Dealing With Adult Parents
The picture you see below is of my mother and I. Next month Mom will turn 77 years old. These days that may seem young to some folks these days but unfortunately it’s not. My dad didn’t make it to his 71st birthday, and I think about that one almost every day.
Mom lives by herself and for the most part does very well. She still drives but never goes too far from where she lives. She stopped driving on highways many years ago, which means that if she wants to go further than 15 miles it involves one of her friends taking her or my driving up to see her. That’s problematic sometimes because I don’t live close, and when I’m working out of town I may not get to see her for a month or more.
In many ways I’m lucky that she doesn’t have major health issues. She had some episodes years ago based on her high blood pressure, and I not only got her off the medication she was taking (which was excessive) but I put her on the road to eating better by teaching her how to read labels. On that front she’s doing well.
On another front she scares me. Like most older people she does have some problems with memory, and she has problems staying focused here and there. We don’t talk every day (I know, bad son), but whenever we do talk she often begins with “Did I tell you…” When she begins with that she’s never told me. Other times she’ll start telling a story that she’s told many times over the past few years; sometimes I stop her, other times I let her go.
The focus thing is bothersome because sometimes it makes me think she doesn’t care about anything going on in my life. We’ll start talking about something she’s asked me about, I’ll start telling her, and suddenly she’ll break out with something else that has nothing to do with what we were talking about. And I’ll get upset; just telling it like it is.
Here’s the thing though. I know that memory is a dicey thing. Goodness, I have some issues of my own. There are people I’ve known for years that, every once in a while, I can’t remember their name for a few seconds. Actors and actresses from favorite movies or TV, singers of songs, I’ll remember all the details except their names. There are things in my house that one day I suddenly notice, ask my wife about and she’ll tell me it’s been there for years.
So, I keep telling myself that I have to learn patience. Mom doesn’t have anything like Alzheimer’s; she’s just getting older. I know it’s not personal; she loves telling all these stories about me when I was a little boy. It’s embarrassing sometimes, especially when we’re out and she starts telling strangers these stories, but I’m learning to just roll with the punches. I know I’m not the only person with a mother that does this sort of thing.
But it’s hard to deal with. Age is a scary thing because we see what’s going to happen to us here and there. Even if we live a long time we’re not gonna get out of this alive. How healthy will we be? Things can happen in an instant and our lives immediately change. If it happens to our family members and our friends, it’ll happen to us.
Of course we can work our brain muscles, if we want to believe scientists. I’ve started playing Sudoku over the last 9 months and I’ve gotten pretty good. I used to work crossword puzzles and I might get back into it. I play a couple of versions of Scrabble on Facebook. And I exercise, my way, to work on keeping my body at least a bit healthier than the norm.
I also have to remember one other thing. When I talk to Mom she says things are going well. She enjoys watching TV and her DVDs. She’s eating, which is a big thing for me. I wish she’d eat more but she now weighs what she weighed in high school, so who am I to take that away from her (because it’s not going to happen for me lol)? She enjoys the little girl and the baby across the street. And she goes to the hairdresser every other Wednesday with her one friend, who drives.
In a way, I guess that’s the best thing to wish for our parents as they get older, and as we have to deal with them. Mom pretty much doesn’t have a care in the world; I wonder when I’ll attain that kind of peace.