Artist in Residence 23: Changing Shape

My getting-to-be-elderly-and-very-prone-to-living-in-the-past mother is increasingly driving me dotty with protestations of how she’s “never” experienced certain kinds of weather before, or wailing how I’ve “changed” from what I used to be, and I used to be SUCH a “happy child”…

…and I’ve simply had to abandon the idea that pointing out that I am no longer that “child” any more than she is that “mother” – the relationship that used to be there, where she was the one in control, the responsible one, the adult, that’s gone, gone with those winds she claims that she’s never experienced before (she has – we lived in Cape Town which had winds which once lifted me out of my SHOES). I’m the one with all the responsibilities now. *I* am the one with the calendar, keeping doctors’ appointments and such stuff. *I* am the one juggling finances and going shopping for enough food to sustain her (she still lives on her own, but that is probably winding down, she is not really capable of it any more and both of us are sort of trying to dance around that idea right now trying to get something new established). I’m the one who is in charge. *I* am the “Adult” now, and she – although she hates it like poison – is getting old. And no amount of casting regretful glances over her shoulder and sighing over the “happy child” in a golden past is going to recreate that past for her right now, any more than I am capable of doing so. When I was that child I was the one being cared for, protected, sheltered. Now it’s my turn to do the sheltering, and I am the outside walls on which the storms are breaking. We are still mother and daughter, we will always be that, but the roles of adult and child have flipped. I’m the protector now. It is on my shoulder that all the responsibility is resting. There is no room under that for a “happy child” any more. That childhood is a beloved memory now.

These last 12 months have changed me completely, changed the shape of me, turned me inside out. Last year began with Mom’s mini-stroke and all that followed it – the January hospitalization, the February rehab nursing home stay, the coming to me to care for her until she got back on her feet (and through a bad case of C. difficile – go on, look that bastard up if you dare…) and then, round about this time last year, back to her own place… and straight into a Covid prison, as an elderly and very vulnerable person. The rest of the year was spent in lockdown, her in her place (with me dealing with necessities of living) and me here in mine. I still had some joy and contentment there because it isn’t so much of a prison when you have someone you love in there with you and it was Deck and me against the world, always. But then November 2020 arrived… and he went into the maw of the medical establishment, which sank its teeth into him and never released him again.

I started last year as daughter, as wife. I began this one as (the increasingly switching to a parental role) daughter… and a widow.

No, not the happy child of yesteryear. My shape has changed. Changed utterly.


About Alma Alexander

Alma Alexander's life so far has prepared her very well for her chosen career. She was born in a country which no longer exists on the maps, has lived and worked in seven countries on four continents (and in cyberspace!), has climbed mountains, dived in coral reefs, flown small planes, swum with dolphins, touched two-thousand-year-old tiles in a gate out of Babylon. She is a novelist, anthologist and short story writer who currently shares her life between the Pacific Northwest of the USA (where she lives with her husband and two cats) and the wonderful fantasy worlds of her own imagination. You can find out more about Alma on her website (, her Facebook page (, on Twitter ( or at her Patreon page (


Artist in Residence 23: Changing Shape — 5 Comments

  1. You’ve got my profound sympathies, especially for a double-whammy.

    We had to go through the first with my mom until early Covid–only she couldn’t be left alone, as she would wander and get lost. With one of us there 24/7 it was dangerous enough because she always wanted to be helpful. Make that “helpful.” While most of the time she tottered, she could move like a ninja when she had a Task–such as deciding to fix breakfast for everyone at 2:34 a.m. by putting a loaf of bread in the microwave and cranking it to two hours. Or emptying the almost-full dish washer of the dirty dishes and putting them in the cupboard. I hope you can find a good solution for your mom!

    The second I can only imagine, after 41 years of marriage. Again, my total sympathies.

  2. Each aspect is so difficult already — to have all of them at once, exhausts all the emotional, and yes, even physical resources. So glad you have a home of your own though, where you can kind of restore energy to deal with the next round with your mom.

    One of my best friends ‘rescued’ her mother from assistant living in Birmingham at the height of the first covid surge, and brought her back here to live. Her mom is descending into Alzheimer’s; the staff wasn’t treating her right. She cannot be left alone a minute now, any more than a toddler can. How absent your husband’s presence . . . . I am so sorry.

  3. Alma, so hard on so many fronts! I know it’s a terribly hard decision, but when we had to move Old Dad into assisted living and then dementia facility, it was safer for him and took a TREMENDOUS load of stress off me and sisters. (And renting his house helped pay for the facility, added to his social security.) I had sisters and some hired help in caring for him at his home, but you are shouldering it all yourself. You must take care of yourself, please. Best wishes!

  4. I feel for you, Alma. Went through similar with my mother–a heartbreaking time. And to add the loneliness of widowhood–I can’t even imagine. Take care!