Monday, February 27, 2017

On Becoming Your Parent's Guardian - Role Reversal

It creeps in slowly on little cat's feet and begins with hesitation over minor decisions.
When my mother started asking me about everyday things like how much rice to make and how long should it cook, I gently reminded her that she'd cooked rice longer than I had. Soon, the uncertainties evolved into indecision about everyday activities. Small tasks became more difficult as time passed. In one way, being asked for advice from a parent was flattering like my voice mattered. My input was finally valued. What I didn't know was that the tide had begun to turn and the child was becoming the parent one small step at a time. When our parents seek help on small tasks they've easily handled in the past, it's can come as a surprise. 
Mom at her 87th birthday with her sister.
Things went along smoothly as our new relationship emerged. I became more of an equal to someone who had always shown authority and control. My responsibility was awakening.
This awesome responsibility is not to be taken lightly. It arrives with its own baggage, setbacks and joy. Friends my age also found themselves called upon to provide direction and advice.
My best friend shared the frustration of trying to persuade her mother to use her supplemental oxygen like she is supposed to. Another friend shared the challenge of convincing her mother to  use the hearing aide she clearly needed and the frustration of having to repeat ourselves. How familiar it seems to be interrupted mid-sentence by someone who in the past would have said, "Not now, Mother is speaking." But the shoe is on the other foot for each of us.
Aunt Lou at 94
A stay-at-home mom of the fifties, my mother began her mid-life career with practically non-existent employment experience. She left nurse's training to get married in 1945. After her thirty year marriage ended, she took vocational training and embarked on a career as a Certified Nurse Assistant at the age of fifty.
I was suddenly asked for advice on dating, grocery shopping and apartment hunting, advice she had given in the past. Mom's new life as a single sole-provider continued over the next thirty years. On her eightieth birthday, she officially retired from a second career as a Teacher's aide. Her experience of taking a job outside the home added skills, confidence and a sense of accomplishment.
Reality struck after Mom went into the hospital for an extended stay. Although I'd been a co-signer on her checking account, I'd never managed her bank account. Writing out her bills opened my eyes. Her bills reflected a level of forgetfulness with misplaced invoices, lapsed auto insurance policies and past due notices tucked away in drawers. It became my job to manage her bill paying. There was no complaint from Mom who was glad to be rid of the tedious responsibilities.
Driving became another challenge and I worried about when she continued driving in her eighties. With diminished reflexes and increased fragility, it really wasn't safe anymore. She turned over her car keys to me voluntarily, stating she didn't feel confident on the road anymore. I was truly relieved. Not everyone acts logically when that time comes. It's often a source of friction. It's a reverse milestone of the day when we get behind the wheel of a car in our teens, a life-altering decision and makes one truly dependent like a small child again.

The two sisters still function independently in so many important ways, although nursing home bound by health, vision, hearing and memory impairments. They make me proud. One thing remains certain in our relationship. It is the unshakable friendship of my Mom, my true friend. She is a blessing and reminds me in so many ways that I'm the lucky one.

This story was originally published on HubPages in 2010 by PegCole17.

No comments:

Post a Comment