As a parent ages . . . sometimes the roles seem to reverse. Who has the final word?
| Seventy-nine is a lot of years of living for a human body. Just the sheer wear and tear on your average day takes a toll. It would seem that the accumulation of years of life, is accompanied by some kind of biophysical debit card.|
The battle scars of life experiences, environment, heredity, the roads taken (rather than not), roads that led to other roads, and other decisions, end up making a unique game of life for us all.
My mother has led a full and varied life, and recently I've felt a change in her attitude, the way she is, or the way I feel she is. I worry. But what can I say?
We have a couple of daily phone conversations, though sometimes she doesn't understand me, or what I'm talking about, and I don't understand her.
Her priorities and life move at a much slower pace than mine do, and than her's did previous to becoming a "senior citizen.".
Her life perspective is something I can't reproduce in my own head. I'm not her age, and I've only been around for part of her life experiences. I don't remember only having a radio for family entertainment. Many things change with time.
I try to be attentive to her needs without inflicting too much of my attitude on her. I'm trying REAL HARD not to tell her what to do, unless she specifically asks me for an opinion.
There were years I was an overprotected child, though I rebelled more than enough to make up for that in later years. Lord knows that through the years she's endured more of my attitude than just the pleasant side.
All in all, she's probably gotten the worst of the worst, because my father died over 25 years ago. She had to be the disciplinarian, and parental guide until I reached the "grown up years."
But in all fairness, I believe my bipolar disorder came from her side of the family. It doesn't really matter where it came from, except I see bipolar symptoms in the larger sense of her behavior at times.
I can't even mention heredity as a contributing factor of my diagnosed bipolar disorder. I tried once. She replied that I me I didn't know my father before I was born. What can I say?
Some discussions could go on forever, and she wouldn't understand, or I wouldn't understand. There are some conversations not worth having because I know where they would go, and I know I'm perfectly capable of losing my demeanor (usually in the fashion of loud verbal frenzied, cussing ans such behavior, and she HATES cursing!).
I know, sometimes, I just want to be argumentative with her. I don't know why. Maybe, because in some way it feels comfortable. I know how to play my role in that situation. It's not right, but it's comfortable, usual, normal.
It's not that I make the discussion disgustingly abrasive or argumentative. We just have different opinions, and I just need to let some things ride. We need to agree, in advance, to disagree. This may be hardest to do with those for whom you share emotional bonds.
If I don't start a conversation on a "forbidden subject," it doesn't become a source of conflict. So there are things we don't talk about. What can I say?
It's a kind of unstated (but obvious) generation gap. For example, when I was sixteen, and smy mother was 49. She set the rules for skirt length and dating policy. I didn't like the rules. My friends' parents were more lenient, and I am living the only child syndrome.
Father and Mother set the rules for everything, until my father passed away the year I turned 18. Mother and I had conflicts under the same roof.
Eventually,I have developed my own set of rules. I'm further refining my own set of rules for living each minute of the day.
I refer to tis philosophy, hesitantly, as morals. One needs to know their personal decision of what is right and wrong, and the why behind it. That way decision making won't leave you with nightmares, or in a coffin.
There will always be a generation gap between mother and child. The mother always expects to care for, and do for, her child.
I know when I do for her, she does feel happiness, but she also feels hurt because there are things she'd rather do by, and for, herself. Age and health conditions prohibit that. So we don't dwell on that either, though it's a source of mild (?) emotional trauma for me at times. But, what can I say?
The generation gap is still there, except now it feels the roles have been reversed. Mother is the one who stays out in the car without reporting in by phone often enough. I worry. She doesn't remember to turn on her cell phone when she leaves the house. She has cataracts. She passed her legal driver's license test. What can I say?
We go places together, or meet somewhere, a couple of times a week, and we're always identified as mother and daughter by appearance. I hope I age as well as she has, for she looks much younger than her 80 years. But then, who's to say what 80 is supposed to look like?
Her routine, despite her always-on-the-go attitude, has slowed to a trickle of doctor appointments, trips to the cafeteria, and jigsaw puzzle arranging.
