It is never a good sign when the landline rings before dawn. A phone call out of time brings with it the knowledge that it won’t convey good news as all of your loved ones are in the same time zone as you.
The 5am phone call started my day.
Within the hour I was frantically calling all manner of people trying to find out where they had taken my elderly mother. Information withheld because I could be any maniac (thanks to all the stalkers out there). I finally managed to track her down in the emergency room of the local hospital.
Hate this place for a whole lot of reasons, none of which have to do with illness, bodily parts or fluids. Mostly because it symbolises the system in all of its glory, loss of control and loss of time. This is not a stab at Australia’s hospitals or their staff. On a comparative world scale we have little to complain about. It is just the nature of hospitals. Inside those walls, time seems to slow and miscommunication and haphazardness seem to increase.
The good news is mum is physically fine for her age.
The bad news is that the past couple of years, loss of confidence and living in the comfort zone have taken their toll on her quality of life.
As I sat in the emergency ward killing time with the person who birthed me, shooting the breeze and making stupid small talk, inside my soul was screaming.
The notion of “use it or lose it” becomes far more obvious in old age.
And that is what has happened for my mother. She has lost much of her dexterity, mobility and strength. This is to be expected in old age. However in this case, the loss has been accelerated and magnified by a loss of confidence, motivation and movement generally.
It kills me, it really does. Not the physical loss per se, but my mother’s desire to stay in her comfort zone. This from the person who taught me to fight, strive, push and look beyond my front fence. This from the person who used to let nothing stop her, who used to let nothing stop my father and who never said “I can’t”.
My soul was screaming because I can see that comfort and safety are now her priority.
I want to yell “What about living and a life, mum?”
“Remember when there was a world beyond your front fence?”
“Remember when I was a little girl you told me I can, if I just tried a little more?”
I constantly grapple with her perceived surrender. And then feel guilty because hasn’t she earned the right to seek comfort in her old age?
I know that those in old age who continue fighting and striving tend to live longer.
But is longevity the ultimate or even a legitimate goal in your eighties? Or is comfort the highest form of achievement?
It’s a personal choice in which I have no say. It’s a personal choice that I have to accept.
Maybe it’s time to let it be. Maybe at this age, the world to the front fence is enough.
Maybe it’s time for me to get comfortable with my mother’s comfort. Maybe that would be the ultimate sign of daughterly love.
And they say parenting is hard…
37 thoughts on “Are We Entitled To Comfort In Our Old Age?”
Check out the blog of a fantastic woman about your mum’s age. http://mymarkland.wordpress.com It may give you some ideas, and is excellent stuff.
Your piece here is excellent and brought back memories of dealing with these issues with my mum, and my mum in law in years past.
Thanks for the link, I will check it out. Reading through these comments, it seems the experience is quite common. I take some comfort in that.
This is very close to my situation. My mother soon to be 85 just received word that her heart may not last but for another 6 to 18 months. She says she’s ready, but she still worries about her kids (youngest is 50). I’m having a hard time imagining her gone. I call her nearly every day, but can’t see her often since I’m 3000 miles away. My siblings are all nearby to her and that’s good.
Since she has her own home she lives in reasonable comfort, but with her physical circumstance I know she does not feel totally comfortable.
I’ve been pondering old age and mortality a lot lately–my own, my mother’s, and everyone else’s. I don’t think any of us are necessarily entitled to anything, but we should expect comfort in the modern societies in which we live.
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My mother lasted until 89, and she tried her best in the last year to be interested in things outside our home (she lived with me for 19 years), and I tried to keep her as independent as possible, but in the end I felt I had to let her be. Let her do what she wanted to do. Luckily for her she had a lot of friends who would call her – friends of all ages but obviously mostly younger than her. Does your mother have any friends whom you could call and ask to take turns in calling her, or going to visit her, just a little more than usual? Good luck with this part of your life, its not easy, but can have some good moments.
Luckily my mother has always been social and had a good group of friends, although they themselves have health problems and needs. They call her often and she calls them and several times a week she has them over for a game of cards. My mother you used to be never one to sit at home now doesn’t go out to her friends’ homes and prefers to wait until they come to her. That’s what cuts me up, because there really is no physical reason for this.
