It's been a little more than three months since I lost my job, my career, my identity, my self esteem and any number of other things due to the whims of a bunch of billionaire men in ties.
I know there are stages of grief. I don't know if there are stages of laid-off. I know I went through hurt, anger, humiliation, despair, boredom, indifference, and some euphoria that I no longer have to cover soccer. And jealousy as I've watched new face after new face hired to do what I used to do when I couldn't even get an interview.
As I've said before, it feels like I've been dumped by an asshole, who now is dating a young bimbo. I know I'm better off, but I still hope he gets an STD and she takes him for all his money. There.
In the meantime I've managed to establish myself as a freelancer, form my own little media company, build a home office, order business cards, cover some football games, interview some people, write some stories, get interviewed on the radio, get on TV, update my resume, write some cover letters, update my Facebook status regularly, sell a book or two, paint my front porch, redecorate two rooms, host two parties and a Christmas parade, decorate my house for the holidays, bake Christmas cookies, cook Christmas dinner and do all the shopping and wrap all the gifts (except my own).
I do still have a rather long list of things I still want/need to do, but now I have a full time job.
I take care of my mother-in-law, Jane.
She's 82 years old and moved in with us just a few days after I turned in my Times-Picayune ID and the keys to the office where I worked for two decades. When she arrived after being kicked out of her assisted living home for needing too much assistance, she appeared to be knocking on heaven's door. Frail, weak, gaunt, she had dropped down to 88 pounds. She couldn't walk. Could barely stand. And complained about everything.
She woke up dozens of time each night needing -- something. She was hot. She was cold. She was uncomfortable. She was so weak she couldn't pull the blankets on or off. She couldn't get out of bed by herself. She also had an undiagnosed raging bladder infection that made her want to go to the bathroom about a hundred times a day. We had to lift her up, sit her in a wheelchair and take her there, and back.
There were many, many, many times that Marty and I said, "We can't do this." We certainly didn't want to.
We did hire a "helper," a local woman with spunk and fire and the energy to deal with all the needs and requests Jane has. She arrived every morning with a chipper attitude. Sometimes a little too chipper, to tell the truth. While I would sit in my living room, sipping my coffee and enjoying the quiet before Jane woke up, Freda would come in, go straight to Jane's room and open the door.
"Good morning!" she would shout. "You don't have to get up yet! I'm just letting you know I'm here!"
I wanted to hurt her. So did Jane. She admitted it.
While waiting for the morning beep from Jane, letting her know she was ready, Freda would putter around my house and talk. Loudly. Sometimes to me and sometimes to someone on her blue tooth headset. Sometimes I couldn't tell the difference. At least she did the dishes.
As soon as she arrived, I grabbed my iPhone and my dog and went for a walk.
But besides her spunk and attitude, Freda brought a little too much drama. She didn't show up a few times. Left early a few more. My house became an asylum none of us could stand. We had to let her go.
So that is how I became a full-time caretaker.
Now I enjoy the quiet in the morning a little longer, then go for my walk. Or, as I call it, my dance down the street. I wait for the beep. I get her up, get her to the table, fix her breakfast,give her her meds, get her to the bathroom, help her get dressed, fix her lunch, an afternoon snack and prepare dinner for her and my family. Sometimes I conduct an interview and write a story in there too.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I get her into the car and drive her to her dialysis treatments. Two and a half hours later I pick her up.
Basically, I have a child again. I dress her. I wipe her nose, her ass. I clean her poop, change her underwear. I cook her food and cut it up and gently place a bib around her neck so she doesn't get her clothes all dirty. When Marty is home, not teaching school or coaching baseball, he does all of the above.
We both have watched our mothers go from strong, fierce, funny, independent firecrackers to -- not. From the women who took care of us to the women who need the caring, doing things we never imagined doing.
I don't remember much, but I know my mother wiped my nose and wiped my ass and cleaned my shit and my puke and fixed me my favorite meals just the way I liked them. She knew I liked cream of chicken soup with toast broken up in it, and sunny side-up eggs, and tuna with sweet pickles because she loved me. And when we're sick or we're hurt or we're blue, all we really ever want is a big hug and a snuggle with our mommies -- no matter how old we are.
I try to do the same things for my child -- when she'll let me, which isn't often. As our mothers need us more and more, our daughter needs us less.
To her credit, Jane has gotten better. She has gained weight, gained some strength and some independence. She can get out of bed on her own now, with the help of a new rail I bought her with my first paycheck. She can get to the bathroom and back, with the help of the new rails on the toilet.. And she can dress herself. It just takes a while.
My own mother, who will turn 80 later this year, still works a full 7-hour day, five (sometimes six) days a week and works private parties after hours. She still lives alone, requiring very little assistance -- except with her TVs and DVRs and iPhones and her iPad. And she recently has developed somewhat of a cat problem she doesn't quite know how to solve.
They both struggle with feelings of self-worth, often wondering aloud as to their purpose on this earth. They say they don't want to be a burden, don't want to ask for help, don't want to need it.
Neither do I.
What do we do when we've served our purpose? When we're no longer considered valuable or needed? When our whole lives are wrapped up and tucked in a box and put away somewhere? When we can't find a soft place to land? What if we just can no longer pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off?
What do we do then? And who will take care of us?