Like many adults, I am part of the sandwich generation – taking care of both an elderly parent and my own offspring. And actually, before my dad passed a few years ago, I was taking care of both elderly parents while also trying to run the preschool carpool. Needless to say, my life was not my own. It was exhausting. However, when I look back, I’m glad I had those last years with my dad, and I’m glad he had a chance to be a grandfather.
Fast forward three years, and I am having a serious conversation with my mother about her living situation. She lives in an enormous house (well over 2,000 sq. ft.) and it’s starting to be in serious need of repair. In addition, she no longer is able to use stairs, so she is living in only one floor of the house. I could write quite a list of issues here, but honestly, you’d get tired of reading hours before I was finished.
We all agreed that something needed to happen, but her solution was “let’s just refinance and fix the house, get a nurse and I’ll stay here.” I said “no, I really think you need to consider selling the house and going to a retirement facility.” Then I started looking at facilities.
And this is where the fighting began.
As a teenager, my dad and I had insane shouting matches, usually with my mom trying to referee. She never wanted arguing in our house. Apparently, those days were long gone, because now I was having those same shouting matches with my mother. Only now there’s no one to try to stop us.
We fought over everything – what city the facility should be in, how much it should cost, who she would know there – and we always came back to her saying “No! You’re not the boss of me, and I’ll just stay here!” She usually also included my full name, so I knew I was in trouble and should drop it for the moment.
We did this for almost a year before I finally asked her why. As it turns out, it has nothing to do with the facility or the cost or the people there or anything like that. It had EVERYTHING to do with not wanting to leave my dad. She and my dad were together for 60 years. Her house was the house they bought after they got married. They raised a family in that house. She had 60 years of memories in that house, and she didn’t want to let go of those.
I backed off a little. I didn’t bring up moving every time I saw her anymore. And, as I eased up, I noticed she started bringing it up. Finally, after a few months, she finally made the decision that she would like to go to a retirement village. So, I took her to a few places. She looked around and critiqued their dining halls. I asked a million questions about her care and freedom. As I soon found out, there are A LOT of retirement communities in our area.
Mom’s decision came just this past spring. And after a summer of looking, we have found the right place for her. She is actually looking forward to going, and has done an excellent job of keeping just the right items, and getting rid of the ones that she hasn’t used in 50 years.
Just this morning, as we signed the papers for her new apartment, I was explaining the basics of her new place – she has to bring her own furniture, there’s a bus to get around town, she’ll have a meal plan, and she’ll need to check the activity schedule on a regular basis. To this, she replied with a laugh “Great, at 84, my kids are sending me off to college!”
I laughed too. I’m glad she’s come to peace with it, and I’m happy she’ll be somewhere safe with people to take care of her. I’m glad she’ll be right down the road from my home, and that means she’ll still get lots of time to be a grandmother. Most of all, I’m glad I shut up long enough to listen to her and repair our relationship.
Enjoy “college,” Mom.