I wish you all the best with your mother. It must be comforting to know your siblings are near by to care for her. Ageing is a confronting issue whether its in relation to you or a relative, but thought needs to be given to a whole lot of issues in relation to it. And better to do that whilst the mind is still willing.
I so relate to what you’re saying. My dad, also in his eighties, has made the same choices. It’s hard to see him so frail. Daughtering is hard. I tell myself that I will be different at that age (should I make it that long) but will I?
I wish you and your mom the best.
Thank you Jagoda and the same to your father. Daughtering is hard an who knows how we shall be? I haven’t thought that far ahead to be honest. The irony here is that Mum used to prod Dad along. She wouldn’t let him just be.
If you have read about my ‘penguins’ you will know I am going through the same thing as you are my sweet. Mum is 85 next month the small undetectable strokes she has had have effected her memory. She was the social butterfly, large dinner parties, big BBQs for 50 or more. Now she is content to sit at home with dad in the house. Pop would like to see people a little more, but he struggles so with walking and his speech has become so soft ( a result of a form of Parkinson’s)
I try and take mum out to the shops with pops walker when I can, just to get her out and I take them both out for lunch every fortnight. One hand she grizzles about having no car and can’t get out and see people, the next it’s I’ve done my time and socialised why do I need to see anyone. It’s tough, it breaks your heart but all you can do is go with the flow. What will be will be. I wish they would..could do more, but they physically don’t cope well and if I persist an argument usually ensues. Just go with the flow, encourage is all you can do, but ultimately and sadly for us, their decision how they choose to live their remaining years is theirs 😦 excellent post and sorry for raving. xx
Thanks for the words of wisdom. I’m sorry you’re going through the same thing. Yes, it is their decision and we have to respect that. Going with the flow is really the only option and to make the best of the time that’s left.
BTW, you never rant or rave :).
I loves ewe hun xx
I needed to read this twice because I found so many thoughts running through my head. I am sorry you got one of those calls & I hope your mom is doing better. I wish I had a magic answer & actually it sounds like you are doing your best to see the whole picture. It’s so hard when we hope more or better for someone we love & they seem unable or unwilling to see it too. This life thing is hard.
Yes it is hard, especially when they are not our decisions to make. Thanks for your support and kind words as always, DAF. They are much appreciated.
Sorry to hear about your mom. Hospitals always mean life has changed in some way and except for new babies is at the bottom of my list.
When my father was ailing, I tried to get him to move more because he had become stiff and his hands weren’t flexible enough to play cards. My mom always pushed herself until her last summer by gardening all day, everyday a huge plot in her backyard.
I’ll tell you what happens as time goes by. Everything because too much of an effort, too complicated, too tiring, simply to much of everything so you start to avoid them.
Personally, I would love to park myself on the sofa to just read. I miss it but don’t have time since I began blogging and writing and taking classes. Sometimes I can scream: why the hell don’t I just do what I want? Still, I suppose I will carry on as long as I can doing what I can and keeping up my social life. It kills me that getting ready to go out take so darn long!
Thanks for your perspective, Tess. It has helped me understand more. There is no time for sitting on the sofa. You have a trip to China to prepare for, woman :).
*smiles and nods*
At least I’ll get in some reading in Chicago airport and on route in the plane. 😀
Judy, great post.
Please say hello to your wonderful Mum for me :-).
I am right there with you because as you know, I have been going through something similar with my mum – it is a balance. Not sure what is harder: watching and accepting their choices, or trying to help and “reverse parent”. I guess it comes down to one day at a time and each hurdle at a time.
Will do, Razz. I know you are right there with me and your expression “reverse parent” is spot on. Parents are even more stubborn than teenagers to parent, so one day at a time is really the only way to go.
Judy, this is tough issue for all of us, which we unfortunately must see our parents go through as a window into our future. My thinking is we must stay ambulatory as much and for as long as possible. That one goal will keep us more zestful in our lives. I saw a piece in the US where these two senior citizens started a non-profit business around visiting people in their homes and enabling their getting around. They stay ambulatory and mission oriented as they help others do the same. Best wishes with your mother. My mom is the last of the four parents for my wife and me and she is living at home and still driving, but we are watchful. Best wishes, BTG
The NFP sounds like a terrific idea for both sides – clients and service providers. My mother no longer drives having given that up, so that has added to her dependency. All the best to you and yours and thanks for the insights.
