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TerryRoars

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Lady is a Lady, even when she's eighty

Steve's Mom has always been so strong, and smart, and funny and independent...but not so much so that she was obnoxious like some mothers-in-law, you know? She's just always been a really sweet lady, and a great support for the whole family. Steve's Dad passed several year ago but, but she was able to hold her own for a long time, still the loving, supporting matriarch of the family.

Then in late winter of this year she had eye surgery that didn't go so well. At 80, she still remembers well that her own mother slowly lost her independence and will after losing her sight to macular degeneration. She always said she didn't want things to go that way for her. None of us imagined it would, because she was so "aware."

But, this eye surgery was like the straw that broke the camel's back. We kids were shaken deeply when we realized that depression and anxiety had become overwhelming for her so quickly. She had begun to worry incessantly about everything from paying bills, to what she was going to eat next, to when her next doctor's appointment was going to be, to who was going to mow her big ol' lawn. She had a big ranch-style house on a cul-de-sac that she and her husband had shared since 1971--with lots of yard and pool care required. She also still owns a property in the mountains that doesn't get regular visitors or maintenance anymore. Though the kids were over a lot, helping with chores, visiting, playing dominos, spending time, suddenly this wasn't enough.

It all proved to be too much to worry about, and the decline in her mental state came on so fast the kids just didn't see how bad it was until we got a call from the hospital ER one morning that she'd taken a bottle of "sleep aides" and then called 911!

Well, the state of Arizona doesn't like it when you try to take your own life, even if it's a meager effort...which this was. It was more of a cry for help, not a fatal overdose. After leaving the ER, she had to go into a psych unit for one week, then three weeks of group therapy. When they released her, she wasn't allowed to go back home, she came to live at our house for three weeks.

Through all this, she never showed indignation at her treatment. She never complained that she was being unfairly dealt a bad hand. In contrast, she held on to her pride and dignity in such a gracious and gentle way that it breaks our hearts to see it.

This weekend she moved into a new independent living apartment. Where she goes from here is totally in her hands--she has spates of anxiety, then pulls it together and moves on. This is truly an improvement from one month ago.

A couple of us kids are heading out for a vacation next week, so this will be a big test for her. She's anxious about it, but we know she's in a safe place, with people around her who are her age to look in on her, and her youngest son is still close by. We're hoping and praying all goes well!

The hardest part in all this is that she knows whats going on--there's no dementia or forgetfulness. She's fully aware of her situation, and that makes it harder for her to accept that these big changes are part of an inevitable process. But, she is also learning that she is still the one who needs to be, and more importantly, can be in full control of her future. She's still the sweet, loving Lady she's always been.

It takes patience and a great amount of will to be a parent to your parent. I've learned so much in the past three years about dealing with aging parents. So many of us are in this position right now. I've thought of many of my own relatives who've gone through this before me. I remember when my cousin said, "Terry, I'm just not ready for this. She's too young!" I share that comment with Steve and and his sibs, and even though we all think it's a rough role to take on, we know we'll get through it. There's no choice--and we know we'll all be there someday.

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