February 12, 2010

SO Beyond NOT Okay .or. My First REAL Mommy Panic

Today, I had my first real, horrible, awful, no good, not okay panicked moment as a mother.

My heart is still racing with adrenaline and anger whenever I think about it.

When we got home from a long day out at 4:30, he was here.

I have written about my father-in-law before.

He has been out to the house more lately. I have been meaning to write a post about all that's gone one, one that would be far less biased than this one. But, this came first.

He takes one dose of his medication at 5:00. He usually is not here past 4:00, because he knows that he can't really handle driving when it's that close to his medication time.

I was tired when we got home, and wondered what he was doing here.

He came into the house around 4:55 and sat down. Still seemingly with okay strength, but panting for his breath a little from the walk from the pool.

I asked if he had taken his 5:00 pills, he didn't hear me but the second time he answered that he had them here with him and thanks for reminding him.

If he doesn't get his pills on time, he becomes physically and mentally incapacitated. He may lose the ability to carry on a conversation or move his body.

He got up, I assumed to go out to his truck and get his pills. Sam followed him. I was cleaning up a mess. It took literally three minutes.

I got up to go see what Sam was up to, and saw my father in law's truck. DRIVING DOWN THE DRIVEWAY.

I ran outside.


I looked around. No reply.

"SAM? SAM!?"

I yelled.


I hollered.


My breath started to come fast. I ran into the front yard. I grabbed my phone and tried my father-in-law's cell phone.

While it rang, I continue to yell. I checked the barn and the back yard.

No answer.

I couldn't decide what to do next.

Call 911 and tell them my son was in a car with an unsafe driver with no carseat? Call Justin? Get in my car and race after them?


I rang Justin. He was on his way home, more than 30 minutes away.

"I can't find Sam!"

"I already TRIED his cell phone, he didn't answer."

Maybe 30 seconds into the conversation, I saw the truck coming back up the driveway.

Oh. My. God.

I told Justin that they were back. I told him that I was going to try not to punch his dad in the face.


"You need to talk to your father. This is NOT OKAY."

I went into the house and Sam got out of the truck and came in the side door. I held in my dissipating fear, my rage, my panic and greeted him. I watched the truck back up.

I was thankful that he was leaving and that I wouldn't have to try and talk to him without crying or screaming. That I wouldn't have to try and control myself so I didn't scare Sam or make him feel bad.

Sam wanted to go back outside. I tried to ask him if he asked to go for a ride, or if Grandpa asked if he wanted to, but it's hard to know with a 3 1/2 year old. My father-in-law stopped his truck near the pool and got out to do something.

He walked towards us, his cell phone in it's holster that Justin just gave him yesterday so he could have it with him, on his belt, at all times in his hand.

"Is this yours?"

"No. That's yours. Justin gave that to you so you could keep your phone on your belt."

"Oh. I found it on the ground."

"It's yours."

He turned, got in his truck, and drove away.

I stared after him, talking and playing with Sam.

But those moments, seconds, are still with me.

I had never felt before like my child could be in mortal danger.

It's not something a mother SHOULD feel. And I feel lucky that this was the first time in almost 4 years of his life that I've had to feel it.

Even thinking about it now, 6 hours later, it makes me want to sob and vomit.


Justin and I have both talked to Sam since this happened. We think that he asked to drive down to the bottom of the driveway because he gets to ride in the front seat of the car with me when we drive down to catch the school bus and drive back. (Yes, I am that lazy that I drive to the bottom of our quarter mile long, hilly driveway instead of walking it on school days. I am pregnant. That's my excuse...) So, he has learned that it's okay to ride in the car like that as long as we're not going on the roads.

We have both explained to him that Mommy gets really scared when she doesn't know where Sam is, and that she needs to know before he goes anywhere. That if Grandpa offers him a ride in the truck, he should come to me first. It's hard to how much he'll remember.

We can't explain to him that even driving to the bottom of the driveway with Grandpa could be dangerous. We can't explain that Grandpa shouldn't even be driving at all, especially when his medication could be fading, along with his cognitive and physical abilities. That is all for us.

I don't need to explain to him that I will never take my eyes off him again when Grandpa is around. That he will never be allowed to ride in the car like that with Grandpa again. That if he ever asks me, I will absolutely say No. That two minutes? Is long enough.

In reality, there was probably not much danger. But there could have been. Justin will be in charge of talking to his father, telling him Sam cannot EVER ride in the car with him. Telling him that taking Sam away from the house without me knowing is NEVER okay. That I was seconds from calling 911 when he came back up the driveway.


What will happen with my father-in-law from here on? It is a mystery. His Parkinson's is getting worse. He shouldn't be driving at all, let alone when he is close to a dose of medication or when it's getting dark. He told me himself the other day that when he drives people honk and wave their arms at him, that they pass him, that he is afraid of getting pulled over. His caregiver suggested that we just take his keys away, and tell him that it's just not safe for him to drive anymore. He won't like it. But that's life.

She doesn't think he'll last more than 3 or so more months in the retirement community he just moved to, and that he'll need to be back in assisted living after that. It's hard. It's so hard. And I watch and I feel for him.

But at the same time, I can't accept that he puts people in danger more often than he knows. I don't accept what happened today. I am angry and it scared me. And it will NEVER happen again.

THANK GOD I have that second chance.


PS If you're thinking about leaving a comment telling me that it was my fault, or that I should have been paying better attention in those two minutes, don't. I already feel bad about it, and no one is perfect, even you. If you leave that kind of comment, I will delete it. Like I said before, I already want to cry just thinking about the whole thing.


MarĂ­a said...

I know how that feels, that sucks. I'd hate to be in your situation, that's so hard! It's hard to watch Parkinson's does to someone in general. :((

Rowenna said...

Rach- what a scary scary day!! i can't believe it! and if you are worried about people judging you for letting him be untended for 3 minutes - anyone who could judge that obviously doesn't have kids. i've seen your yard! it is very kid friendly, even though grandpa is becoming incapacitated you had no reason to think it wasn't safe to leave them alone for a few mins. now you know! it stinks you had to find out that way but better to have the second chance and the knowledge that your FinL is not making good judgement calls right? i hope you were able to calm down after venting in your blog and got some sleep last night! *hugs* we all have those horrible moments from time to time. if anything i think they keep us from being complacent mommies!

Kat said...

I can imagine the fear and ice that just ran through your veins as you contemplated what might be happening. And it's so hard with a parent to take a firm stand - especially when that parent is losing their cognition. I can't imagine that anyone would judge you for what happened. {hugs}

AJ said...

Oh Rachael, I hate Parkinson's. It's hurt our family as well.

Athena said...

Oh, that feeling like you've been punched in the gut! I hope you never feel it again. The one really nice thing about twins is I've got a built in alarm- if something happens to one the other screams. What a horrible situation. Parkinson's is a cruel disease. I've seen it knock a brilliant man to his knees in my life. I hope Justin is able to get through to your father-in-law.

Mommy, I'm Home said...

How terrifying! So glad your son is OK, though.

Enz said...

You did everything right.


Lotus (Sarcastic Mom) said...

Oy, I'd have lost my shit.
So glad he was okay.

Dumblond said...

Oh that's scary. I am so glad that everyone ended up safe.