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.