I'm in the middle of doing that thing that everyone sort of knows they may have to do someday but most of us shove to the back corners of our brain where we keep things like the day our period started at school in 8th grade, or the day our friends came over and found mother sunbathing nude in the yard.
I'm at the beginning of the process of taking away a great deal of my mother's independence. If I tell you that this experience has allowed me to get in touch with pockets of guilt and resentment I never touched before, I'm probably understating. I've come to understand the phrase "Sandwich Generation" with a new clarity. My youngest child is a high school senior. She's visiting colleges, getting her prerequisites in order, checking into scholarship programs...
And just at that moment, when I can begin to imagine a world in which sex happens without fortress-like door locks and money doesn't flow like water...in walks my mother.
My mother is 73. She's intelligent and articulate, well-read, passionate about animals and the ecology. She's always been a little out of the mainstream, but what the hell...so have I. Recently, though, her quirkiness has evolved into something a lot less cute and a lot more unsafe. As she's aged, the details of her life have become unmanageable. And the more the trappings of normalcy slip away, the more she's isolated herself, hoping that no one will notice how overwhelmed she is.
I've run through the usual litany of corrective actions: offers of help for her sake, offers of help for my sake, dire predictions about the danger of hurting herself, and my favorite of all...the Scenario of Doom. "Mom. You're going to fall and break something, and no one will know until you're dead and the dogs have eaten your face. And who's going to find that? Me. So your last official act in this world will be to ruin my life? Thanks."
My mother's response? "I'm fine. It's fine." The tree across the driveway? It's fine. It's good exercise for elderly people to crawl over or under it. It's like having a 10 ton Bowflex. The tree on the utility lines? It's fine too. It keeps the power bill down.
So this last week I have begun the project of hooking my mom up with a variety of Elderly Assistance organizations. I'm alternately relieved, defiant, and wracked with guilt. Who ever thought that I, a small "L" libertarian, would ever tell another sentient adult how to live? But now I have. I am. I'm on a mission to make my mother's life safe and manageable, whether she likes it or not. I plan to knock down the 4 foot high weeds in the yard, to cut up the downed trees that fell in last years storms (including the one that landed on the roof), and to do the repairs and maintenance to her house that homes need in order to make them habitable and comfortable.
She'll be mad at me for intervening. I'll be mad at me if I don't. It's funny, at 45, to realize that you still don't want to piss off your mother.
Like the lady at the Sunshine Senior Services asked, "Does your mother hold a grudge?"
I hope not.