Sunday, December 30, 2007

Age isn't just a number

Today marks the first time I talked to my mother since Christmas Day when she was such a beeyotch. She was back to her normal, somewhat cheerful self today. I did pry out of her that she had a bad week with my dad last week - I think sometimes being the sole caretaker for him is a huge weight that she has a hard time dealing with. Keep in mind, my dad is 85 and had a major life-threatening illness last year and has made a pretty remarkable recovery. What people don't realize, though, is that prior to that my dad was probably in the physical condition of a 65-year old. Simply amazing, he would work circles around younger men. Now, he's definitely more in the shape of someone in their 80's. My mom, however, just turned 77 and is in pretty amazing shape as well. And I think sometimes she has a hard time reconciling that my dad is really aging faster than she is at this point, and she will probably end up being his caregiver.

Age difference between spouses really doesn't seem like much when you're younger. Cat Door is a good seven years younger than the Mrs., and he'll be the first to tell you that when they met and he was 25 and she was 32, there really wasn't any issue there. Now that he's 41 and she's 48 - and she suffers from reumatoid arthritis along with some other health issues - I think the age disparity is a lot more noticable and it has put some strain on their marriage. Unfortunately for my dad, his health woes from last year have really worn on his physical condition so even though he wants to keep going all the time, he just can't. And my mom, who still wants to travel and be on the go all the time, is having to face the facts that she just can't do it anymore and take care of my dad.

That's got to be hard for my mom. She's not a normally very nurturing person. I always used to joke with my friends that even when I was really sick and living at home, I still had to take care of myself. She wasn't someone that coddled us in any way - as long as your grades were good and you weren't bleeding or dead, she was pretty much doing her own thing. She was never physically affectionate, and even at the age of 38 I can't remember my mom saying "I love you" even one time to me. She's just not that type of person.

About two years ago, I got a package from her for Monkey Man. She likes to send him coloring books and books to read and little special things she finds. And in that package, I found a pack of Post-It notes in which she'd spelled out "I love you" on the little pages. I saved that and put it in his little keepsake box, because it's not like she'll ever actually tell him that. But I want him to know that even though Nana doesn't say it, she does.

It's made it quite a challenge for me as a mom. In some ways, I way overcompensate for my mom's lack of warmth by almost smothering Monkey Man sometimes. In other ways, I find myself sometimes having to do a self-check and make sure I actually spend time with him doing kid things versus depending on him to entertain himself while I'm doing other things. Because that's what my mom used to do. She was always working on things around the house, studying for her college classes, or whatever else she was into at the time and I was left to pretty much entertain myself. It was good in some ways because I became fairly self-reliant, but in other ways I really missed having that June Cleaver-type mom. It's not that she didn't do things for me, but it usually involved her carting me to and from my extracurricular activities so a lot of our quality time was spent in the car. Which honestly isn't something I remember with a lot of fondness.

So anyway, I guess my point in all this is that I'm kind of wondering what is going on back home. My mom isn't normally very forthcoming with information so it could potentially be pretty bad and stressful for her. I guess I'm going to have to take a weekend and make a solo trip down there to assess the situation. Not only is my mom having to take care of my dad, but her sister lives next door and has been getting increasingly forgetful and dependent on my mom to run her around and such. One of my mom's other sisters had moved in with her for a few months but she ended up having to go back to Maryland and we're not sure if she's coming back or not...she had been such a help to my mom that I think her departure has put my Aunt Hazel back on my mom's plate again. So maybe we can come up with some solutions as far as getting some help for my mom.

It's times like these when it makes it hard to realize that I'm going to have to be ready to assume the parent role of my own parents. It's been a long road of recovery for my dad, and even though he's doing well it's not over by a long shot.


Mitzi Green said...

you bring up several points that i try not to think about, but do anyway.

first, the kids-as-parents thing. with my own parents, there are 3 siblings "beneath" me, all of whom live in town, and all of whom have received much more in the way of "benefits" from my parents than i have--so i'm fairly confident i'll be able to duck out of most of the parental caretaking responsibility, which is good for me, considering my parents are only 19 years my senior, and by the time they need help, i'll probably need help, myself.

which brings me to point 2--age difference in spouses. i'm 6 years older than ben. which wasn't noticeable when i was a horny 32 and he was a horny 26 and we were dating. it's become more noticeable now that we're 35 and 29 year old homeowners-slash-parents-slash-parents to be, in the sense that i often feel he's not as responsible and/or "worldly" as i would like him to be. (though that could just be my impossibly high standards talking.) i worry how much more noticeable it will be when i'm pushing 50 and he's just hitting his 40 year old midlife crisis.

and then there's his parents, in their mid-50s, spending more than we make in a year on crap they don't need and shoving it onto the piles of crap they already have. i shudder to think of what's going to happen when, eventually, someone has to go in there and clear out all the shit. oy.

Lukie said...

There is a difference of 18 years between the hubby and myself and not a day goes by that I don't worry about that.