Being a Parent to Your Parent

Last night we took my mother to the baseball game. She loves the Cardinals. When she met my father, she impressed him because she knew all the batting averages of all the players in the National League. We have had the date for a month and talked about it with glee.

Although she gets around pretty well, I put her in a wheel chair for the walk from the parking lot to our seats. She is very proud and hates the wheel chair but relented in the face of the long walk. The skies were looking ominous at this point, and Mom told me, “I’ll cry if the game is cancelled.” A thunderstorm ensued but passed quickly, quickly enough for the game to start an hour late. An 8:15 opening pitch is very late for my mother. Although she used to be a party girl, she goes to bed shortly after dinner in her 93rd year.

The Cardinals took the lead, and then the Red Sox tied the game. Mom was looking tired. I asked if she wanted to leavecardinals. She admitted she was tired but insisted on staying. The clock struck ten, the Red Sox got another run and Mom dissolved. Like an over-tired three-year-old, she started crying. She told me she wants her dog back. (The doctor says it is unsafe for the dog to live with her because of her Alzheimer’s so I am bringing the dog to visit on a regular basis.) It is so sad.

Today I returned home to an angry message from my mother. “If you don’t give my dog back, I am never going to speak to you again. He is my dog.” I called the retirement home and was advised not to bring the dog to her today. As with a child, she should not be rewarded for bad behavior. I am trying to help her visit her dog, but she sees me as keeping her dog away from her.

It is so difficult to be the parent to my parent. I have to be strong. Sometimes I don’t know where to turn. Sometimes I feel sorry for myself. I reread Lori’s Lesson number seven for caregivers: The biggest challenge for your caregiver is: to hate the disease, really loathe it, but not resent the person who has it. He or she may know intellectually that it is not your fault, but every caregiver has moments of thinking: “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?” They have to set that aside and move on, for themselves as much as for you. Still, to underestimate the challenge of dealing with their emotions would be not only naïve but potentially destructive.

 

 

Do Not Go Gently

Chuck Berry

Last night I took my husband Jake to Blueberry Hill for his birthday. We were able to see Chuck Berry perform in the Duck Room after trying to get tickets for five or six years. Since Chuck performs only once a month, you have to gp online immediately as soon as sales start to buy tickets. It was worth the wait: Chuck is 87 and still rockin’ and rollin’. I loved his music when I was a teenager and he was wild and free. I loved him yesterday too. This is certainly a tamer Chuck than the guitar legend. We sat front-row-center and could see how management puts a list of songs with keys in huge letters on the floor. He got the key wrong once anyway to the annoyance of Charles Berry, Jr. who performs along with his Dad and sister Ingrid. Right key, wrong key, April 23rd was Chuck’s 203rd consecutive performance at Blueberry Hill. How cool is that?

A lot of people his age would be resting on their laurels with their feet up in front of the television. Instead he is singing and playing the guitar for over an hour, sweating under the hot stage lights. Even putting one foot out and sliding on the other in a modification of the dance he pioneered – the “Duck Walk.”

That’s why I admire Lori so much. Like Chuck who won’t let the diagnosis of advanced age put him out to pasture, she is living her life to the fullest despite the diagnosis of Parkinson’s.  When she first heard she had the disease, she says, “I felt like I just wanted to sit in a corner and cry until I died.” Then something powerful happened. She realized Parkinson’s would never kill her, so she determined to make the absolute best of her life. And she has. “I can choose to not let this get to me. And, if it does, then I can figure out another way to fight. And another way after that. I can beat this.”