My last post was a really good rant! It felt great to get all that emotion out! Plus, It's all true!
I was reading a newspaper article yesterday about a nice man who's taken care of his elderly mother for many years. I was immediately struck by his recollection that his mother never wanted his help. When he offered to take her in, she said "Larry, maybe you shouldn’t be spending your time taking care of me."
Now, clearly, this woman is not part of the Seniors, Inc. mob, to which I referred with such affection (kidding) last post. She is self-effacing, not needy or greedy in her approach to life. Or at least she was, until she got dementia. Now, of course, she's neither here nor there in her state of being, but merely has real needs which her son meets.
Good Lord. If only my mother and mother-in-law had faced life like that. My mother has used me as her crutch, her help-mate, almost like a spouse, ever since my father died when I was 17. When I was younger, I didn't mind helping my mother. I figured she needed it, because she completely fell apart when my dad died, and sure wasn't asking me if I needed any help then.
Nope, it was all about her from that moment on. Of course, it had been all about her prior to that. But my dad had borne the weight of her neediness. Once he was gone, she shifted that mighty weight right on over to me.
As I grew older, and my own responsibilities piled up, I began to resent her neediness. She was not by any stretch of the imagination an old woman then. After a couple of years of mourning, I figured she needed to stop acting like I was my father, and capable of dropping my life to do her bidding whenever she needed help.
The only way I could remove the stranglehold she had on me was to either cut her off completely, or to physically move far enough away so as to make it impossible to just drop by to do her bidding. I did both, on-and-off, down through the years.
She fooled me though, out-smarted me like the fox she is. When she realized her capabilities were actually drastically diminishing, she faced a dilemma. How could she maintain her high standards? She needed fantastic food, but couldn't make it herself anymore. Meals-on-Wheels, I suggested? Her nose went in the air. Move to a retirement residence? That suggestion was met with stony silence. Move in with my brother or my sister? (I asked that questions with tongue-in-cheek, knowing that neither of my siblings would extend an invitation to her, and nor would she want to live with either of them because of a variety of failings she found in their lifestyles). "Oh no, no, no," she replied to that question, panic in her voice at the mere thought of having to live with my demonic sister, or in my brother's "filthy" house, as she put it (he probably needs to dust a bit more often).
And on that note, she needed to live in a place that was scrupulously clean, yet she was no longer capable of keeping her condo in the germ-less hygienic state she required. Hire a cleaner, I asked? She snorted. No cleaner could ever clean her condo the way she insisted it be cleaned. We're talking eat-off-the-bathroom-floor clean. Move to a retirement residence? I queried. I got the same stony silence.
Now, there's a part of this story I haven't mentioned to you. I'll just touch briefly on it here: For the preceding few years (preceding as in before my mother's health failed at about age 86) I had already been asking my mother to move to Kookytown. That's right. I knew she was getting on. I was single and really struggling to raise two small kids on my own, completely alone in Kookytown. I suggested to her that she sell her condo and perhaps we could buy a semi-detached in Kookytown? That way, we'd both have our privacy, yet could help one-another as required by living side-by-side. I could have a bit of freedom in that if needed, I could leave the kids with her for short periods, to get groceries, see my dentist or doctor, etc. For her part, I could fetch groceries for her, cook meals, etc.
I was financially able to buy half a semi and was not asking my mother to compromise her own finances in any way.
She refused to answer me any time I asked. She didn't want to move here. She didn't need my help. Not yet, not at that point. She didn't want to help with my kids. Or with anything. After a few years, I stopped asking.
But then the tide shifted again. My kids continued to grow and life got a bit easier for me. Anthony and I started dating and began planning a life together. My mother's health failed, quite suddenly. It was amazing how fast she went downhill. And then she needed me, again. She couldn't cook for herself, or clean. But she didn't want to live in a retirement residence. She didn't want anything much to change. How to fix this dilemma? Over and over, she asked me that? None of my suggestions were to her liking.
And on and on it went. For two years, she dithered away in her condo, calling me and crying about how she couldn't cope any more. But I wasn't asking her to move to Kookytown anymore. I didn't need her help and she hadn't come when I needed her. I was trying to plan a new life with a new husband.
And then she had her brain wave. Pancreatic cancer!!!! Death approaches like a freight train! Delia will surely take me in!!! And she was right. Anthony and I were house-hunting. It was the perfect time to buy a bigger house...one that had room for my mother as well.
Thus she moved in here, erasing the distance that had existed between us, between my home here in Kookytown and her condo in Winnipeg.
That was 4 years ago, when she was 88. She told us she had pancreatic cancer. She flat out lied. I fell for it, and this blog has detailed my life ever since.
Next Post: I'll tell you about Anthony's mother and her greedy-neediness, which is a totally different type of self-absorption from my mother's.
My mother: the CEO of Seniors Inc.
Anthony's mother: Co-founder and the public face of Seniors Inc.