said very gently to her, “I can get another job but not another mother like you”
That was the start of full-time caring, it meant the only social outlet for me was doing the grocery shopping and occasionally going to the Temple. But that was okay. She never ran away from me when I needed her and I wasn’t going to run away from her.
Her days were spent playing cards, talking to her children and grandchildren when they phoned or visited, and listening to her music. She used to love this old Paul Simon song, Come on Take Me to the Mardi Gras and would dance and sing along to it from her bed. She was happy and that’s all that mattered.
The only deviation from the routine was when she had a hospital appointment. The effort from getting her ready for her appointment and getting in and out of the car was tiring for her. I got really good at navigating her wheelchair down the four steps at the front door before we got a ramp put in.
The local primary school had a new Principal and my sister had met her through her work at the local high school. She told us stories of some of the tough decisions the Principal, Kataraina Nock, made when she took over the school which didn’t make her popular with some of the local community. My sister told us a handful of community members were trying to make it difficult for her.
The next day my mother announced that she thought I should get a part-time job at the local school and help that Principal. She thought six hours a week would be good just two mornings a week..
She thought working part-time would be good for me as well as the school. I wasn’t sure but I got a job there and a very good friend in the Principal at the same time.
When my sister from Tauranga would bring her children up with her to visit our mother. If my mother was in bed they would jump into bed with her and tell her what they had been doing or if she was sitting in her armchair they would all pull up stools close to her to share their stories with her no matter how old they were. It was a lovely time. I took lots of photos of her with them as I knew they would need them later.
I was 49, I cared for her for two years, during that time I learned a lot about life, myself, and what love really meant. It’s easy to say the words I love you but caring is the action of those words. It’s tough, but my experience tells me that it’s the tough things in life that are the most memorable and satisfying. Yes it’s tiring but then so is life, I do not regret it and when she died I was very satisfied I had done my very best for her just like she had done for me.