Caring for Our Parents

… a Sandwich Generationer's perspective

Chill in the air

My mom has decided that she’s mad at me.  Therefore, when I talk to her on the phone I feel like I’m in one of those commercials for spearmint candies/gum where things freeze when someone blows their breath.  I can feel the temperature dropping precipitously as she tells me that ‘Everything is great… very relaxed… no issues… no issues at all here… doing great!’ in a crisp and calculated voice.  “What have I done now?!  I’m 5,000 miles away, not sure how I could have made her mad.”  These thoughts go through my mind everytime I talk to her.  Unfortunately, she hasn’t been getting over it and seems to be the norm when I talk to her on the phone lately.  I decide to see if getting the kids on the phone quicker makes her soften up.  Yep, while she talks to them, her demeaner changes completely and she becomes the sweet grandma she always is.  As soon as I get on the phone though… a Evil Frosty reemerges.

“Well, at least she is with it enough to be mad at you”, says my brother who is on his way to visit them.  “Don’t worry so much and don’t take it personally. She’s always been really tough with you anyway.”  ‘Has she?’ I wonder.  I guess I never thought about it but when I ask him, he seems to be convinced that the typical mother-daughter tension that existed between us is clearly me getting the short end of the stick.  Hmmm.

In the meantime, I hear from my father that I don’t call enough and that if it’s not too much of an inconvenience, to call and that he would be happy even if it was just once in a while.  ‘Once in a while! I call you every few days! What more do you want?!’  Talking on the phone does not keep him from sending me upteen emails with endless articles and requests to check out this or that or to see his progress on this website or get my thoughts on this business idea or… (you get the point).  Enough!

It is true that because I am the only daughter, my parents expect more out of me than they do of my brothers.  They believe my brothers have their in-laws to care for and I have them.  I guess I always bought into that and never had a need to question it.  Fortunately my in-laws are wonderfully healthy and, while there is no doubt that they have needs, the two will never compare.  Their motto is ‘live and let live’ – meaning, if you want to see us, you know where we live – We won’t bother you and you don’t bother us.  Their lack of dependence and my husband’s saintly status (really… got a letter from St. Peter a few years ago granting him a fast pass straight to heaven when he’s ready) has provided me with the opportunity to not have to question this assumption until recently.

Yet, when I heard my brother say it on the phone, so matter of fact, such an obvious truth… it really pissed me off.  Why should they be harder on me that on my brothers?  Why do they expect more dedication and attention from me than them?  How dare they?!  I was offended, angry and done.  ‘That’s it! No more!’ I yelled in my head.

Then my conscience helped me realize that while they probably did set the expectation, I did take on the charge and continued to feed the beast over the years.  Not really fair get mad about it now, is it?

So, continues the journey towards setting healthy and appropriate limits with them.  So continues the journey towards breaking the co-dependence and accept that it’s OK for my brothers to share in the responsibilities, that I don’t have to always be the one who comes to the rescue or sacrifices the most.  So, continues the journey towards not defining myself by the tone either of them uses on the phone.  One step at a time, one day at a time.

I am saddened by the fact that my mom is mad at me and I have no idea why but I can’t let that be a reflection of me as much as I need it to be a reflection of where she is and her disease.

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7 thoughts on “Chill in the air

  1. thedamari on said:

    It’s common for people with dementia to develop personality changes and to be angry for no reason the rest of us can see. My father used to accuse his family members of stealing things from him. It really is the disease talking; it’s nothing you did.

  2. You are right. Logically it makes sense. Emotionally, it’s still tough though. Thanks for your support!

  3. It’s tough. My Mom lives for my visits and is constantly making comments like ‘It’s nice that you could come for such a short visit,’ etc. I have encouraged her to make her life a little bigger so that she does not depend on me so much, but, I’m not sure at her age is she will do so. Working with you on the not feeling guilty thing…..;-)

  4. I’m going through pretty much the same thing. My mom is a very angry, anxious person (AND she drinks) My step dad is experiencing some confusion and things that may or may not be related to depression, or early dementia. Right now he is in the hospital under a psych admit. The problem is multi-layered and all issues really need to be addressed if they want to be as healthy and independent as long as they possibly can. My mom is making decisions about his health care without his children’s input which I have huge issues with… ( how in hell does a frail 79 year old end up in the looney bin?, for one) I have no idea what my mother is telling them. I’d be depressed too if I had to live with her and listen to her constant nagging and anxiety. He can’t get away from her. She has health issues as well and they have been virtually living as shut ins (only going to the bank, grocery store, dr appts and the packie of course) They didn’t even attend my niece’s college graduation party. She gets married next summer, so I hope they attend that one at least. I’ve suggested that when he gets home and they get back on track again that they need to start getting out of the house more than they do ie the senior center, and they could at least go there for lunch together; or on separate days. Both of them have lost weight because she isn’t cooking full meals anymore. Him more so – she’s at least getting carbs from her beer…. She’s quite resistant to much of what I say(I think shes got more than a touch of agoraphobia) and told me to “stop trying to control everything.” I’m just offering alternatives and solutions to the issues she presents…. Plus I live right down the street and she calls the house/me if she sees a car in the driveway she doesn’t recognize, or if she sees our dogs out in the yard. She saw a light on in my living room at 4 am last week and called to find out why – at 4 am! There are definite drawbacks to living so close to one’s parents for sure! I’m with you in the leaky boat my friend, frantically bailing – and attempting to row with the one good oar… Hugs! Donna

    • Sounds like a mess of a situation. Know I’m praying for you and your family. It is sad to see them tighten their world boundaries so much until they don’t even socialize with family. Living so close would drive me crazy as well (specially the 4am calls!). Hang in there and let’s tread water together!

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