After posting last time about my mom’s move in with us, I thought that it might have seemed a bit harsh. I love my mom, and I’m happy with our arrangement. I was venting some frustration over what I see as choices. And I’ve talked with her about this.
It seems like Mom is choosing to look at life as the glass-half-empty scenario.
Yes, Dad died unexpectedly. But he died with both Mom and I at his side, holding his hands, allowing him a dignified death on his terms.
Yes, she’s a widow. But she isn’t alone. A couple of years ago, she voiced her concern over what would happen if she ended up alone. I told her then she would just move in with us. And when it looked bleak for Dad, I reminded her that she had that option.
Yes, she had to leave her home of 35 years. But wasn’t forced to sell it yet. She can wait until she’s ready to let go of it. She is fortunate that she has a place to live, where she can continue to ride her horses and live in the way she’s used to. It isn’t exactly her life as before, but it’s pretty damned close.
Yes she’s dependent on me for day to day living. I buy groceries and pay bills and make sure she has what she needs and wants. But many of her friends have told her that she’s in enviable position. Not every elderly parent is welcomed into their adult children’s homes. Many are left to fend for themselves for everything: food, medical, housing. At least she knows she has a warm home and everything will be okay in the long run.
Yes, her life has changed. But her lifestyle is basically the same. She still lives on an acreage. She still has her horses and her dogs. She still goes to the events she wants to.
What I mean about choices is that she is tended to. She is cared for. She is loved. But she still chooses to walk around with a frown on her face. She chooses to complain about the weather. She chooses to find reasons to be unhappy.
Last summer, after we had a little tiff, she sniffed and said she should ‘just go home.’ She had said that to me about once a week. That time, I asked her if that’s what she wanted. She looked at me with wide eyes and said no.
“Then don’t say that to me again. If you do, we’ll start moving you back to Belgrade.”
She hasn’t said it again.
Similarly, she somehow missed a payment on her cell phone bill, and they called her about it. She got mad and hung up on them, then started screaming about how unfair life was. She said she wished she were dead.
I told her that I didn’t know how to react to that or what to say. But that I didn’t want to hear that again, because that is a horrible thing to say to your daughter. She hasn’t said that again.
She was used to my dad doing everything: paying the bills, doing the banking, doing the shopping. Making arrangements for everything that needed to be done. She expected me to take that over. And I did help her get things arranged. But I refused to make her phone calls or take over her checkbook.
I forced her to call social security and Dad’s life insurance company. His pension accounts. I made her call about his death certificate. I made her go to the lawyer (I went with her). I made her make changes to all the bills and to the bank accounts. It was hard for her at first. But I knew she needed to be able to do those things herself. Plus, I didn’t want to give my brother any ammunition to claim that Mom wasn’t capable of taking care of herself.
And now, she doesn’t even ask me to make her phone calls. She does it herself, without prompting. She has gained confidence in herself. She knows I’m here if she needs help, but she also knows she can take care of some things alone.
I’ve had to adopt a kind of tough love with her, so that she didn’t just fade into a chair to curl up and die. She doesn’t have a lot of interests. She doesn’t watch tv, because it’s a waste of time. She doesn’t listen to music, because it’s stupid. She doesn’t want to knit or crochet or do any crafty type things. She enjoys reading but has read the same books dozens of times.
So, for Christmas, Sylvis gave her some adult coloring books, and she loves them. It keeps her occupied and gives her something to accomplish. Same with a couple of jigsaw puzzles.
She tends to feel left out when I write or when I am sewing or working on my own hobbies: I’m learning about watercolor painting; I practice my breakaway swing most days; I’m teaching myself to knit. But she doesn’t really want to put any time into learning anything new or to do any of those hobbies, so I have to do my own thing and let her figure out how to fill her hours.
Mom only has a couple of friends. In the past, women have tried to do things with her, but she always declines invitations to lunch or shopping or anything. But then she gets mad when I go with Colleen to Butte and have lunch or am away for the day.
One friend has been a trooper. She calls Mom regularly, knowing that Mom will never call her. She continues to invite Mom to lunch, knowing that Mom will never go. And that’s sad. I have lost friends due to lies started during my divorce. The friends that I do have, I cherish and I nurture those friendships. But Mom has chosen to go through life without any friendships to speak of. And then complains because she doesn’t have anything to do or anyone to do things with.
She expects the world to conform to her whims, but she isn’t willing to put much effort into changing her behavior to help that happen. She doesn’t compromise or put herself out for anyone. Last summer, she competed in a reined cow horse series of shows, with some ladies who have known her for a dozen years. All of these women have always supported Mom and Dad, but this summer they went out of their way to encourage her, cheer her on, and compliment her runs. She was always in the first class of the day and always wanted to leave when she was done, so she never put any effort into watching these other women.
At the last show, I suggested we stay for awhile so she could do that. She thought that was a good idea, but then refused to leave the trailer when I said she should go over by herself. I know these women, but they are in Mom’s circle and she needed to spend some time alone with them. At first, she leaned against her horse and watched from the trailer (about two hundred yards away).
I kept telling her to go to the arena, and she just wouldn’t do it. She finally sat down by me at the trailer, and I started loading us up. I said that if she wasn’t going to go support anyone else, we may as well leave.
“I suppose you’re mad at me,” she said.
“No, I’m not mad. I don’t understand you. These people adore you and think of you as a friend, but you won’t do anything to support them they way they do you. You’re selfish. And if I were any of them, I wouldn’t consider you a friend after this summer.”
She likes hearing that her run was great, but she never offers any positive comment to anyone else. I have a hard time with that. I was not taught that when I was growing up, so it confuses me that she can’t be more gracious.
Even with the boys. Half the time when Cyris or Sylvis stop by for a short visit, Mom won’t even come out of her room to greet them or say goodbye to them. I told her a few weeks ago that if she didn’t change that, they were going to think she didn’t care if she saw them or not.
I have had to tell her that she needs to think more positively and there are days I have to ask her to avoid saying negative things. I remind her when she says the word ‘hate’ all day. Like she hates the wind. Or she hates the night. Or she hates the traffic. I don’t think she even realizes that she’s being a downer, until I say something.
I know some of my mom’s orneriness is simple aging. She will be 82 in a couple of weeks, and it’s normal for the brain to miss a step or two. And part of her personality is due to the same. But I’m stuck trying to figure out where normal aging stops and the more serious issue of dementia begins. Her mom developed Alzheimer’s and became mean. I don’t want to see my mom go down that road, but I’m unable to stop it if that’s in the cards for her.
So, for anyone who thinks I’m being overly critical of my mom, put yourself in my position. Think about your own parent moving in with you, rearranging your life to accommodate that parent, and feeling overwhelmed by the situation. I am trying to do what’s best for her without relegating her to a child-like position. I want her to retain her own life and her own self. Autonomy.
All while salvaging my own. The middle is not a great place to be, and I’ve already apologize to the boys for any future irritations I may cause. Like I told them, sometimes I think it’s a mom’s job to antagonize her children, intentionally or not. And though Grandma wasn’t trying to, she was driving me crazy! They all thought that was pretty funny.
But hopefully, this experience will help me in the future should I be the same position of living with any of my kids. And they may have a bit more patience with me than they sometimes have.