the Caretaker

My mom is 75. Up until this year she worked. Not because she needs to, she just likes to be busy. Working with Special Needs children here in town gave her so much satisfaction. But, with Covid being what it is, and my health (I’m in the most vulnerable category there is), she took a leave of absence.
I hate that she had to do that, knowing that she did it for me.

She has been relentlessly puttering about the house looking for something to clean. Something to sew. Projects to complete. It’s confusing to me because she has a RV ready to go in the driveway, a boyfriend that is always telling her that she should quit working (she does not need the money) and travel with him, and she has me to watch her house should she choose to go someplace.

A month in and she hasn’t spent any additional time with her boyfriend and she has made zero effort to make any plans whatsoever. The other day I asked her about it.
“What, are you trying to get rid of me?”, she asked.
I explained to her that I just want her to enjoy her retirement, to take advantage of not having financial constraints, to do all of the things that I long to but can’t due to the rigorous demands of my dialysis schedule. We talked about it and she was uncharacteristically quiet. I got frustrated and asked her why again. She spun around with a face on that I haven’t seen in years.
“Bill, do you remember what happened 2 years ago?” You would be dead right now if I hadn’t been here!” She was on the edge of tears.

There it is. The truth comes out, and an inconvenient one at that. Despite all efforts to the contrary, beneath it all I am a burden to her.

My mother is a Caretaker. She cared for both of her parents during their decline and she, with little help from the Teamsters, VA and Medicare, cared for my father as he succumbed to Parkinson’s over an eight year period. It took almost everything out of her. She put her life on hold for him. Once he passed, I had hoped that her caretaking days are over. In her eyes, clearly they are not.

I can see why she feels this way. You never stop being a parent, no matter how old your children are. I can’t imagine how she felt to come upstairs to my loft, after calling my name several times with no answer, to find me on the floor unconscious. Does it matter that I was 53 years old at the time? No, she was terrified and thought her only child was dead. It changed her, she is burdened with walking around with that image in her head. And she’s afraid that if she goes away it could happen again.

I’m smarter now about being honest about my health. I tried to assure her that I know enough to call 911 if I am in trouble. But she is standing firm. It is what I love and hate about her.

I want to be so many things in life. A burden is not one of them. I wish I could erase that whole ordeal from her mind. But I can’t. It happened and in her eyes she is permanently vigilant in the event that it will again.

I’m forever the burden, she’s forever the caretaker. That’s what being a parent is. If you do it right, it never ends no matter how old they are.

15 thoughts on “the Caretaker”

  1. She may be the caretaker, but that does not mean you are a “burden.” And keep in mind, with Covid, at age 75 she’d be considered a pretty high risk herself, and shouldn’t probably be out gallivanting around very much anyway right now! A lot of us are sort of putting our lives on hold right now for the high risk people we love. It’s great that you opened the lines of communication about this, though!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand your frustrations in wanting your Mum to have her own life, and you are right, a loving parent will always care for their child no matter how old they are.
    My Mum did for my sister as she felt she couldn’t cope. This went back to 1972 when her first marriage failed. Mum was always at her house, my brothers were both married, and I was 15 going through my O levels. Nobody explained to me what was going on, but I accepted the situation and that’s probably why I became independent at that age.
    In 1995, the shit hit the fan for my Dad and my parents ended up moving in with Sis and her family. Sis had a built in Nanny, housekeeper and cook, so what was there not to like? Then my Dad died in 1996 and Mum stayed where she was, because she felt Sis needed her. We suggested she apply for a warden assisted flat, but no, Sis needed her to help with the kids. We invited her to come and live with us on at least three occasions, but the answer was always the same. My BIL died of a massive heart attack in 2010 and Mum could not possibly leave Sis on her own, even when both of her own children had now left home and she’d got a new boyfriend a few years later. Then Mum got dementia, but did my sister give back half of what Mum had given her? Not by a long chalk IMO. It’s unfair of me to say really as I was just a visitor, but we could see more than we were given credit for, and towards the end, my Mum was left to her own devices. Sis couldn’t cope and put her in a home in September 2017. Mum died in January in hospital following a fall on Christmas Eve and breaking her wrist. The home could not give her the care she needed, so they were looking for a nursing placement, but it didn’t happen.
    Am I bitter? To a degree, because even though the outcome would have been the same, there were two of us, we could have shared the load, and Mum would have been included in our activities, not left in bed, shut in a room, or left to sit endlessly in front of the patio doors looking outside while everyone talked around her as if she wasn’t there.
    I’m not a parent Billy, maybe a selfish daughter who wanted some of her Mum’s time and attention at an important stage in my life. But I had a special relationship with my Mum and treasure that. Your Mum loves you and worries about you. It goes with the territory.

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