Thursday, February 28, 2013

Not Unexpected, But Unknown

After a full week of snow emergencies, will-we-or-won't-we-be-having-school, and constant uncertainty over what the next day would bring, I was ready to get back to normal.

"Good," I thought to myself when the sun was shining yesterday. "All I'll have to deal with today is editing and proofreading."

That's when the phone rang. It was Husband. He had gotten a call from the retirement home where his 91-year-old mother lives.

"Mom fell in the public restroom and she's unresponsive," he told me. "They've called the ambulance..."

I didn't let him finish the sentence. "I'm on my way to the hospital," I told him.

It was an eerie throwback to three years ago, when I received the word-for-word exact same phone call about my own mother, and my mom never regained consciousness.

This time, though, the outcome was very different--a broken shoulder, a goose-egg lump on the side of her head that had subsided by evening, and a night spent under observation at the hospital. As I sat beside my mother-in-law's bed knitting last night, though, I thought about the strange status those in my generation now have as parents to our parents. It's really the same role, you know: Taking care of those we love is both our joy and our burden whether the loved one is 9 months old or 91 years old.

Parenting is hard, we were told when we got married. Just wait until you have babies--your life gets so difficult, what with the logistics and the sleep deprivation and the colic and the worry all the time. And if you think that's tough, whoa, the teenage years make the Terrible Threes seem like a walk in the park.

If anyone told me how difficult I would find this stage of caring for aging parents, I would not have believed them. It is a constant balancing act that has on the one hand my mother-in-law's need for autonomy and dignity and on the other hand her need for health and safety, and it's not always possible to fully satisfy all of these needs.

So today I will meet the transport driver when the van arrives back at the retirement home, and will make sure she's settled in bed with her call button next to her good arm before I go back to work. We'll visit again tonight to see if this assisted situation will be enough or if it's time for the next step into nursing care.

It is not unexpected, this aging process, but it's unknown, uncertain, and heartbreaking.

It is our new normal.


  1. I could just say "ditto" and you would know that I truly understand at this moment. I'll have to tell you about our wonderful, amazing day.

  2. Every day.....and while we wouldn't have it any other way, we would give anything to have it.....any other you....