On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

I’ve been thinking about Mom a lot today. She’s never far from my mind, but she’s been in the hospital for a few days, so she’s closer than usual. It’s nothing too serious, although I guess at 90 years old everything is serious, but it’s not imminently life threatening. She had shingles, and although the doctor was able to get rid of the shingles virus with meds, she wouldn’t keep her hands off the itchy places, so she developed a topical bacterial infection. She’s been “in” for 6 days and is getting better, maybe enough better to go home in the next day or two.

In addition to Mom, I’ve been thinking about my next post, another thing that’s never far from my mind. One subject I’ve been toying with is how, in spite of all the programs to fight it, some people remain trapped in poverty because of flaws in the system. This is something my son Christian writes about frequently, the need for systemic changes, how people are marginalized by the system, and similar topics. I’m pretty intelligent, but sometimes I’m not very smart, and some of his writings go right over my head. I understand the definitions of the words, but sometimes I have trouble relating the concepts to real-life situations. Maybe that’s because I’ve lead a sheltered life and never come in close contact with the truly disadvantaged, or maybe it’s because I’m just not very smart, but whatever it is, I need examples. I’ve run across a few things lately in my reading and other media exposure that have given me a few “aha” moments, and I’m turning them over in my mind, trying to organize them into something that is coherent enough to be publishable.

The mental process that combined thinking about Mom with thinking about systemic disadvantages and came out with peeing in a bottle is something I’m not sure I can explain. I’m a writer, and if I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand it anyway. But maybe you’ll enjoy my story.

I mentioned in my post about the car shuffle that I didn’t have a car of my own until I got pregnant. It was actually toward the end of the pregnancy when I got my Bug, so in the beginning, Mom was my chauffeur. When I first began to suspect that I had a bun in the oven, I intended to wait until I was sure before telling anybody, but that’s a secret that’s hard to keep. When I asked my OB/GYN for advice about the process, he was very nonchalant, almost as if he dealt with this every day.

“Just finish the cycle of birth control pills you’re on. As long as you’re feeling okay, come see me after you’ve missed your second period.”

Have I mentioned that I’m not good at waiting? When I wasn’t pregnant the first month, I cried. The next month, when my friendly visitor didn’t show up, I was ecstatic. By the time I called to make a doctor’s appointment, I couldn’t contain myself.

“Mom and Dad,” I said one night after dinner at their house. “I have a surprise. I think I’m pregnant!”

The reaction was explosive: tears, smiles, hugs, kisses. They already had two grandsons who they adored, but they lived in Oklahoma. This one was going to be close enough for them to get their hands on frequently. I could see in their eyes that I wouldn’t have to worry about baby sitters. But Mom didn’t want to wait until the baby arrived to become involved.

“Do you want me to take you to your doctor’s appointment,” she said.

“That would be great,” I said. My husband was a salesman, and if he wasn’t working, he wasn’t earning. And he didn’t feel as if his place was being usurped. He was old-fashioned enough that he didn’t feel a need to be involved in the gestation process until the doctor came into the waiting room and announced, It’s a …

When the big day came, Mom picked me up, sporting a smile that was almost too wide for her face. We chattered all the way to the doctor’s office about maternity clothes, cribs, diapers, and other baby stuff. We sat nervously in reception area, waiting for my name to be called, looking at the happy faces of the other women in the room, most with swollen bellies. When it was finally my turn, Mom stayed in the reception room. It must have seemed like an eternity to her, wondering what was going on.

When I came out some time later, I was beaming, flushed with the words You’re going to have a baby. But I was also overwhelmed with information, instructions, and expectations. I floated through the reception room, following the nurse’s instructions to go to the front desk to make my next appointment. The receptionist suggested a date and time, I agreed, and she handed me a reminder card along with a small, clear, wide-mouthed bottle.

Remember the not-so-smart thing? I’m aware of my deficiencies, and I believe what it says in Proverbs 17:28:

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.

I had no idea what the bottle was for, but I kept quiet about it. But mom’s know. Mine looked at me with the smile that hadn’t left her face all morning and with amused understanding in her eyes.

“You don’t know what that’s for, do you?” she said.

“No,” I said. I looked away and felt the heat rising in my face.

“It’s for a urine specimen,” she said. “They’ll want one every time you come in.”

“Oh, I thought it was so I could carry my vitamins with me in my purse or something.”

We shared a good mother/daughter laugh, and then she patted my arm.

“That’s okay,” she said. “The first time I went to the doctor when I was pregnant with Jim, they told me to bring a urine specimen. They didn’t give me a bottle or tell me how much they needed.”

“So, how much did you take them?”

“All of it. I think I filled up a fruit jar.”

We shared a lot of moments over the next few months and years. We even shared some more “bottle” moments at the doctor’s office as she got older. Sharing such an intimate experience could have been awkward and embarrassing, but if there’s anything good about Alzheimer’s, it’s that the normal inhibitions are gone, and things that would have at one time been humiliating are now funny. And by the time it was necessary for me to help her, God had taught me that there’s nothing awkward or embarrassing about helping one of the least of these. Love you, Mom.


Comments on: "Peeing In a Bottle | by Linda Brendle" (4)

  1. Great story. And you’re getting as bad as me about provocative titles. Love it!

    • Thanks. As for the titles, you always told me since I’m not famous and I don’t have a “big” story, I have to find some other way to catch the readers’ attention!

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