Life in progress


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The Cycles of Mother’s Day

I have memories as a child of preparing breakfast, with my father’s help, to bring to my mother in bed on Mother’s Day. I knew as well as he did that it would be no surprise, but we pretended, he and I. I remember a few odd gifts I gave her over the years, but the one that stands out the most was a garbage bag full of well-fermented horse shit I brought home in my car from the ranch where I worked. Her roses loved it and yet she still rolls her eyes over it.

As a new mother myself, my very first Mother’s Day was a revelation. Being pampered by my son’s father was a dream come true. Those beginning years were special indeed – breakfast in bed was mine, although sometimes those breakfasts were inedible having been made with love by my young children. I grinned and did my best to eat them without gagging anyway.

Today I find the cycle has changed once again. I made the coffee last night so Alex, my youngest, could come downstairs ahead of me and push the button to start the coffeemaker. I’m in the not-so-unique position of being single, having my three sons at home, and soon I will be picking my own mother up to spend the day caring for her, though she’d never concede to the idea that it’s the other way around. She wants me to depend on her and I’m okay with that. It’s like a dance, graceful in its complexity with me agreeing to almost anything and her… I’m not sure if she still understands that I’m doing it or not, but the grand act of denial, if that’s what she does, is Oscar-worthy. And of course there are my own children. To an extent my eldest is taking care of me, helping me not to pull my hair out both with his physical aid in babysitting and housework and his awesome sense of humour.

So it goes. The child becomes the mother, the caregiver; the giver of life as she comes closer to the end of her own, becomes dependent once again.

I love being a mother, but in the end it can be likened to a bag of horse shit. For the amount of work it takes, the load of stress that accompanies it, and the headache-inducing number of eyerolls, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


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One-Liner Wednesday – …If It Wasn’t Screwed On

My mother, talking to me on her cellphone: I’ll make sure I keep my phone with me tomorrow, in case you call – I just have to find where I put the bloody thing now.


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Making Everyone Happy

They say you can’t make everyone happy. But what if you can’t help trying?

I’m okay to a point. I can say no to people if I feel that what I’m saying no to is in most people’s best interests. Or if what they’re asking for is impossible. Take Alex, my youngest son, for instance. He asks me to take him to the toy store a minimum of ten times a day, every weekend. I tell him I don’t have the money to buy him a video game every weekend and I stick to it… mostly. On average he somehow ends up with about six a year.

On Friday my mother moved into a retirement home. She is of course not happy – I’m told that it’s rare anyone is, for the first little while. If she lives alone it will be up to me to get her groceries, take her to her appointments, make sure she’s safe and healthy, and all this from the other end of town. Granted, it’s not a big town. But when I’m faced with dragging a kid around who may or may not be hooked up to a feeding pump and leaving my Autistic son, Chris, at home alone for an indeterminate period of time, it is a big deal for me.

Having her in the home where she can be supervised 24/7 is a huge worry off my shoulders, both because I know she’s safe and I know she’s eating well. And yet I can’t stop thinking, What’s one more thing? I can handle it… make her happy and let her live alone.

How do I convince myself that I matter in all this? I have to stay strong.


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Shhh! Don’t Tell My Mom

The last thing I want to do is worry my mother, so I’m keeping this quiet. I can tell all of you though, because she doesn’t read my blog.

I think her car is trying to kill me.

I went out in it today to pick up some groceries, for myself as well as for her. As I came up to a stop sign I put my foot on the brake and the engine started to rev. The more I pushed the brake, the faster the engine went – and the faster the car went. Luckily there was nothing coming (and there were no cops around) because I blasted through that stop sign.

Since then I’ve started putting it into neutral when I want to stop. That’ll teach it.

But in the meantime, would someone please tell it I was only going to buy her cookies?


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Be Nice to Your Kids

In light of recent events, most of which include having my mother live with me for more than a week while she waits for her room in the retirement home to be ready, I’ve been thinking about the saying: “Be nice to your kids – they may be looking after you one day.” And the conclusion I’ve come to is, depending on your nature, chances are it’s not going to matter whether or not they were nice to you. You’ll probably do it anyway.

I moved out of my mother’s home at the tender age of sixteen because I couldn’t stand living with her anymore. We’ve never been what you could call friends – she’s of the old school way of thinking that she’s not my friend, she’s my mother. She said so many times when I was a kid. In more recent times, when she has come to stay with me and the kids it’s been hell – she can’t communicate with Alex and he takes advantage of the fact that she can’t effectively explain to him why he shouldn’t do the annoying things he does: he laughs at her when she’s angry. I, usually, end up breaking up the fight as I might between two siblings.

And yet despite all this, I find myself calm now. I have more patience than I’ve ever had. She’s going through a transition in her life that is probably irreversible – going from living alone for the past 30 years, on and off, to going into a place that is scary in that it’s an unknown entity.

