My Mother’s Keeper
“That Wilbur Pagent was from the wrong side of the tracks, but boy could he dance! Ya know we used to go down by the river and spread a blanket with Jean Baicy and her date. She was Kay Kyser’s niece. You know, the big band leader…”
“Mom, I have heard that story a 100 times.” Before I could catch them, the words flew out of my mouth: a moment of utter frustration while in the car with four loud children and my aging mother. I couldn’t catch my words, couldn’t take them back.
At that very moment of impatience and intolerance, the realization came to me that I had opened a wound. I caught a glimpse of my mother’s head falling. As her chin hit her chest, her words came out so very slowly. “Ya know, I don’t have anything new. There is nothing new in my life to talk about or tell you about…all I have are my memories.” A knife to my heart and soul. Oh why, oh why did I have to say those words to her? And yet I learned a life lesson that day that I hope to embed in the hearts and minds of all adult children of aging parents.
There is nothing new in their lives unless you create something new for them. It is up to you to take your parents by the hand and lead them to new experiences and new places and new people. They will not seek new things by themselves. They will start to isolate themselves from people and places and things. There will never be anything new in their lives and, yes, you will hear the same stories over and over.
Rosie at 87 lives by herself. When asked about her grandchildren, she sweetly says, “I don’t see them much anymore….” Her daughter explains that the grandchildren don’t visit much anymore because of her mother’s memory problems. The repeated comments and questions due to their grandmother’s loss of short-term memory frustrate the grandchildren.
All you parents in this “sandwich generation” teach your children well. Teach them to answer the same questions every time they are asked and teach them that it is ok to laugh and smile and spend time with aging grandparents. Teach them patience and understanding of this aging process that steals memories yet often leaves a very loving and caring grandparent who still cherishes time with them. Teach them to accept the same comments, stories, questions, and to go ahead and have a good laugh at times. It is ok to laugh when the same question is asked every five minutes; just answer it again and smile. If 50-somethings do not teach their children to respect and cherish their grandparents unconditionally, then where does that leave them? It leaves them in a facility where there will be no visitors, no family, and no grandchildren to enjoy.
Teach your children well; what goes around comes around.
Nurse Gale Friedman owns and operates Laguna Beach’s Assisting Hands, a homecare agency serving the coastal beach cities. Friedman personally provides all client contact and care coordination.