The doctors have told her to slow down and take it easy, but she's never been that type of person. She wants to always be busy doing something, and if the task is physical, she ends up "over doing " it. Age is wearing away at her--the things she wants to do, but is no longer able.
She doesn't like that part of her life, the "not being able to anymore." Independence is important to her. Sometimes, I think it's the most important thing to her.
I know I value my independence. They say, "like mother, like daughter." It's true. What can I say?
But it's the small changes about her I notice that make me view our relationship differently.
Always her life has been filled with people. She enjoyed many secretarial type jobs through the years, and has always been active in the church, and the church office. Now, mostly, she stays at home and sits with her dog.
Since her second husband's passing, she's lost her desire to socialize. She's been to many funerals. Lots of her friends aren't around to socialize with. It is sad when you get older, and all your family and friends have already passed. She and I believe they're waiting there for us. It's some consolation. It's also good fodder for happy conversations of memories we have of those we loved and lost.
Now she plans her outings around doctor visits, and her meals (usually from the cafeteria) by what she thinks her stomach can digest without causing pain. I feel that she's been dilly-dallying about getting a colonoscopy because she thinks the doctor might find something wrong.
She makes doctor appointments (many different types of doctors), and then she gets to feeling better, and she cancels the appointment. What can I say? Does it really matter?
If I say anything, I know I'm instigating an unpleasant discussion. It's her life, her decision, right? What "magic words" would make her think my way?
Why should I be so bold as to think my way is best? It is her life. Decisions are in God's hands anyhow.
How much does one intervene in nature, with SO MUCH medical technology? It's a very personal decision, and often one you are not able to make for yourself when the time comes.
I have her medical power of attorney, and I know what she DOESN'T want, when the time comes. No extreme measures are to be taken to sustain a life state that is vegetative, or full of only pain and human suffering.
Just knowing the words won't make anything much easier--when the time comes. I hope God takes care of the situation without legal papers being necessary.
It's in His hands anyhow, and I know I worry too much over things of which I have no control. I need to "let go" of lots of things. I try. What can I say?
There is a unique bond between mother and daughter. The way in which the two are connected, it's as if no one outside the two of them can understand. It's experiential. You had to be there and live it.
How does one behave as a good daughter? I've always strived to be the best at everything I do, and I drive myself overly-compulsively!
Plus, this particular mother and daughter are codependent, and I'm trying to work on my end of that. She deals with that concept in her own way, in her own world. We often don't talk about something she could help me with. It's difficult to predict her emotional reaction anymore.
But she's not as healthy as she's been; these past two years her health has been deteriorating, her physical body wearing out. The past two months her heart condition (need for bypass surgery and a mitral valve replacement), and digestion (she won't keep an appointment with the colon doctor) seem to be causing her horrible pain.
She's never experienced much physical pain in her life--not headaches, broken bones--just mostly allergy annoyances.
I listen. I'm usually very up-to-date on the movement of her bowels--an important and privately distasteful matter, about which I've begrudgingly adjusted to including in EVERY conversation. I've heard this line of conversation goes with the age--hers, not mine. What can I say?
But what is my responsibility for her pain as a daughter who can really only listen? How deep is my obligation to repect the dignity she has earned from a lifetime of experiences?
It has to be a combination of the two. I'm having a real problem with the alegbra in this equation. All life isn't math.
Often the phone has rung in the middle of the night, to be followed by a trip to the Baylor emergency room for some immedialtely necessary care. It's hard on her, but it's hard on me, too.
She knows it's hard on me, and acknowledges it. Then I feel guilty and self-centered for the subject coming up at all. What can I say?
Everything that cracks or creaks or leaks can be repaired, and there's a contractor or technician, somewhere, who can fix it. But it's different with humans. We have to trust God. What else can I say?
What can I do to find more faith in God in this aging situation I face daily with my mother? How do I best support her in her quest to maintain the human dignity she has alwys known? What can I say, or pray, to God?
Mother's emotions, her state of being, her concept of life and what she can do with it is changing, daily. So is her health. I have to be the one to be "up," and keep the conversation light.
What can I say this time, and what shall I say tomorrow??