Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thank Heaven for Grown Up Girls

In the past two years, I've had lots of melt-downs, all associated with elder care issues.  Those are the things you read about, always wondering in the back of your own mind if you are going to be one of the less fortunate.  Of course, during the years that they are living among us, they swear, swear, double swear, that they are NOT going to be any trouble, whatsoever.  They, those dear parent-people, tell us over and over again about how they will not succumb to that kind of behavior and that they will remain independent and on their own until the day they die.  Strong, free, independent  home-owners who won't set foot in a senior center or consider for one tiny moment, the possibility that one day, down the road, they might find life in an assisted living complex appealing.  No, these people haven't any need for planning for their futures.  They are going to remain forever as they were on the day of their retirement.  Don't talk about the "future" kids, because you haven't any need to give it a second thought.  We're living forever and we're not going to become a burden. "Why we won't even tell you where the wills are because we aren't going to die"

And then, one day, it all falls apart at the seams and the reality continues to get brushed aside.  And they're old, much older than their parents ever were, much older than they could have envisioned themselves and they thank God for their health and they think they still have their wits about them and they fight,oh so hard, to prove it to what has become a limited audience.  They've outlived their friends, their spouses, most of their relatives, even some of their children and they still think they are fortunate and they still have just as much control over their children, now themselves elders, as they had on the day those children were born. And there's always the one child, the one who has the whole nut in the shell.  Siblings, they disappear, take vacations, tell you to do same and recommend therapy as a way to assuage your "guilt" that they don't "allow" themselves to have.

And so, the phone rings and the children only hear how negligent they are and how silly their dreams are and realize how alone they are in the caring for Dad or Mom.  The children don't hear many words of gratitude or many new ideas and they repeat and repeat and repeat every word that falls upon deaf ears and gets lost in the ruts of the dementing brains. And they shout to be heard, above the loud T.V. on the other end.  And they shout, to be heard because hearing aids, as we all know, never work right or is it that they cost so much?

And the adult children call, every day, to check up, cheer up and assuage their own guilt.  The guilt that gets thicker with each phone call, each visit to a sad and tightly closed home of a parent who swore that things would be different and continue to swear that everything is fine and there is no need to change one.single.thing.

This has been a long and difficult winter.  Most days have been filled with cold air and grey skies and the threat of snow, sleet or ice has cancelled or postponed many a diversion.  I watch the pond freeze, the ice growing thicker every day.  I watch the birds and the squirrels as they scamper around, their presence so much easier to detect as their bodies contrast with the white snow that has covered the ground for the longest time.  I envy them their freedom and their detachment from their parents, their total lack of responsibility and caring for anything other than themselves in only a few short weeks following the birth of their young.  Nests are built, babies born, and the flying away or the scampering through the woods begins. It seems to be a lovely pattern and I rue the day I was born a human rather than a blue jay or a cardinal.

Yesterday, I had one of those mornings after a visit with my father who has a "cold" and relentlessly expressed how he did not feel well, inviting me to stay a while, to not be in such a hurry, so that I could sit and listen to his child-like chorus of "ohhhhh, I have a cooooold", over and over and over.  With each incantation, I remembered how much my mother dreaded his getting sick because of this habit he has of moaning and groaning as if he were the one dying, and it made me angry, an anger that surpassed my need to be compassionate, as I thought of her, sitting in the same chair, bearing pain and indignity beyond words, without murmuring as much as one.  And from there, my thoughts flew to the words that I had heard from both of them, many times during their lives, words that have made today so very hard to bear......"You don't have to worry about us, we will not be a burden to our children...."  My anger became so evident as I became the victim once again.  I could not answer the question put to me.  "Why are you so angry and why are you in such a hurry?"  I could not and did not.

Instead, I had a standing date with four of my friends and I kept it.  I had a question of my own to put out to that group and did so as soon as I arrived because I was about to burst.....and did.  "Does anyone know where someone can go to get some counseling for what I am going through?"  And the answer, it came in unison, they did not skip one beat, those lovely women.

"Yes, it is here. Sit down"

To Lois, Pam, Joy and Ruth, my heartfelt thanks.  Hugs, kisses and prayers of thanksgiving for a gift that I knew I had but until I opened it, never knew how beautiful it was going to look on my life.  Bless you all.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful, honest, heartfelt and achingly true post -- So glad you felt like writing it. Having supportive friends is wonderful. I believe there are "caregiver" support groups also, moderated, I believe, by trained people (psychologists or social workers) where everyone knows what this kind of burden feels like and some have found personal ways to accommodate.