Wednesday, March 20, 2013

We're Not Competing

I had texted my friends and co-workers Monday, letting them know about my mother-in-law's fall and injuries so that they wouldn't think I was taking this "spring break" (ha, ha, ha!) too seriously by jetting off to Cancun.

It wasn't an hour later that I got a text back.

****! FIL barricaded himself in his room.

And that's when I proved that I am a terrible person because I laughed for the first time that day. This friend is in much the same situation as we are, with an aging parent who doesn't always behave rationally. In her case, it's a father-in-law who is causing the assisted living staff to tear their hair. He, too, is not thinking clearly but unlike my frail mother-in-law he is burly and strong and had shifted all of the movable furniture in front of his door then lay down to take a nap. Eventually staff walked around to the outside of his room and tapped on his window until he woke up, then convinced him to unblock the entrance. Then they moved everything except the bed out of the room.

I tell you this story because it is one more reminder (as if we needed one) that there are very few in my age bracket who are not dealing with at least some issues of this type. And if they aren't dealing with the issues at this very moment, then they already have dealt with them, or they will deal with them soon.

Unless you were orphaned at an early age and eventually made your way to the forest where you were raised by wolves, you are going to be making decisions about aging parents. You are one of us.

Yesterday I wrote about how painful it is to be unable to prevent my mother-in-law from falling and hurting herself, and you, my lovely readers, made me cry with your outpouring of support. You are wonderful and I felt each virtual hug and prayer. Thank you so, so much.

But this is a reminder that all of us have (or will have, or have had) someone, so we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking we're the guest of honor at this pity party. Some will be lucky, and their parents will slip away quietly with their mental and physical facilities intact. Some will not be lucky and the end-of-life transition will be a nightmare of increasing loss spread out over years. Between these two extremes lie every degree of variation along the scale.

So please hear me when I say this: We're not in competition.

As I commiserated with my barricaded-father-in-law friend she mentioned she had just been on the phone with a vendor who supplies college T-shirts. This vendor has a father with Alzheimer's and a mother with debilitating physical issues, and she's trying to care for both of these loved ones as well as her own family while working full-time and trying to be a decent human being.

"Oh, wow," I said. "She wins." My wise friend reminded me that the pain Olympics are only a made-up internet thing, and that no one wins.

All of us just do our best to run the race set before us.


  1. I think I have said this before, but I am SO GRATEFUL that you write about these things. I think there are SOME near-inevitable life events that I am all "Duh, of course they're going to happen" about, and OTHERS where it's as if I'm not tuned in at all. A couple of years ago my dad had a scary medical thing happen abruptly, and that afternoon it looked like it could go Either Way if you catch my drift. I walked around the grocery store in an utter daze, thinking "Why was I not tuned into this? Why was the possibility of these things [death, permanent mental/physical debilitation, no-warning phone calls in the middle of the night, etc.] not occurring to me EVERY DAY---like in the late stages of pregnancy where every morning I realize this could be The Day?"

    When you and others write about it, I feel like it keeps it at just the right place in my mind: I don't fret constantly/needlessly, but something in me prepares better. Not that I'm saying it's something a person can fully be prepared for OH YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. I wished that I'd been reading blogs back when (and before when) I had my first newborns, because I think it could have been so very helpful; that's the kind of help I feel like I'm getting now. Not that I wish all of you to have to go through this just to educate me OH YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN

  2. Have I just fantasized our child raising years? This is much, much harder, and I don't think that anyone, even our dear Mother, prepared us. Or if anyone did, I ignored them. It has made T and me take a hard look down the road for ourselves. What can we do to a) warn our kids that we will be ugly even when we don't want to be that way, and b) have the grace to know that we are that way and STOP IT. Love you!