Monday, July 21, 2008

No, It's NOT Fine.

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 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 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.


Jazz said...


I know...

XUP said...

I’m on the cusp of this myself. Little things. Little worries that you know are going to expand as time goes on. It's kind of like child-rearing in reverse, except you're not looking forward to anything.

Cedar said...

It's like this big ass circle you and your parents start out in together. In the beginning you are small and holding their hand for support and as you walk the full circle together they become smaller and you become larger and finally you are back where you started, except you are holding their hand for support.

Your kids will watch you do this dance with your Mom and someday they will do it with you. So be nice to your mother, because your kids will be picking out your old age home.

You are a good Daughter Ev.

No, I did not just watch the Lion King.

Kwach said...

The upside of this transition is that Ev's mom lives on 7 beautiful wooded acres that Ev owns ... in the house Ev gave her to live in when it became too small for Ev's growing family.

Now that her mom needs more help it's probably time for us to move back onto the property and build a house there ... a couple of acres away. This will give her mom some support, and we can do it without feeling like we're all living on top of each other.

We've been looking at house plans.

Val said...

Yes Ev it IS fine. May not feel like it right now, but really it is. Things have a way of working out the way they are supposed to. True your mom is probably going to be beyond pissed for a short time, but she will come around. The older we get the more hard-headed we get but deep down we know when someone is truly trying to help because they love us. Lighten up on yourself. Your a great daughter with broad shoulders, you will be fine!