Monday, August 31, 2009

Silly Me. What Middle Aged Tween Years?

For the last two years, I have been grappling with the Mom Missing It stage and finally started embracing my Middle Age Tweeness, you know, between mom and grandma. I am only fifty years old after all and still young enough to enjoy many new things. I was looking forward to a carefree, rediscovery of myself. I thought I had all the time to pamper myself, renew old hobbies, rejuvenate connections with friends and sisters, and throw in a little travel. How naïve am I?

Little red warning signs started popping up. The first flag appeared about six months ago, nothing to really get worried about, just a sign of things to come years in the future. Or so I thought. But now they appear monthly. Although my role of Mom is on hold or on permanent hiatus, and my role of grandmother doesn’t seem to be coming around anytime soon, I still have one role that I had been taking for granted lately, a role that seemed fairly carefree and easy thus far, the role of daughter.

I’m finding out that the Tween years also means between children and parents. My parents are 78 and 80 years old and are still independent. They were always highly active people and are just now slowing down. They try to avoid driving at night and mom is showing signs of real fatigue because of her asthma. Luckily there are five children in our family, so we share in keeping them occupied and entertained.

Queen Maker’s 75-year-old mom has COPD, and her husband is 71 years of age. Both have been inactive for years becoming feeble fast and increasingly need of help in running a household. Last week, my mother-in-law ran into the lid of the dishwasher when she was loading it. It tore a huge gash in her leg. Because of the steroids and medications she takes for her condition, her skin has become very thin. It doesn’t take much for her to sustain a wound and unfortunately her wounds are always major ones now.

Her husband called us in a panic around nine o’clock in the evening. He couldn’t help her to the chair or to the car to take her to the hospital. Queen Maker told him to call 911. But hearing the panic in his voice, we drove the hour to get to them, fretting the whole way. She managed to stop the bleeding, and they were debating and unsure on whether to sit three to four hours in an emergency room and asked us to make the decision for them. I looked closely at her leg and realized I was looking at fat cells and muscle. No question we should go.

Before making the trip to the hospital she needed to refill her portable oxygen tank. It of course decided not to function. Taking her without her oxygen was out of the question. The alternative was to call an ambulance, but then afterwards, how would she get home without her tank. She was adamant that she couldn’t go without her oxygen; that sitting in an emergency room for hours was stupid and besides the bleeding had stopped. Then she realized that she couldn’t sit with a lot of sick people because of her COPD. She was in full panic attack mode.

It is now eleven o’clock and ignoring their protests (they hate to bother anyone), I immediately call the oxygen company. I got a human being. Amazing. She connected me to a tech in the field. Hope. Ignoring their protests, I call her doctor’s office and found out the office was open the next day, Saturday, for emergency care only. Great. So the decision was made. The tech would bring a machine in the morning (or I would hunt him down like a dog) and my in laws would go to her doctor’s office in the morning instead. I bandaged her leg to cover the wound, keeping my worries about infection to myself.

Because I was so worried, I chastised them. First, I told them, they needed to create a larger support group. They may need the immediate help of neighbors, especially if my father in law can’t help his wife off the floor. In a real emergency, swallow your pride and enlist the help of neighbors if need be. Secondly, my father in law’s daughter lives much closer than we do and works at Beaumont Hospital. Although their relationship is not as close, it was no excuse. Make her part of your support team. It would make driving that hour less stressful. Thirdly, I looked at my father in law, who lately is refusing to exercise, or walk, or do anything to keep his vitality, most likely due to depression over the deteriorating health of his wife, and told him, “Exercise.” He should at least maintain his strength to be able to help her the two feet to a chair for goodness sake! He was their first line of defense and he should be ready for it.

This event shook me to the core. My eyes have been opened. I saw what old age was going to be. It could be like my parents or like my husband’s parents and it was only a mere twenty years away. I am guilty of inactivity, of laziness, of constantly saying I was going to do something about maintaining my own strength. This has motivated me to start core strength training now.

