Wednesday, May 6, 2015
The Critical Mom and the Aged P
I wish taking care of my Aged P were as easy and pleasant as Dickens makes it sound in Great Expectations. The father of John Wemmick, a bill collector, the old man sits by the fire in the castle home with which his son has furnished him, enjoying the small drawbridge, flag post, and the daily firing of the cannon, an event that always nearly blows the old man out of his chair.
Dickens' Aged P is easy to get along with. His son Wemmick says to Pip, the main character, "Nod away at him Mr Pip; that's what he likes. Nod away at him, if you please, like winking!" The old man is happy, and it is soothing to spend time with him.
My 93-year-old mother--with whom it is never soothing to spend time--lives alone in her own place, does her own shopping (in the fridge sit open cans of green beans topped by Mom's Au Bon Pain breakfast corn muffin, from which she's taken a bite or two, and which she's decided to "save.") Also two meals worth of leftover Chinese food and the many cans of Vanilla Ensure I sent her via Amazon.
"You could let the social workers do the laundry," I say with the most casual tones I can summon, as I strip the bed I slept on the night before.
She bristles. "I'm not helpless!"
Dust coats bookcases, surfaces. The kitchen is not one I'd be happy cooking in without a morning's work with Clorox. The elegant wrought-iron cage elevator door--as well as the front door to her non-doorman building--are heavy for me, but she scowls when I open them for her.
"Don't hurt yourself!" she growls.
When I let her struggle with the front door, as she wishes, she mutters, "Guess I'll have to get stronger." She broke her hip some months ago, and still favors one side, going up the steps by placing her right foot on the step, leaning heavily on the bannister, and hauling herself up. By the time she gets home, she's ready for a nap, and so am I, but we don't take naps. We walk to the bookstore and she buys me four books, one for me and several for my children. The glare she bestows on me when I mention the assisted living facility in which even she admitted enjoying "my three squares," when she was recovering from her broken hip, is potent.
"I don't want to be around all those old people!" she tells me. When I write to the social workers who look in on her, they are legally required--or feel morally obligated--or both--to inform her that "your daughter is worried about you." This nets me an enraged look and a not inconsiderable concern about my inheritance. She promised to wear a device on her wrist that would let her push a button and call for help if she happened to fall again and be unable to reach her phone. The time she fell and broke her hip, she tripped over her phone cord, "So it was right there!" she said brightly. "They came in four minutes." I've reminded her about getting that device ("Yes I know! Glare, glare) as have her social workers, but Mom has yet to acquire one.
"You could get those three squares without the assisted living place," I say.
"How?" She looks interested. I have hopes.
"Meals on wheels! They deliver three square meals a day."
She shakes her head. "Oh, I don't eat that much."
Like most modern children of Aged Ps, I live in another city--in fact I live in another country. I patch together a group of friends and neighbors to look in on her, but these young people, all of whom love and admire her, are always off living their own lives. One got a job in another city, and one went home to Japan to visit her own Aged P.
"We had such fun times together, the three of us," Mom laments.
I waved goodbye through the back of my taxi. She's determined to live to 120. Knowing her, she will.