By Lorraine Duffy Merkl
About Lorraine Duffy Merkl:
Author of the novel, Fat Chick and a freelance journalist, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Lorraine Duffy Merkl lives and breathes her role as attentive mom and daughter perched inside The Sandwich Generation.
“…do not despise thy mother when she is old.” Proverbs 23:22
I usually don’t go around quoting the Bible (I’m not that well-versed in the good book, nor am I that holy), but this piece of wisdom and insight crossed my path and affected me.
My mother is going to be 90 in a couple of weeks. Although the word “despise” is a little too strong and one that I would never consider, I could substitute it for “become impatient with.”
How easy it is to sigh with exasperation at having to repeat oneself more than once, or hear yet again the story of what one neighbor said to another in the elevator. It’s so simple to roll one’s eyes and shake one’s head at how the simplest of things can go from firecracker to time bomb status, such as a bank letter that says nothing more than if you open a new account they’ll waive the checking fee.
My mother’s bad eyesight, plus her own impatience with wanting to read these kinds of correspondence, results in her sort of skimming half the document and surmising that the bank is somehow altering her account. She is so overwhelmed by just the thought of having to go there and sign papers or perhaps change her banking routine that her tizzy mode kicks into high gear. The letter is then waved in my face and a rant builds about what they’re doing with her money and why does she have to deal with this and why can’t they leave her account alone?
By the time I look the letter over and assure her that nothing is going on with her account and that the financial institution is merely soliciting new customers, she has worked up such a head of steam that nothing can appease her, not even hearing that there’s no problem and she needs only to throw the paper away. The rant continues, except now about why they are sending her a letter like that when they already have her business. Even though she has a point, the conversation just goes on too long and can be a bit unsettling.
I draw strength to keep helping her from my memories of when we were both younger women, but mostly from when she was a younger woman and I was a girl who’s middle name could have been “Dramarama.” She supported me through my teen angst years, so I figure that I can make it through the tarnished moments of her golden ones.
I also have been successful at not reacting, kept calm by the low energy associated with my sadness from watching a woman, who for so long could handle anything thrown at her, become rattled by the inconsequential. Read Care.com's article on senior caregiving coping strategies »
My hope is that good karma will come back to me when it inevitably becomes my turn to start repeating the story of “the neighbor who said…” to my children one too many times. With any luck, eye rolling and sighing will be kept to a minimum.