Sunday, September 28, 2008

Packing My Mother for Camp

Once I’d gotten my mother to agree to rehabilitation following a brief, but serious illness, I started making a mental list of things to do—get rid of the fresh food, notify her apartment manager, get her mail forwarded—and what to pack for her. It reminds me of getting my daughter packed to go to Camp Easter Seal in Vaughn, but without the sleeping bag. I called Manor Care to find out what I should bring for her. “Nothing too nice,” a nurse told me. “Comfortable things like sweats or moo moos.”

From her “Fibber McGee Closet” downstairs in the storage room I pried loose her suitcases without sending the stack of stuff in there cascading down on me. Back in her apartment I started going through her closet and drawers looking for clothes that were comfortable but not things we’d be upset over should they become, well, misplaced. Just like with my daughter I began marking things with her last name, all the while thinking about what would make her comfortable and what she was likely to want. I can make my list and check it twice, but undoubtedly there will be things I’ve forgotten, but hopefully nothing that cannot be purchased in Gig Harbor.

As I worked, other items kept popping into my mind, distracting me like shinny objects. I got the major things organized as well as some of the smaller things like the mittens she likes to wear to bed to keep her hands warm and stationary so that she can write letters if she feels like it. She’s not even watching much television, normally her constant companion. She did read the Chinook Observer, her little local weekly newspaper, but magazines that had come in her mail don’t interest her. My mother seems content to lie in her hospital bed staring off into space and thinking what?

Dealing with the aging and end of life issues of parents makes those of us of the generation behind examine what our own mortality and how we will deal with it. How can we make our own transitions through life as gentle as possible for our own children? Will we be able to remain active or give up as my mother-in-law has and sit in a darkened living room watching Judge Judy? “Just shoot me,” I told my husband once.

I called and left the housekeeper a message that she needn’t come next week. When I’d poured out my mother’s two week old milk and gathered up her fruit to take to my cousin and aunt, I quit for the day. There’s still another day to tie up any loose ends. For now. She’s had two illnesses in three months. Is her relative good health taking a turn? Will she work hard at rehabilitation and be able to return to her apartment or is she, even as I pack her bag for “camp,” packing her mental bag with no intention of returning? Is she planning her own escape?


Lorraine Hart said...

Since we've been having such trouble getting my parents to co-operate with so many of these last chapter issues, my siblings and I have definitely done a lot of talking with our own children.

It seems all very "through the looking glass" eh, Stephanie? This was an interesting and creative way of emotionally dealing with your situation.

I don't know of any middle-aged woman (in our financial bracket) NOT carrying at least, at least, two more-than-full-time far less pay than a man makes for his forty-hour week.

Mizu Sugimura said...

I empathize with you greatly. Your comments about our generation are timely. I have wondered the same myself and blogged on it earlier at least once. If we don't get on the train and give our input during this time with our folks, the sorts of preferences we have will not unfortunately be there when it's our turn.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Our family, like so many, is dealing with the collision of failing parents and a failing economy. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time.