My Parents Have Consumed My Life

March 9, 2019

Anita Henson

It was 6:01 on February 26th when the electrical fire at Mom’s house forced us to relocate and adjust our lives to our new surroundings. After the firefighters extinguished the fire and the cause/origination was confirmed, the captain approached me and offered resources to contact for help, Red Cross and Board-Up. My parents had no home insurance, and they are elderly/handicapped.

Red Cross appeared first and offered a debit card with $670 which we used to secure a room at a favorite motel nearby. Family usually stays at this motel when visiting the parents. We stayed there for 5 days with adjoining rooms. My parents had a walk-in shower and bars in their bathroom. My brother and I stayed in the adjoining room. The nurse, the nurse aide (who showers/bathes Dad), therapists, and palliative care all came to our new location to take care of Dad.

Board-up appeared next and offered to secure the scene and board-up the house. They were extremely helpful. The owner of the company and his associate were there within minutes of the Red Cross. I was able to go to our local Sonic and get hamburgers for Mom and Dad, which they ate in the car before the firefighters left. Dad and Mom were devastated, but remained calm while I talked to everyone and made decisions on their behalf.

We checked into the Sleep Inn, and went to bed immediately. I was able to get the medications (I am glad I kept them in a pill dispenser for each one). I was encouraged to call the doctor and have him order new prescriptions as their bottles may had been contaminated by the smoke. The prescriptions arrived before we left the motel. They served breakfast every morning and we went out to lunch and dinner or ordered in. We spent days looking for an apartment.

We finally found an opening at one of the ADA apartments from the list our caregiver gave us. She knew friends from the agency who cared for clients at different apartments which had handicap access and bars installed. It was one of the first ones we found, but we continued to look and couldn’t find anything available immediately. We decided to take this two-bedroom apartment. Both bedrooms have walk-in closets. My brother was adamant about getting a three-bedroom apartment (like he has a say) so I let him have the bedroom. He has no income, is not on the lease, yet demands so much. He is family, has his quirks and he is loved.  I purchased a cot and placed it in his walk-in closet so I could have a place to rest during the day which is very infrequent.  I am always moving around and taking care of things, running errands, buying furniture, paying bills, etc.

Dad was offered money for the house and was also given an estimate to restore the house to its original condition before the fire. Mom wants Dad to keep the house. They both agreed even though I suggested they take the money and run. They could live comfortably the rest of their lives in this apartment. We haven’t signed any papers and they could change their mind at any time. Meanwhile, Dad is watching his bank account dwindle each day even though I am helping to support this family. I’ve spent my share and have decided to put all utilities in my name. The lease for the apartment is under both our names. I suggested Dad give up Mom’s morning caregiver, I’ll resubmit my application and that should ease the cost. Our afternoon caregiver is intelligent and extremely helpful and she has become Mom’s friend. She checks Mom’s pill container and makes sure she receives her scheduled dosage when she arrives. She has gone to lunch with us every day, taking both parents one at a time into the restaurant using the transport chair. Dad is limited on his walking because of the pressure sore on his heel which isn’t healing fast enough and the doctor is concerned. We have an appointment for the wound center and the imaging center to check the circulation in his feet.

We are able to go to the house (wearing our masks) and the stench is awful. There is no way I would allow Dad to enter the house. We have taken him to the backyard so he could see the damage the fire caused in the laundry room and den. There’s a gash on the ceiling made by the firefighters which kept the fire from spreading to the rest of the house. Most of the smoke damage occurred in those two rooms.

After a week in this apartment, we are finally settling into a new routine. Dad has attached himself to me. He wants to go everywhere I go and gets an anxiety attack every time I am away from him. My brother is too harsh and I have pleaded with him to be kinder so Dad feels comfortable staying at home with him. Dad doesn’t mind staying home when the caregivers are here. On the weekends, we are on our own. Dad went to the salon with me and sat on the couch while I had my hair done. He fiddled with the remote and watched a couple of programs, drank his coffee and enjoyed himself. We don’t have our cable hooked up at the apartment and have to settle for something other than Direct TV which will be installed in 5 more days. I purchased a Verizon ellipses hotspot and he can watch some programs through my Dishanywhere app (full access), Hulu (Mary Tyler Moore) and other stand-alone apps which I have purchased through the years or have through Dish. He can watch his favorite programs except for local news, but he can actually access that through the 7News website.

He is writing his “column”, posting on Facebook and connecting with friends. He finally told them about the fire a few days ago and will probably tell others at church tomorrow. He didn’t mention it to anyone last week. Mom is encouraging Dad to be more thoughtful and patient. She has been remarkably resilient through all this and helps Dad as much as she can.

I didn’t tell them about Daylight Savings Time so they could get up and have that extra hour to get ready for church and maybe eat breakfast before they leave instead of after church. We’ll see. I’ll probably have another week of Dad tagging along wherever I go. I have become his security blanket, I guess. My husband is just a figment of my imagination. I have talked to him twice since the fire. My parents have consumed my life.

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About desertturle

Anita Henson aka Winnie. A retired teacher, and caregiver for my loving parents, wife, and mother. Married to Greg "Tex" Henson.
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