elderly parents


English: Front of black iPad 2.

English: Front of black iPad 2. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mom’s visit shot the whole NaBloMoPo to hell. We put her in the office because Rob was worried about her going up and down stairs from the yoga/guest room. He didn’t want her to fall and break a hip or something.

Mom, it should go without saying, found this a highly annoying assumption because “I can go up and down stairs just fine”. I mollified her somewhat with,

“It’s warmer on the main floor, Mom.”

Which is true and so Rob’s status as adored son-in-law is in no danger, but she gets cranky when it appears that we are factoring her age into any decisions or plans we make regarding her visits. This despite the fact that she readily admits to not really enjoying going out after dark or walking long distances.

Her presence in the office curtailed my blogging simply because she stands behind me, noting and reading. I hate that. Only Rob can get away with reading over my shoulder when I am at the computer and even he is pushing it a bit by doing so.

Do not hover while I am at the keyboard and definitely don’t read over my shoulder. I am uncertain as to why this even needs to be said as it should just be a given.

After Mom left, however, I have no excuse beyond just not feeling well.

Same old aging female shit but wearyingly so this past week. Moved me to even make an appointment with my Family Doc, who is so unhelpful she actually said,

“So what do you think we should do?”

Yes, it has come to that. I must Google and then decide my treatment and she will simply facilitate. Universal care at its finest.

But that’s a tmi post for another day – really.

Today marks the mid way point toward gearing up for Rob’s mother’s extended visit with us and Christmas.

The two things will overlap at some point.

Sometime before they do, we have a wall bed to install in the office, a hardwood floor to lay in the living room, hallway and dining room, the latter-most needing to be gutted and dry-walled first, and a fair bit of stuff shuffling and purging to accomplish. This in between our regularly hectic schedule of yoga, Girl Guides, soccer and general daily maintenance.

No biggie.

Mom’s visit coincided with Dee’s Fall Break. I normally scale back that week by cancelling my community yoga classes and since Dee’s Guides don’t meet – we have a “slow” schedule.

More than once, Mom commented on the “slower pace” of our lives. She is used to her own out and about-ness, and the never-ceasing movement of my sister, DNOS’s, life as a working/hockey mom.

Part of the issue is that we live rurally and now that it’s winter, we don’t drive around needlessly. Trips anyway take long enough with good roads.

Mom is not used to be so still and in such quiet conditions though I would say that when Rob and Dee are at work and school during the week, the silence around me rivals that of a monastery. And I like it that way.

Without the constant background noise of tv and “city” life and the ability to jump in her car and toddle out to the grocery or visit friends, Mom was a bit bored.

Facebook helped. Now that Mom has an iPad (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type), she is fast becoming addicted to virtual life. She facebooks, pins and goodreads. Heaven help us if she discovers Twitter. It’s gonna be “shit my mom types”.

The iPad isn’t all bad. With the Facetime feature, she has pretty much given up phoning us and it’s been good for her and for Dee to be able to talk face to face. Mom loves it so much, she is giving DNOS an iPad for Christmas even though they see each other in person nearly every day.

She is even talking about needing a smart phone because she was quite impressed with my ability to take and post pictures to my FB feed using my Android.

Not a sign of the apocalypse but certainly a seismic shift.

With the blackness of Friday encroaching on us here in Canada, I contributed to the Canadian economy yesterday with a few more Christmas purchases. I have a few more yet to make and then I am done but for wrapping.

It’s a scaled back year though that is relative. For us, scaled back means something different from what it does for people in the US for whom money is more of an issue.

I have issued a “please don’t buy me anything” edict again this year. I even turned down the offer of a new iPod from my mom. I have a wish list and I have a want list, but I have no real needs and so can’t justify requesting gifts.

Even Dee, when queried about Christmas, said,

“I don’t really need anything. Isn’t that sad?”

The American holiday spillover feels odd. Thanksgiving is a warmer weather holiday for us. More harvest oriented. Once Halloween is past, it is time for winter preparation and all that that entails. Our early snow this year drove that point home with a bit of force as well.

Lots of things going on in terms of career and future, but today is for updating only.

Happy Black Friday. May you find true bargains and not be trampled, accosted or shot should you find yourself in a Wal-Mart.


I waited until Thursday to call Mom this week because I wanted to see how her first session with hospice grief group went. She was a little leery but felt she had to go because a) it was recommended to her by the hospice as a good thing for survivors to do at the five or six month point and b) she thought perhaps she wasn’t grieving right because,

“I just don’t feel sad all the time.”

Which is the Catch-22 of grief, the fact that you don’t feel sad every single second of every single day for months, years or decades after losing a loved one. It’s just not physically or emotionally possible, and no one ever really tells a person that. It’s just something you figure out as time goes by.

But when I called her, she’d had another encounter with CB and a voice message from the X-SIL which upset her.

“Your brother called and he needed money again, ” she said.

I always feel like she throws the term “your brother” out there as a way of reminding me that she would be rid of him if I hadn’t stuck up for him last fall and convinced her to bring him back to see Dad before he died and to be there for the funeral.

“What’s wrong now? His van again?”

“No, he wants the money to move back to the Bay Area,” she said.

“How many times can your Mom fund his moving back and forth from Tahoe?” Rob asked me later.

Indeed.

CB needed $350 to rent a U-Haul for his stuff. He has a place to stay. Yet another friend will be putting him up. I marvel at his ability to always have a friend in reserve for those prolonged periods in his life when he is in breakdown mode, but he is a charming bastard when he needs to be. He never seems to need to be as charming where his family is concerned.