It’s funny the things I’ve found myself being able to handle when put to the test. Whether or not my mother and I have ever been able to get along, let alone live together, is put aside – it’s become irrelevant. The more difficult and challenging things get, the more I’m able to cope with. I just take it one step at a time.

I would wish what I’m going through right now on anyone – and yet I wouldn’t. Yes, it’s hard. But it’s teaching me something – that whatever I may have to deal with, my nature will allow me to deal.

Still, it doesn’t hurt to be nice to your kids. And while you’re at it, help them to discover their true nature.


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Now, Where Were We?

It must be incredibly frustrating to lose one’s memory. We’ve all been there. It’s like when you’re having a pleasant conversation with a friend and something happens to distract you, and when you turn back to continue talking, you can’t remember what you were discussing.

For my mother, at almost 84 years of age, it’s gone far beyond. It started with the memory, then progressed to logic. For instance, last weekend I came down the stairs to find her trying to drag Alex into the next room by the hand. When I asked her what she was doing, she said he’d been bugging the hell out of her, screaming in her ear but now she was trying to get him into the next room to hook him up to his feeding pump.

“It doesn’t matter what I do,” she said. “I try ignoring him, but whenever I walk away he follows me.”

“So, why are you trying to drag him?” I asked.

“Because when I ask him, he won’t come with me,” she answered. “He won’t do anything I ask him.”

“So just walk away… he’ll follow you…”

I waited for her to get it, but she didn’t–not even when she walked into the room where his feeding pump was, and he followed her.

Most of the time, all I can do is roll my eyes.

Now, however, she’s in the hospital with pneumonia. They’re talking about letting her out on Wednesday, but her memory has begun to get so bad that she can’t remember what day it is. Not a good combination when she has meds to take.

I’m going to have to seriously start looking into retirement homes, before I end up in the hospital, sick with stress. That I’m going to have to figure out a way to look after her is precisely why I wanted to have more than one child: I didn’t expect two of them would probably never be independent, let alone unable to help with my care when I get to my mother’s age. Government and community run home care is going to be an even worse state than it is now; I’m at the tail end of the baby boom, and resources and funds will surely be depleted.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Memory. If I leave my mother on her own I’m afraid she’ll under- or over-medicate herself. Just last weekend, she forgot it was still Saturday and she took Sunday’s pills as well. She needs supervision. There’s no way Alex would let her get a moment’s rest here – so what do I do? I’m only one person. I can ask my friend, John, to help out, but he has a life and a job. I need a babysitter for my mother.

The sandwich generation strikes again.


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The Trust of a Child

I read once, when my kids were very young, that a baby who laughs when it is startled is a baby who trusts his or her mother. It’s something that I found followed through to their toddler years and beyond. I joked with my kids that I was going to do horrible things with them; cook them and eat them for dinner for instance. They’d laugh, knowing I would never do such a thing, because they trusted me.

There was one instance that I will never forget and I try not to regret for the simple reason that it taught me something.

I was leaving the pool where Alex was, at the time, doing physiotherapy. He wasn’t walking yet at the time, so he must have been less than five years old. I carried him out of the building, loaded with purse, swimming clothes and Alex all in my arms. I remember it was cold. I put him down on the curb in front of the car but to the side where I could see him, so I could wrestle my car keys out of my coat pocket. Had a car come, I was prepared to stand in front of it to prevent him being hurt. I proceeded open the doors and put the bags in. Then I waved goodbye to him and pretended to get into the car, expecting him to laugh. He knew I would never leave him there by myself. But instead of laughing, he smiled at me and waved back.

Whether he didn’t understand the joke or not, the vision of that tiny little boy sitting bundled against the cold, waving goodbye to me with a trusting smile on his beautiful, innocent face, still brings a tear to my eye.

Our children live in the world we construct for them. Whether they are healthy or sick, they can learn to be happy from us as parents because they trust what they see – the example we set. Alex spent the first eight months of his life in the hospital. All he has ever known, from birth, is pain. To this day he wakes up almost every morning with reflux, trying to vomit past an operation he had at six months of age called a fundoplication – basically, a knot was tied in his esophagus to prevent anything coming up. And yet he is the happiest child I’ve ever met. Other people observe this and ask me if he’s ever unhappy. It’s all he’s ever known. He sees me deal with his morning time retching with ease and he is reassured that it’s normal.

One day I know he will find out that it’s not. Will he stop trusting me at that point? I have no idea. It’s for sure that I’ll have the task of assuring him that even if it’s not something everyone experiences, it’s just the way he is, and that’s okay.

The point I’m trying to make I suppose, is that our children are our sponges. They take from us what we show them, and whatever that is, they trust it, because from the very beginning, we are all they know. I hope, for my own part, to preserve that for as long as their personal experiences away from me will allow. And that they will continue to laugh all their lives.