I got the phone call at work. I told Mom not to call me there unless she had an emergency.
“Your dad is out of control, Patty. I don’t know if I can take it anymore,” she started.
“What’s happening?” I asked, having heard this before.
“He gets mad at the smallest things and he kicked me this morning.”
My heart was pounding. “What was he mad about this time?”
“I said something about his mess in the living room and he didn’t like it,” she said.
Mom—87 years old—couldn’t get out of his way due to an old back injury she sustained during one of their fights. Unfortunately, this phone call had become common over the years, much to my dismay.
I had escaped the volatile environment of my childhood home through marriage and moving away. But I was still pulled into the battle zone many times throughout the years. This phone call began a saga that turned my life upside down.
After discussing things with my husband, we made a plan to get Mom out of her unsafe environment, something I’d tried many times over the years, to no avail. The plan must be kept from Dad until we got Mom back to our home. The idea put forth to him was to relieve him of her care and get her a second doctor’s opinion.
Mom was coming to live with us. What would this mean for my family? What about me? Would I be able to be everything to everybody? Our two children were in high school and, though they seemed self-sufficient most of the time, they still needed their mother. It helped that I only worked part time, but I was involved in women’s ministries at church, too. Time would tell how everything would come together.
A Familiar Pattern
Four months into the new routine of having Mom, I soon fell into the old role of daughter-on-call. Mom tried to apply her guilt-inducing tactics and whining to get what she wanted. I finally decided to seek counseling again after a 10-year hiatus. My family and friends were telling me I couldn’t “go on like this.” At their urging, I found an assisted living facility for Mom.
A few months later, she had a stroke, leaving her unable to walk. We needed a new facility for Mom. A friend suggested I look at foster homes. God came through when I found one run by a lovely Romanian couple, Olivia and Valentine, both of them RN’s. They were Christians and I was impressed from the start. They were marvelous.
I tried to warn them about how Mom could be. “My mom likes attention,” I said. “She complains if she doesn’t get it, but I try to take it with a grain of salt.”
“Ah, don’t worry. We’ve had people like that before.” Olivia patted my hand. “It will take a little time, but your mom will get used to it.”
Mom had to learn, much like a child, that she couldn’t get away with things she used to do. When Mom first came to live with us, I was her servant. Then, I became her advocate (much like I was as a child), with the caregivers at her first assisted living facility. But at the adult foster home, I gradually became her daughter again. This had so much to do with the wonderful, Christian caregivers’ unconditional love for her. They had their rules, but they had time, kind words, and loving physical touch. I’m convinced Mom lived an extra two years because of the care she had in this home. I’m not sure Mom had been treated so well since she was a young girl.
Our visits began to be more pleasant, and Mom’s demands were less. She seemed more concerned about me overdoing it between work, home and taking care of her. This was remarkable!
A New Perspective
I went from wishing she would die to enjoying my visits with her. I could leave after a visit and feel good about her—not dreading the next visit. It was truly marvelous to see her change in attitude and countenance. She was a joy to be around, and she made me feel loved.
I had witnessed a miracle. Thus, it was actually difficult to say goodbye to her at the age of 90. She went peacefully, thank goodness. But, more importantly, she had replaced a cold, hard place in my heart with warmth that I will always cherish.
If you liked this, you may enjoy The Unexpected Visit | The Pain and Joy of Caring for Parents.
Patty Knittle writes from the Pacific Northwest.© 2002 - 2023, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.