“Congratulations! It’s a mother!” my sister joked when I told her that Craig and I had decided to extend Mom’s Thanksgiving visit indefinitely. Sandy is here to stay! Yeah!
Secretly I had hoped for this outcome, but wanted to give Mom a chance to acclimate to the reality of life Chez Saxton. In reality, it went better than I’d ever dared to hope. The kids are happy, she is happy, and both Craig and I agree it’s the way things are supposed to be.
There was only one small hiccup, coming from my daughter. “But what if Mammy dies?” Sarah asked.
“Well, she will die one day — we all will, because it’s just part of life. We don’t know when Mammy will die, though — it could be months or even years. And that will be sad. But when her job on earth is done and it’s time for her to go to God, we will be so thankful for this time we had with her, won’t we?” She nodded. “And we will be happy that she spent that time with us, and not alone in that other place.” Another nod. “So … this is a good thing, right?”
A smile. “I’m going to go help Mammy with the jigsaw!” And she did. Then she went upstairs and shaved off her own hair. It seems her anxieties manifest themselves in hyper-sensitive hair follicles. That wig was a good investment!
I know that there are many people who are facing similar challenges with their own elderly parents, trying to decide how to care for them in their declining years. Financial issues, family dynamics, and diminished capacities all have to factor in to the decision.
And yet it’s also important to factor in the benefits: Another adult in the home can introduce a new, fresh dynamic to how a family operates. Old arguments and conflicts can be resolved in gentler, kinder ways with witnesses present (for both kids and adults)! As I listen to my mother interact with Sarah, patiently listening to her chatter away about makeup as she paints Mom’s nails a garish shade of gold, I breathe a sigh of thanks. I find myself slowing my pace, and noticing the moments. Mom’s dietary requirements mean healthier eating for all of us. And so it goes.
The question of “What if she dies?” still lingers. In my next article, I will post some suggestions from a woman who recently sent me some tips on helping kids with grief.