This is a picture of my Mother when she was a little girl. Isn't she cute? I don't know who the young woman is who is with her. It doesn't look like my Grandmother and if you click on the picture you can get a much bigger version of this where you'll see another woman sitting just to the left of the frame, that might be my great-grandmother who I have never seen a picture of. I took all of these very old negatives from 1916 through 1930 to the photo store to have them printed and scanned. It was like opening a window into the past. I was so overjoyed when I saw them that I started to cry. Someone in the store said it was a real Kodak Moment.
Rosa, her housekeeper, who she has come to depend so heavily upon, is back from her emergency vacation, the one that made it impossible for me to take three days off to go to Artfest, and left us completely helpless with regard to Mom's wants and needs. Poor Mom. But it was her decision to allow Rosa to take over everything a little bit at a time over the course of many years and my Mom is a feisty independent little bee and there was nothing I could do except look the other way as Rosa helped herself to so many things that don't belong to her, and at the same time be grateful to her for being willing to put up with my Mother's very demanding ways.
This is a picture of my Mommy as a child sitting on the front porch of her house. My Granny made all of her clothes and she appears to be reading a copy of the Night Before Christmas. When she saw the picture she said that my Grandmother used to cut her bangs like that and curl her hair with an old fashioned curling iron that she used to put on the stove. She hated having her hair done but was never allowed to leave the house without looking perfect and is still this way even now. When the paramedics came to take her to the hospital several weeks ago she asked if she could please brush her hair first.
If you click on any of these pictures and make your way to my main Flickr.com page there is also a picture of my Mom aboard the S. S. Morro Castle at age fourteen standing in a bathing suit surrounded by what I can only guess are some male admirers. Grandma took her on her first big trip that year. They went to New Orleans by train, then to Chicago and New York to buy fabric and lace for Granny's dress manufacturing business. From New York they took the Morro Castle to Havana where they had a lot of fun drinking and gambling as this was during prohibition when of course drinking was prohibited. If you don't know much about the Morro Castle, it was one of our greatest maritime disasters next in line to The Titanic, somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred and fifty people burned to death and/or were drowned off the coast of New Jersey in 1934. This tragedy was responsible for many of the fire and safety regulations that are now in place whenever you sail on a modern cruise ship. I haven't tagged the picture or put it up here because it isn't edited yet and I'm not sure what to do with it as photos of people aboard The Morro Castle are quite rare. It only sailed for about four years before the fire at sea.
I adore my Mom; she is intelligent, funny, generous -- when she wants to be -- spry, witty and very beautiful. Her life history is fascinating. Her friends are amazing. I am endlessly bottomlessly grateful to her for everything she has done for my son and for me. But she can be a bit, well, demanding. I think it's because of the OCD and the anxiety, well, that and the fact that she is a born leader, a real leonine Leo who ran a large business, and maintained a lavish lifestyle and a fabulous home for many years. She is used to hiring people and telling them what to do, not so good at firing. But then neither am I. We're both too soft hearted in this regard.
In any case, all sins aside, I am grateful to Rosa for having worked her butt off doing what I never would have had the stamina or the patience to do, and that is to have been taking care of my Mom's needs on a twenty-four hour a day basis. This isn't entirely true as I have now learned how often she was leaving my Mother alone, and then there's the fact that she doesn't have the common sense to know not to cough on an elderly patient with a super weakened immune system, and thereby gave her the virus that led to the pneumonia that weakened her heart, etc., etc., but Mom could have easily picked this up anywhere and to be fair she herself made the decision to have Rosa remain with her despite all of our pleas and warnings.
I know you must think I am remiss in not having replaced Rosa, but I am not in the position to do so, and Mom does not want this. All I can do is to hire another person to stay beside her so that I am certain she is getting the care she needs, and it was only recently that I had the ability to do this, as it costs a fortune to pay for caregivers. Now that my Mom is finally surrendering some control over her finances to me I can go ahead and get her the care she has been needing for so long.
Even now my Mother's secretary is so fooled by Rosa, as is everyone else, (Man, this woman should have been an actress, yesterday in trying to get the message across to me that she will need me to make sure she is well provided for when my Mom passes away, she said, "All I will have in the world is my little house in Guatemala and my memories of Missy Hyland." If she'd ever seen the little Gorey animation that used to play at the beginning of the Mystery series on PBS she would probably have added the gesture of a weak hand fluttering to the forehead before fainting.), that she thought I should release Susan and that Rosa's care would suffice.
Are you kidding? She can't even read the labels on her many prescription bottles, and I have now taken over completely, (Which she resents no end, as could be evidenced by her trying to tell me yesterday that she knows things about my Mother's life, about boyfriends she had, that she will never reveal to me, secrets she will keep to her grave, grand hand gesture to the heart and bow. Oh please. I have been the ultimate gatherer of my Mother's life stories for my entire adult life. I could sit here right now and tell you in detail the names of every beau she ever had, ay Rosa, but I don't have the time), am now insisting that she only give her the meds that I carefully separate into compartments in a weekly Morning, Noon, Evening, and Bedtime, reminder box.
The day before yesterday, the only day Susan has had off in over three weeks, Rosa couldn't find the Vicodin that we have clearly labeled in big printed letters, and set beside Mom's bed, and had to reluctantly call me to ask me to describe the bottle to her. Ay, yay, yay. It's madness.
