When the Parent Becomes the Child

“It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.” ―Andy Rooney

Last Friday, as my Moms (I have two) were preparing bank deposits for me to run to the bank for them, I noticed they had dated the deposit slips for July 23. The actual date was July 8.

 I said, “Mom, it’s July 8.”

She quickly answered, “No, it’s not. My watch says it’s July 28.”

I knew immediately this was going to be a difficult conversation and would likely involve anger, confrontation, debate, and ultimately sadness. And it did. Sometimes I’ll let issues slide, but I could not let her lose nearly a month.

“Mom, your watch may be wrong or need an adjustment, but it’s July 8. The 4th of July was just a few days ago. Remember we talked about how fireworks never look as good on television?” I thought I had her with this for sure.

But no, she began to dig in deeper and defend her position. “I never said that. The 4th of July was not on Monday.” Inwardly I sighed.

I retrieved my Airpad, showed her the monthly view, and explained that the red circle meant that was today’s date. It was on July 8.

“This means nothing to me. It’s July 23,” she retorted and the anger at me started to really gain momentum. She could not understand why I would not believe her.

I let some situations like this go. But I just couldn’t on this one. They are staying in Northern Arizona for the summer, and we were planning my visits on their calendar. It just wasn’t going to work out.

Saving the moment, Mom2 told me to go get the newspaper. With great dread, I showed my mother the front page dated July 8. The look on her face made me want to break down and sob. Then came what always occurs when this situation happens.

“I’m wrong. It is July 8. What is the matter with me? Why don’t I know what day and date it is? Is today Saturday?”

“No, Mom, it’s Friday.”

“But my watch says it’s the 23.”

“Hey, no worries, we’ll reset it. I can’t remember what day it is all the time, especially because I’m not working. And aren’t you glad we have a whole month ahead of us up here?” I try so hard to make light of her troubled reactions.

It’s about loss of independence.
It’s about aging.
It’s normal as we grow older.
There is nothing wrong with her.

She is an active 85-year-old woman.

There is one diversion I can do that will always save the day to distract her. And I whipped that card out.

“Do you want to play Farm Heroes?”

Everything is forgotten as she rushes (well, as much as she can rush) to the couch to her beloved smartphone, tablet, and notebook to play her game. Yes, she has three devices. Really, how many 85-year-olds are this tech savvy? She may not know what the date is, but she can maneuver around any Droid. And sometimes my iPad.

Although this did become a horror story when I loaded Farm Heroes on the iPad to keep her occupied while I drove them up north on June 1—a three-hour drive. I instructed her, under NO circumstances, press the button that asks people for lives (you’d have to play to get this part). But it’s an annoying option that sends out a request to every freaking Facebook friend to help you continue to play the game.

“Oh, no. I promise. I won’t touch anything. I’ll just play the game.” This lasted a whole ten minutes. Her short little span of attention.

I got SO many messages on Facebook asking me to stop sending them game requests for days. People lectured me, unfriended me, and left curt notes on my timeline. Who does this? Calm down, already, is this really ruining your life? I wrote explanations twice on my timeline that it was my 85-year-old mother, not me–just hang tight and I’ll fix it. You would have thought I started a GoFundMe. About two weeks ago, I saw my cousin Carol, and she said she and her husband just laughed when they got the bazillion game requests. I just wish all 350 of my friends had. I don’t even play games!

This story is about caregiving for my two Moms who are now like taking care of third graders. I repeat the day’s activities every ten minutes. I drive them around and ignore them when they tell me I’m turning the wrong way. When I’m back down in Phoenix, I call them to tell them what’s on television that night. I change their sheets, do their laundry, pay their bills, and try to manage their checkbooks.

They are my job.

But I do everything with love. A love so strong that sometimes I cry when I leave them, as frustrated as I get. Because I know, like with my father, there will come a day when I won’t be able to call them, laugh with them, or even complain about them.

I heard someone tell a story once that a daughter taking care of her mother was asked by her mom,

“What? You want me to live until I’m 98?”

“No, Mom. I want you to live until I’m 98.”

 My parent has become the child.

But in passing will grow older every day
Just as all that’s born is new.
You know what I say is true
That I’ll be loving you always.”
―Stevie Wonder, “As”

Photo Credit: © Dori Owen All Rights Reserved

Dori Owen

Dori Owen blogs on ArizonaGirlDiary.tumblr.com, is a columnist on FeminineCollective.com, a contributor/editor for The Lithium Chronicles, created the Facebook page Diary of an Arizona Girl, is an author on AskABipolar, was featured in the books FeminineCollective RAW&UNFILTERED VOL I and StigmaFighters Vol II, and is a zealous tweeter as @doriowen. She's a former LA wild child who settled into grownup life as a project manager, collecting an MBA and a few husbands along the way. Dori spent her adult years in Southern California, with a brief stay in Reno, and has now returned to where she ran away from in Arizona. She is a shown artist, writer, and her favorite pastime is upcycling old furniture she finds from thrift stores. She lives with her beloved rescued terrier, Olivia Twist, and the cat who came to visit but stayed. The love of her life is her grown son in Portland, Oregon who very much resents being introduced after her pets. But she she does love him the most.

  1. doriowen

    Thank you so much! Yes, she’s very tech savvy, LOL, and I just showed her a new game so she’ll be distracted by a whole new group of digital characters! Long ago my brothers and I said we would never allow our parents to go to assisted living as long as we could take care of them ourselves. We did take care of our Dad until he died. It was truly about love. And….he was much less cranky than my Mom….buah. xoD.

  2. Richard DeFino

    This was really beautiful! It’s a great thing that you do for them. I work at a nursing home and most of the residents there have families but they’re still completely forgotten about and left alone. They’re truly lucky to have you! And I love that she is so tech savvy and loves farm heroes! Thanks for sharing.

  3. doriowen

    Thank you, Nicole…and thanks for listening to me complaining about their latest foibles. My mom IS funny. xoD

  4. Avatar

    Oh Dori. This brought tears to my eyes. You are an extraordinary woman, no doubt some of that is because of your extraordinary Mom (both of them) I love you.

  5. doriowen

    Thank you, Julie, for the idea and inspiration….and hours listening to me on the phone 🙂

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