I also realized that my time as a Middle Aged Tween was highly limited. I was fantasizing about all the time I had. How silly. Life’s reality has a way of pushing fantasy back to where it belongs. I see it coming. In the near future, I will be devoted in maintaining and caring for our parents’ home and health and eventually taking care of them full time. Actually for some people there are no Tween years, just moving from children that need you to parents that need you.

I got a big reality check, but I will endeavor to enjoy my teeny, weenie, Tween year as long as it lasts.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Spin Cycle - Embracing the Motto

This too shall pass.

I’m really big in keeping balance in my life these days and this motto alone can keep me centered.

This too shall pass was a phrase that was supposed to help a person through many turbulent times. My mom used to pat me on the head and say, “Don’t worry sweetie, it won’t last forever.”

It’s gotten me through pubescence, gym class, arguments, the depressions, the job I hated, the terrible twos, the vomit in my hair, the sleepless nights, the sickly parents, the funerals, the hospital visits, the tumultuous teen years, Beloved’s girlfriends, the lost jobs, my broken toes, and the downward spiral of my 401K.

This too shall pass allows me to look to the future with hope and understanding, mostly hope.

This motto rings true for both misery and happiness. When you realize that all that you know to be beautiful, the things that bring you happiness and joy may also pass away, you begin to live in the moment. I look at things with new eyes. Clarity of what is important in life finally permeates the thorny thicket in my head. I understand that knowing that “This too shall pass,” is a means to cherish without smothering, to hold on without squeezing tight.

Instead of bemoaning my losses or feeling cheated of happiness, instead of feeling the hole, I am able to appreciate the happiness and joy I was given and still hold it in my heart. You can enjoy, and want, and care but still feel inner peace to let it go later without reservation.

Sister After Me, always into self-help and uplifting literature, her favorite saying is, “Ellie, maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Middle Sister always had three snappy mottos she used whenever someone tried to make her feel bad or when bad things happened. The first was “So what?” The second one was “I don’t care.” The third was, “Oh well.”

Only Brother’s saying was “Don’t sweat it.”

And Little Sister’s saying was “Bite me.”

Visit Sprite Keeper for more motto reading.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

How Yah Gonna Keep "Em Down on the Farm...?

My college student, Beloved, just returned to the nest. He's distraught over the situation. Secretly, I'm cheering. I called Middle Sister a few weeks back and gave her the news, "Beloved is moving back home, temporarily." Her happiness for me was emphasized beautifully by saying, "Yaaaahooooo, Alleluia! I'm so happy for you. This is sooo exciting." I really appreciated the glee, the yelp for joy, the acknowledgment of the truth. I thanked her for saying aloud what I was feeling. "I'm keeping my emotions on the down low," I told her.

Ex-college student thinks moving back home is a step backward. Mr. Maturity, I've Got It All Together, had no choice but to move back home. For his sake I'm feeling sorry for his plight. He wants desperately to be independent, not to be a financial burden, and to stand on his own feet. Plus QueenMaker pointed out that coming home squelches particular social gatherings, ahem, to which Beloved had become accustomed. O00000h, I'm so dumb sometimes.

I've dismantled the sewing, craft, and projects room formally known as Beloved's Room to make room for his things, thus becoming Beloved's Room once again, temporarily. My house is a wreck with boxes piled high. I'm still trying to find room for it all.

Then there's QueenMaker. I didn't ask how he felt about our newly evolving "alpha male" offspring returning to his domain. But the look in his eyes tells me that he is as happy about the outcome as I am. At least temporarily.

I don't ask Beloved when will he come home, or whether he will come home, or if he will be home for dinner. I don't want to fall into that trap of parenting when it is no longer required or desired. We recognize that his autonomy is paramount. It maintains a balance in his life and in ours.

He still works in Ann Arbor, so he stays there with friends four days of the week. So QueenMaker and I still have the alone time that we have learned to relish. We are just as grateful that our kid is with us a few days and a few hours more each week for a little while longer, temporarily.

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