Just returning my Mom's many phone calls and contacting all of her doctors, nurses, and therapists takes up the better part of every morning, and I still have my own home to run, a child to provide for and drive around. Then it's off to wherever my Mom is, whether it's home or at a hospital, having done whatever many errands she has asked me to do on the way.
The one consolation I have in all of this is that I know I am being given an opportunity to demonstrate to my Mother how very much I love her. I am being given an opportunity to love and be loving to my Mother with every ounce of energy I have left to me. Whether she sees this, or even values this or not, doesn't really matter. I will know that I did right by her and that I did the best I could for her. If all she sees in me is a crazy girl who spends too much money on animals, acts of charity, and collecting her vintage dresses on eBay, well, then it's too late now. She'll have to come to know me better in the afterlife.
I do know how much she loves me and trusts me. Yesterday she signed over power of attorney to me, but out of respect for her I will not go against the wishes of her lawyer and her secretary. I will always do as I think she would have wanted me to, even if I disagree. So ultimately Rosa will have more than my Mother has left her, (My Mom's concept of what money will buy you, was frozen somewhere in the late fifties), I will do what I can to help her pay for her house in Guatemala.
Mom's doctors, the charge nurse on Mom's floor at UCLA, her caregiver Susan, her tenant Evelyn, the UCLA nurses and physical therapists who come to visit her at home, the paramedics, all of these people were so outraged when they learned that Mom had been left alone, while Rosa supposedly went to the doctor, have told me that they think I should fire her. You tell me I should fire her. But Mom doesn't want me to fire her. It still rankles that she could have left my Mom alone like that, weak and helpless. She couldn't tell us this, that she suddenly needed to go to the doctor? Couldn't call and ask me to come and watch Mom while she went out? Apparently not.
Well, no worries, this will never happen again, that's for certain, she won't be leaving Mom alone anymore, and I've got Susan and I am there constantly to monitor everything. And this might be the real reason for the mopey sad face, this and the fact that I am no longer filling Mom's wallet with five one hundred dollar bills on a weekly basis. That boat sailed when Rosa left for Guatemala. Now we have a petty cash envelope and we are checking everything against receipts. A truly good plan invented by Mom's secretary Tina. I imagine this means Rosa will now be getting about two hundred dollars a week less than she was getting before.
And despite all of this, I am still such a schmo that late last night, as Rosa, (Who ruined my chances of being able to go on my own trip to Artfest that I had been planning for since September), walked me to my car saying that all she has left to live on after the many expenses of her trip was forty dollars, I reached into my wallet and gave her one of the two remaining hundred dollar bills I have budgeted for myself to live on until next Thursday. And that is why I am saying, ay, yay, yay, yay, yay Rosa. Which if you are unfamiliar with Spanish would sound something like eye, eye, eye, eye Rosa. Watch an old episode of I Love Lucy, you'll get it.
One bright moment of loveliness in all of this came when her new-ish caregiver Susan said to me, "Jacqui, for three weeks now I have been watching you. I keep thinking this is not the Jacqui I have heard about. They are different people. You are not this crazy Jacqui they are talking about when they play bridge. You are sweet. I have been taking care of sick people how many years now? I am old. I have seen many people with their Mothers. Everyone loves their Mom. But you are number one. You are unique. You are special. Your Mom is so lucky. Never I have seen a daughter take such good care of her Mom. That is why I am always telling her this."
You might be able to understand how very much this meant to me, to hear this from someone whose knowledge of me previously was solely based on gossip and hearsay, to receive validation from someone just a little bit outside of her circle. It's certainly kinder and more rewarding than the words of my Mom's friend Jani, who I have always loved but who has never seemed to think much of me. When I told her I was taking care of everything she said, "It really seems like the blind leading the blind." Nice. And this is what she is willing to say to my face. Ahhh life. Acceptance. Working on that. Always working on that.
Now I'm going to take a shower, finally, (Or a bath since the shower is usually the hospital for whatever ailing rescued animal we have most recently brought home from the vet), and then I have a gazillion errands before going to stay for a good long while with Mom. Right now she's just had an IV shot of Dilaudid and won't be too lucid for a while. My yakking away beside her just makes her nervous so I'll wait until she's feeling better. Meanwhile I have to take a copy of this auction and fax it to my Mother's and my dear eighty-something-year-old, (Could be ninety, they all keep their ages a bit of a mystery the sweethearts), friend, who had no idea that an antique bed of hers that she sold to an unscrupulous dealer for a song, was being resold for a whopping one-hundred-and-thirty-three thousand dollars on eBay. Guess they never counted on her having a friend who might have stumbled across it on eBay. I tell you, people who take advantage of older people make my blood boil hot enough for a confectioner to make a good hard candy with it.
I Love You, and Remain Ever-Grateful, Even Though I Haven't Been Able To Respond Personally,
PS: You know, I am so angry, weary, and cynical with regard to Rosa and the tremendous damage she has done to my relationship with my Mom, due to her jealousy, over all of these years that it's hard for me to admit that I do think she loves my Mom in some way. I do appreciate this, despite everything.
PPS: I had my headshots scanned, finally, but they did a pretty funky job, they look really grainy and they're small. I just don't have the energy to go back, have to complain to make it all right -- I hate complaining or returning anything -- and then leave the negatives and have one more errand to run, argh. But I need a recent headshot for my IMDB page. I also need to update my credits, only some of them are there, and they're kind of mixed up. Plus they've asked me to upload my resume, argh, ackitty, ack.