My mom raised me alone from the time I was a little girl. She used to say it was you and me against the world
(like the Helen Reddy song
Last year my mom was diagnosed with dementia. Long before the diagnosis she has battled her own demons alone. I have to remind myself that this is her choice, even though her three children all live out of state. We have all offered her a safe, comfortable and free place to live.
Instead, she has stopped going to the doctor, can’t handle her own finances, doesn’t always recognize her own cat and absolutely shouldn’t be driving.
When you’re on the road and there is an old person driving slowly or a bit recklessly, it is easy to say who let this old battle axe get behind the wheel. When you are the battle axe’s daughter, it is much more difficult than you could ever imagine to take away the car keys and the freedom from the person who taught you to drive.
Back in February, my mom was in a car accident. She was at fault for making a left hand turn when she shouldn’t have. At the scene of the accident no one reported being injured. Weeks later, she got a notice that the other driver is claiming an injury and if not satisfied with the insurance company settlement, could sue her. The collision center kept her car for about a month. I wish it had been indefinitely. In a month, any comfort she had behind the wheel has been lost.
A week after getting the car back, my mom went wandering. She thought she had an appointment with her financial advisor and drove around for two hours in the opposite direction looking for her. Her car was on empty, she doesn’t have a gps or cell phone and she was nervous and frazzled. When she arrived at her imagined appointment, she handed her keys over willingly and the office staff there arranged to drive her and her car home – but at her request kept the keys.
I didn’t know about this for three days. When I learned about it I had to call multiple people to understand what was going on. Her car was safely in the garage, but she was furious someone had been joy riding in her car. How could the car be there but not the keys? She could not explain it to me and didn’t even begin to mention that she had been driving around for two hours and had ended up somewhere with no reason for being out of the house in the first place.
Very recently I found a lovely woman who is going to take my mom on errands and assist her in small ways with her daily living. Her name is Deb. My mom doesn’t trust her and thinks nothing but terrible things about her. My mom does not want help – not from her children, not from Deb and not from doctors. She is terrified that her freedom is about to be pulled out from under her – and it is. She should never drive again. She could kill herself or far worse, someone else.
My brother wrote to the DMV. She will get a letter saying her license will be suspended if she does not go in for a driver’s test. She will not read the letter. It will sit in her stacks of unopened mail until her financial advisor comes to the house and opens it. She will drive on a suspended license.
I have found a way in my heart and my budget to part with $75 a week to pay for a woman my mom already hates (after two weeks) to visit my mom and help her. How do you help someone who doesn’t want it? What happens if she drives Deb away?
In another time and another world, I would call my mom and ask what I should do. Those were simpler times. I want my mom.