Giving vs. Receiving: Growing Older & Extreme Frustration

Mom, Her Mom, and Me - 1973

Mom, Her Mom, and Me – 1973

Change is constant when we age, and it’s important for adult children occasionally to consider the changes in our elder parents’ lives by looking through the prisms that our parents gaze through and thoughtfully examining their perspectives.

In a conversation with my mom — who has found herself less energetic and more dependent on others — she shared her journal essay about the many changes in her life. Mom expressed her sometimes vexation with elderhood while also analyzing what causes her to often feel so frustrated.

She wrote that she had often presented talks based on the Bible verse in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give to receive.” Mom noted that as she has aged, she’s realized that while there is much discourse on the “giving” aspect of the verse, there is little, if any discussion on the idea of receiving. She feels unprepared for a time in life — right now — when she gives less and receives  more. Mother’s insightful piece was published in the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community publication, “What’s Up at VMRC?

In her journal essay my mother writes:                      Continue reading

Elder Parent Surgery, Part IV: The Art of Respect

A month after my mother’s surgery at the University of Virginia Health System, we returned for a follow-up appointment with her surgeon. My mom came through with flying colors, but the real star is Dr. Duska. Moreover, the people who work with this gifted and graceful physician, her residents and fellows, are also amazing. All of them communicated in a relaxed way, took medical histories with warmth and interest, and even spent time learning more about my mom than the mere facts about her medical condition.

But there’s more. Adult children know what it can be like to go to an unfamiliar specialist with an elder parent and watch the parent be treated as a child, or at least not as a full-fledged adult. Ageism is alive and well in many places.

Not once in our experiences did Dr. Duska or any her colleagues do anything that made my mother feel like an old or irrelevant person. Of course Charlottesville is in central Virginia, and even though UVA is a major public research university (Did I mention that we were there at the beginning of the leadership debacle?) at least a few people around the Medical Center called my mom “hon” or “dearie.” In the Commonwealth of Virginia one simply tries hard to get used to that.

But for Dr. Duska and her colleagues respect is an art form, just like their surgical skills.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

My mom and me in late 1952.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I know you are a bit frustrated by a few health issues right now, but I hope you know how much we all admire and love you.

In all these years, as far as I can tell, you’ve never encountered a subject that you don’t want to learn more about. Sometimes when I think about you, I just lean back and marvel at your drive and intellectual capacity. Every time we talk, you tell me about what you’ve learned  by working on your computer, sharing at the book club, attending a peace and justice meeting, listening to music at the Bach Festival, or working hard in a committee you serve on at one organization or another.

Or maybe I arrive and more plants are in the garden, so I know that you’ve been working out there.

Do you have any idea, over the years, just how many people you have registered to vote, all told? Hundreds, I bet. Of course, we all treasure the picture of you and President Obama (well he wasn’t quite the president at that point). But then you were one of the super-volunteers in the Shenandoah Valley , so active in politics and always willing to take on extra jobs.                   Continue reading

A Daugher’s Long Goodbye: A Book Review by Mom and Me

When my mom picked up A Daughter’s Long Goodbye: Caring for Mother at the church library, she brought it home and quickly read it cover to cover. Then she suggested that I read it — well actually she instructed me to do so.

Caring for Mother, written in 2007, is not easy reading. Virginia Stem Owens describes seven long years of different types of caregiving — and her mother’s suffering — sharing observations and descriptions of decline, hallucinations, distant medical personnel, and an aging father with his own suffering and medical problems.

Often she writes with a touch of irony, but never with self-pity. Owen’s mother, suffers from Parkinson’s which leads to dementia. Eventually care at home is no longer possible, and her mother spends years in a nursing home. Every bit of it is still relevant today, more than five years after the book’s publication.

Here’s what my mother wrote to me after I finished Owens’ book.

This book traces the experience of an aging adult daughter who describes seven years of caregiving, watching mother slip into deeper and deeper dementia. The daughter’s deeper understanding develops in the process of caregiving. Continue reading

Mothers, Daughters, and Aging

Mom, Her Mom, and Me - 1973

“Mother-daughter. Daughter-mother. With aging parents, the lines blur in ways that make you question everything you know about yourself,” writes Washington Post reporter Tracy Grant in her February 22, 2011 Momspeak column.

If you are an adult daughter with a strong and confident mom, this introduction not only rings true — it also makes you keep reading.

In her column Mothers, Daughters, and the Circle of Life, Grant deftly explores the challenges we daughters experience as roles evolve and change.  Her piece is less about caregiving and more about the shifting emotions and changes as each generation of mothers and daughters confront role-reversals that are a part of the aging parent-adult child landscape.

I’ve included this photo of another era of shifting relationships, when my mom was helping my grandmother, then in her  late 80s.  At that point, I was clueless.

An Electronic Advent Calendar from Mom

Click to visit Jacquie Lawson E-cards

My mother sent me an electronic Advent calendar from Jacquie Lawson E-cards and Greetings. It’s amazing. No, this calendar is not just amazing — it cute, whimsical, and downright fun. Also it’s a simple and easy gift to give to a grandchild, a grandparent, or anyone in-between — and easy to use. It may be necessary to join the e-card site, but it’s cheap relative to what we spend on cards and greetings.

Each morning, just like when I was a child, I dash to my computer or iPad, open the digital door, and start the day’s Advent/Christmas animation. My calendar depicts Victorian London, and so far I’ve decorated a tree, watched a London market stock up for Christmas, and explored a room inside Big Ben’s clock tower.

Continue reading