Must be very difficult to see your mother go through this. Not only do we feel heartache for them and their loss of things the rest of us take for granted, but we begin to see our own aging as a real phenomenon, something we, too will soon be facing head on.
You’re right, it also marks the passing of our time, especially with them. Mum herself never went through this so the person who usually passes on wisdom to me can’t do it in this situation. That’s making it harder, still.
Sent this post on to a best girlfriend who is having a moment best described as…what you said…accepting what is. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with all of us who are going through this dimension of reality…or have already experienced life “as is” , and come to accepting that part of aging with our own loved ones. And…perhaps ourselves. R.
I hope your friend found some comfort in the post and thanks for sending it on, Raye. I’m working on acceptance, although it’s a bit of a journey for me also.
This part of the life tableau either fades in and out in slow motion-like frames…or the opposite…whizzes by the landscape so quickly one can’t get a clear view of most anything. With both my parents going so quickly within days of each other I could not even get a hand hold on reality. So it seemed. Yes, your post of acceptance calmed and helped my friend in several ways. Acceptance is difficult. The reality? Attempting to remain upright and standing on a mountain of shifting sand.
There comes a time, when the elderly quit fighting. Maybe they have a sixth sense about it or something. I don’t know. Having experienced the passing of both my parents now, I remember when nothing could stop them. I also remember when both of them stopped fighting so hard in turn. My dad passed 16 years before my mom. He died of cancer, and worked until his last three months of life. Then it was as if a flip switched, and he accepted the end was near. My mom’s was a similar story. She knew and when it was time to make her peace, though she fought hard to get the powers that be to change their decision, she quit fighting so hard. It wasn’t easy to watch my parents accept old age and mortality. Neither of us had control over when it happened, but in my parents knowing, I knew too and those last weeks and months for them are some of my most cherished memories of all.
Thank you for sharing this post. I know it’s hard, and my heart goes out to you.
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Thank you for the lovely comment MJ and the insights. I suppose innately we all know. I know with my father that he knew his time was coming. He didn’t give up, he was a fighter to the end, but gave this amazing speech about his life to a gathering two days before he passed. Something he had never done. I think it’s the slow wind down that is quite confronting.
Superb piece Judy, and I’m relieved that your Mum is OK. I had to confront similar issues with both my parents who are now long gone, but more importantly I can now see the same things happening to me as I age and it is an ongoing conflict between staying in my comfort zone or challenging myself with new projects. I suspect the comfort zone is eventually going to win even though I know it will result in diminished physical capability and mental acuity.
All your Mum will need is the love and support of her daughter, whatever her choice.
Love this comment, from its eloquence to its perspective. It’s interesting that you can foresee comfort becoming a bigger issue. You have done a lot with your life, but some never leave their comfort zone. I think I would prefer the come down at the end from having lived then the slow glide of have lived in a limited way. Thank you for your lovely words.
Very well-expressed post.
It’s tough, watching them grow old, the choices, the doubt. I worry about my mom, mostly because she lives so far away from me. I call often.
I imagine it’s difficult for you, sending good thoughts.
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Thanks Silvia, it is heartening to know I am not the only one with these feelings. I wish you and your mum the best, it must be hard with her being far away.
Judy, I know what you are talking about! We will have to talk more about this privately.
Yes we do and we will… soon :). Hope your family are doing well.
Subscribing/following from the #AtoZChallenge. Sister minion from another mother (AJ’s Hooligans).
It’s hard when older family members start needing care instead of giving care. It’s hard to give or receive. At one point last year, my FIL (himself in a wheelchair, missing his right leg from just above the knee with severe arthritis was trying to take care of his older brother (also in a wheelchair with asthma and heart trouble), who was staying with their mother (late 80’s, wheelchair, diabetic). We offered to help until we were blue in the face, but it was always “No, we’re doing alright.” WTH?
Take care of yourself.
Thanks Luann, it’s always great to meet a sister minion from another mother. Sorry to hear about what’s going on in your family. It is indeed a tricky balancing act between pride and reliance. I think it’s the uncertainty and not knowing how to always play it that makes this so difficult.
Hello Curtain Raiser 😉
I really like this story and your writing style.
Its very natural!
Thank you. And thanks for checking it out 🙂