Parenting Our Parents
I moved back to Canada from the Bahamas in late summer 2011; and before winter 2012, I moved my mother in with me. She was not thrilled about living in the Vancouver area because she doesn't like the damp climate. "I've raised seven children; been butchered up by the doctors after being in the hospital sixteen times," she likes to remind us, even though seven of those times were to deliver babies. "Vancouver weather just makes my bones ache."
But mom agreed to move in with me anyway, and we were living in a high rise on the 33rd floor. "The bird cage," she quickly dubbed it. She loved the views, the sunrises, but hated everything else about it. All that said, mom's health improved week by week, likely due to the regular and varied meals we made, and the love received by her grandchildren. She didn't like going out much, and I'm no sure if it was the high rise life that was foreign to her, but the woman I knew as my mother always had a gypsy adventurous spirit and it killed me to see her be so idle while I worked on the computer during the day.
That Christmas she went to 'visit' her sister in Edmonton for two weeks and flew the coop by refusing to return. I can't say I was surprised.
Mom only lasted two weeks with her big sister and then moved in with a girlfriend. She stayed there in Edmonton, ended up in the interior of BC for a bit with another girlfriend, and went back to Edmonton until 2015. In 2014 she put herself into the hospital at one point, and the doctors found nothing wrong with her. It was hard to deal with as we wanted her in BC, but she refused to come, and refused to live with her friend again. The doctors suggested they find senior housing for her. The wait was a few months, and I know it was hard on her.
Finally a place came up in downtown Edmonton, and my sister and I went out to set mom up in her new home. We went out and shopped and got it all ready for her, even buying her new clothes. The seniors facility had all the amenities and no cooking was allowed in her room. Thank goodness as she had been starting to leave pots on stoves, etc.
It wasn't long before mom said she didn't like their food, and didn't' seem to engage in any of the social activities they had on every day. I could tell when I called she was depressed. All of her children, live in BC except my brother who lives in Edmonton, but has ALS and lives in long-term care. If anything urgent were to happen with mom's health, we'd have to fly in. I continued to express my concern about this with her. Finally mom agreed to move to B.C. but wanted to live in Abbotsford instead of Vancouver, as she assumed it gets less rain.
We found the best seniors home in our budget and were able to get her in when we wanted. My brother drove out to get her things and put her on the plane. This was the spring of 2015. Within only weeks at her new place in Abbotsford, mom was complaining about the food, and the staff. She was mostly upset that the units had only walk-in showers and no bathtubs. She's been a bathtub girl her entire life. Again, I could hear the depression setting in, although I was driving out to visit her one day a week, bringing her home on a weekend overnights, as was my brother who lives in Abbotsford.
Then our roommate moved out of our home, and in my heart of hearts I knew my mother should be with me. I talked to my siblings about it first. We all agreed she had to stick out 3 months at the seniors home first, so she would understand her actions better and have time to assimilate the transition into my home .
When I asked her if she'd move in with me again, she burst into tears. "I thought you'd never ask me again, after living with you the last time," she said. She stuck out the 3 months and moved in with me last year in September.
This Friday mom turns 83 and she's finally calling our place 'home.' She stopped answering the phone saying, "Robbin's place" and now just says, "Good afternoon."
Mom's been institutionalized, and expected meals to be on time, at certain times, even though I told her she's living with family now and we are all busy. Things will not always be on time, and she'll have to learn to go with our flow. We still have to remind her of this.
She's eased up a lot, and her health is getting better and better, although her short term memory has not improved much. She's begun sharing her stories (over and over as she forgets), and has also begun going through some of her things like photographs, and has starting giving them as gifts. I truly believe that if we care for and live with (or near) our parents, this is how our family stories get passed from generation to generation.
I started writing about mom under the hashtag #parentingourparents on Facebook, and since we baby boomers are all taking care of, or assisting our parents in their final years, my writing seems to strike a chord with those either dealing with similar, or those who appreciate the insight of what to expect. Some of my writing is touched with sadness, but much of it is laced with irony, laughter, and a lot of love.
Taking care of my mother is the least I can do. I am lucky she is still in great health and has her mobility. It is now her time to rest, reflect, share her stories and enjoy life, the way she wants to. I often want for her to enjoy life the way I think would be best for her ... and she quickly lets it be known if those ideas are going to work for her, or not.
She's one stubborn woman, but then so am I...
Here's one of my favourite #ParentingOurParents pieces from 2015:
Tucking in my 82 year old mother the other night after putting in her eye drops from her cataract removal, I gave her a little squeeze, and she said, "Oh my that feels good. I don't get many hugs these day."
Then she said, "Thanks for taking such good care of me."
I turned out her light and held back some tears on the way to my bedroom.
[To find more of my #parentingourparents entries, go to your search bar at the top of Facebook and put that hashtag in and hit 'Return' - please note that there are others using this hashtag also.]