Long story short, Mom sent the money, but what really pissed her off was the phone message from X-SIL which can be summed up thusly,

“You made a commitment to CB when you adopted him (almost 43 years ago now) and you need to honor it by helping him out now. Besides, you are old and alone and he could come live with you and help you out (which would get him the hell away from me).

X-SIL’s predicament should be a lesson to all who foolishly have children with men they don’t want to marry all that much. I mean, if you don’t like or trust a guy enough to marry him – ever – why sleep with him in the first place? And the no-breeding thing should go without saying.

On Thursday, I tried to be rational and matter of fact and it was not what Mom wanted to hear. She wanted me to share her outrage and do the verbal equivalent of a head nod as she ranted. Trouble is, I have been in the widow window she is in, and I know better than to feed that kind of pointless emotion. It’s draining and in the long run, not really what serves a person best. So I pointed out the facts in a non-judgmental way:

1) CB is mentally ill. Being angry with him is pointless. Send him money or don’t, but stop expecting my agreement that he is somehow responsible for his looniness. 

2) X-SIL is nearly as nuts and she isn’t a part of our lives – hasn’t been for a decade easily. Consider the source and erase the message. 

Afterwards I wondered just how annoying I was when I was 6 months out with my perpetual focus on myself and how the world was impacting me. My poor family, friends and co-workers is all I can say though truthfully, most people dealt with me by pretending nothing had happened and I seldom brought it up in real time. I know now that there is a very good reason for the “pep” talks the grieving are given starting from around that time period. These are “make or break” months. Whether a person pulls themselves together and begins moving forward depends on those around us being supportive without enabling.

Friday, of course, I felt bad. Six months out is a rough time, and I didn’t want Mom to feel as though all I do is give her advice when she wants validation. I called her again. I told her I was sorry if I added to her trouble or made her feel bad. She assured me that I didn’t. And then she rehashed the whole thing again, this time throwing in the fact that Nephew1’s grandmother (he lives with her and his dad now) called and asked for a loan of $200 to pay the electric bill.

“What I should have told her was to stop eating out every night and buy food that needs to be cooked rather than microwaved and maybe she wouldn’t be short at the end of the month,” Mom was indignant, but she gave her the money.

I feel bad about having counseled  Mom to use money as a way to keep the problem people in her life at bay, but at the time, it was the quickest and easiest solution. That time, having past, means that the heavy-lifting of redefining her role and willingness to be supportive beyond good thoughts, a shoulder and prayers has arrived, and I am not sure she can do it.

“I am all alone now,” she said.

And while she is not technically alone, she is spiritually/emotionally alone with Dad gone because no one has her back at a moment’s notice anytime and anywhere anymore. I get that.

As I was listening to her on Friday, DNOS showed up to hear the offending voice message. When I talked with her privately today, she confirmed my suspicions that X-SIL was simply being manipulative and trying to rid herself of the burden of CB by convincing Mom into bringing him home.

At the time of the conversation however, DNOS was in,

“Uh-huh. I see. Really?” mode, which is code for “Just shut up and let me handle things because I am here and you are not.”

Later at dinner – BabyD was off at a birthday party – Rob and I discussed, yet again, extended family and our siblings in particular. Rob’s younger siblings are just as off track as CB and my youngest sister, but they rarely ever contact him the way CB does me. Rob doesn’t like the way CB’s issues and my Mom’s difficulties dealing with CB affects me. I don’t either. I wish I could figure out a way to disengage from CB completely. I can’t help him. The system hasn’t any mechanism to allow for his being helped without his permission, which he isn’t capable of giving anymore, and the whole thing is now boiling down to damage control.

In the end though it is up to Mom to simply putting an end to the mooching and being the go-to for our less responsible family and shirt-tail relations.


My younger sister called me tonight to tell me that she and mom were taking dad to the walk-in clinic.

Dad has been ill since just before my husband went into hospice in the fall of 2005. He’d suffered a series of TIA’s which are small strokes caused by an ulcerated artery in his neck. He had recovered but for a limp by the time Will died in January of 2006, but in March of that year complications from a routine surgery set him back. Soon after he developed plumonary disease.

Though the doctors told him he wouldn’t last out the summer by fall he was recovering nicely again. When I saw him at Christmas he looked good but for a more noticeable limp.

This past week though he has developed a hacking cough and now has a fever. Hacking cough could be a bad cold or bronchitis even but fever means flu or pnemonia.

Will died of pnemonia. Not really all that unusual for the chronically ill. It is not a pleasant thing to watch. It is not something I think I can watch again.

Last spring when dad was in ICU and my uncle’s wife was dying of heart failure in the room next door, I told my sister that I didn’t think I could be in the room if dad’s conditioned worsened and he seemed likely to die. She said,

“You will be in the room because you have to.”

and I didn’t answer her because she didn’t give me the chance. She walked away to get back to work (she was a technician in the hospital’s lab) and left me standing in the hallway.

If she had waited for an answer, she wouldn’t have cared much for it.

I can’t watch someone die again. Not then. Not now. Maybe not ever. And I think that is what holds me back from the idea of having a relationship again that has the potential to be serious. Seeing Will suffer like that. Watching him frantically gasping for those last breaths of air to fill already stilled lungs.

It seared my soul and the new skin that has only very slowly grown back is still too delicate.

My dad is a cat. Nine plus lives but even my grandma’s tenacious DNA has its limits. Hopefully they won’t be crossed once again.