parenting your elderly parents

BMW 3-Series (E90)

BMW 3-Series (E90) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

… except for me.

Since my Dad’s death back in the fall of 2008, Mother has, in one way or another, gifted vehicles on all the licensed members of my immediate family. DNOS got the ball rolling when she asked for Dad’s car (mostly to make sure that Mom didn’t give it to our brother, CB, who behaved in a most heinous manner in the days following Dad’s death). She drove it a bit but ended up selling it in the end.

Which resulted in Mom buying our nephew, N1, his first car. He’d been promised Dad’s car and when he found out that DNOS had sold the car, whining on a toddler level ensued from both the boy and his mother, my youngest sister, Baby.

N1 promptly wrecked the first and second car he received due to his Grandmother’s guilty conscience, so she bought him a BMW, used, causing Rob to remark,

“What do I have to fix around your Mom’s house the next time we visit to get her to buy me a BMW?”

The beemer came to an untimely end within weeks. The State of Iowa decided it had enough around the same time Mom did. The state pulled N1’s license and Grandma closed her car loan office.

At this point in the story its cars 4, immediate family benefiting from free cars just two. CB, Baby and I were still free car free.

After N1’s infamous visit to CB last fall (his reward for losing his driver’s license, dropping out of high school and wrecking 3 cars was a holiday in Cali), CB was forced to decamp back to the mountains for some life rebuilding. Of course, he needed wheels and naturally, Mom mailed a check.

Cars 3. Siblings 2 out of 4. One grandchild/three wrecked vehicles.

Not long ago, Mom and I were chatting and she admits to me that despite vowing to close the Bank of Mom/Grandma, she lent money to Baby and N1 for … cars.

“Seriously?” I said.

“Well, Baby’s car engine blew up and without a car she’d have to move back in with me. That’s not happening.”

“But what about N1? He lives with his Dad. What’s in this for you?

“The temp job at the plastic plant worked out. It’s shift work. Without a car, he won’t be able to hang onto the  job,” she said. “It’s the first job he’s had.”

“I guess spending the winter moping in your Dad’s attic is an inspirational vision quest sort of thing,” I replied.

“And he has a girlfriend.”

Who lives in his Dad’s attic with him. Or so I am told. Only way to salvage some manhood in such a situation is full-time employment and a car.

Although Mom insists her latest bit of largesse is no gift because she required both Baby and N1 to sign contracts stipulating repayment, I have my doubts. Baby still regularly grocery shops in Mom’s pantry and has no end of cagey excuses to try to con cigarette money from Mom’s purse. She wouldn’t have to do either if Lawnmower Man wasn’t drinking up her paycheck now that he is “too disabled” to work. And it won’t be long before N1 has some emergency that will cause him to skip a payment.

“You’re going to be a Great-Grandma before you know it,” I told her.

“Oh, I better not be. I had a talk with him about that.”

I didn’t ask for details. It’s giggle-worthy enough to picture my 80-year-old mother giving the birth control what-for to my 18-year-old nephew without them.

Now however, it’s everyone has gotten a car but me. When I pointed this out to Mom, she stammered a bit because it honestly hadn’t occurred to her, and it wouldn’t. This is just one thing on a long list of perks afforded my younger sibs that being the oldest makes me ineligible for. Being the prodigal’s older sib is perk free. It is known.

It’s not as if she’s never helped me out; she has. I am not forgetful or ungrateful, but it’s disconcerting to hear her fear for her financial future, knowing that the only reason she won’t retire is out of fear of going broke and knowing that she’s spent thousands and thousands on cars.

And I didn’t get one.

“She couldn’t afford to keep you in the wheels you are accustomed to,” Rob said.

“Well, that’s your fault,” I countered.

“Indeed, I spoil you.”

He does at that, which is interesting because I wasn’t raised to be such a woman. I don’t have expectations of jewels, luxury holidays where I don’t prepare a single meal or even the latest techie toys (which judging from my clusterfuck experience with my smart phone’s voice navigator today is just as well). My Dad would be quite pleased with how modestly I live. His eyes would wiggle like one of Santa’s elves if he knew about the cars though, but when they met up again somewhere in the future, he won’t say a word to her about it. He spoiled her too.

Just a tiny one or my husband will be commenting about how I need to blog less and work on my “serious” writing more (’cause daddy is waiting to be a kept man), but can we talk about our parents? My father is nearly 81 years old, has cataracts, and a left foot that is basically inoperable due to a serious of strokes and complications from circulatory issues and he is still driving. Yes, still driving. When last I was home my mother wanted me to talk with him about handing over the keys. I told her that all she needed to do was hide them and have my brother-in-law disable Dad’s car if she didn’t want to put her foot down with him. She didn’t do that and he has been in a fender bender of late. No major damage and no one was injured, but I think that is beside the point. I was a bit heartless when I told Mom today that it’s her responsibility as Dad’s caregiver to make the tough calls sometimes and this is one of them. I then took the highest of high ground when I pointed out that I had taken my late husband’s keys away from him before he was even diagnosed with his illness despite his protests and the mutterings and pouting that went along with his disintegrating mind. My last husband was still ambulatory and much stronger than I was whereas my Dad can barely walk from the kitchen table to the sink and spends most of his day in bed or sitting in a recliner in the living room.

But what makes me even more angry is that Dad is in his right mind. He knows perfectly well that he isn’t fit to drive because of his difficulty of movement and blind spots. He knows! And he is just being pig-headed. And yes, I do know that this is an independence issue and hard on his pride and sense of himself as a man. The last part being key because the medication he has had to take over the last nearly three years have changed him physically and causes him embarrassment. Though he tries to have a sense of humor about it like the time my sister was helping me button a dress shirt and it fit a bit snugly, he remarked, “Look at these great breasts and your mother doesn’t appreciate them at all.” The make ego and sense of self is as strong at 80 as it is at 3. A man is a man and he feels less of one, but does that mean we wait until he backs over one of the neighbor kids or his own grandchild before we do what is necessary? (Evil me threw that at my mom too. I take the whole care-taking gig seriously. Though I will grant you that part of me is a bit pissed that I had no choice about the uni-lateral decisions I had to make once upon a time that my mother and my younger sister seem to think are optional.)

Tonight I get to have this lovely conversation all over again with my sister, who is still torqued at me for abdicating my number one son position to run off with Mr. Simpson and live in exile. She is tired and over-burdened and I get that, but she is still in charge. What did she think? That being the oldest was just a perk-filled pleasure romp?

Sometimes being the adult child sucks, but that’s the “adult” part of it.