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In a minute, I am going into character. You see, I wrote a blog a few years back, written in the voice of someone’s Mom. She was savvy – she was on to her Adult Children and as you will see she was reeeeally into not letting her kids see the extent of her struggles.
I wrote it as a seasonal tale and a sort of primer, for any Adult Children and loved ones to realize the challenges and changes they may see in their elders during holiday visits.
It’s called, “I Won’t Let You See Me.”
Hello, I’m your Mother.
Here is what you won’t see when you visit me this holiday: a cluttered home, an unsafe walkway, stuff piled up on the steps that could make me unsteady and fall, my meds at different levels or out of date or missing altogether (this last batch – Truth is, I forgot to pick them up and then it was too late!).
You won’t find bills laying around and unpaid (I stashed ‘em!), oh, and none of those multiple charitable receipts (they send me such nice gifts, like soft throws for my couch).
I won’t appear disheveled or smell funny or over perfumed, I will be fresh as a daisy.
My hair will look fabulous, carefully done. Long sleeves will hide those brises from my most recent tumble.
You won’t find expired old or moldy food in the refrigerator. (I read that’s what you look for). My stuffy old house will have the scents of holiday cooking and baking.
I have planned the perfect holiday gathering this year, if I do say so myself. And I’ll not let you in on how or what I did to plan it all.
You see, it takes me a little longer these days to think of all the details, plan, and get it all done. I actually began my To-Do lists early in the fall! I have much more time on my hands than you Sandwich Generation children do, what with your careers and all my grandkids’ activities.
Everyone is coming here, just like every year. Can’t wait to be with everybody!
But I will not let you see a number of things that might indicate I am in decline. I have been planning and cleaning and stuffing and stashing since early November.
Don’t waste your time looking at my medications. You will never find all of them; I am that good (at hiding). “Of course, I take them regularly. Piece o’ cake.”
I realize that as responsible adult children of aging parents, you will try to “talk” to me about how I am doing. Can’t we just visit and chat about something else?
My checkbook will be tucked away too. I keep it in the drawer near my phone. Why you wonder? Because it gets dark earlier these days, and I am inside, answering my phone. I may donate to the same outfit more than once if they call me more than one time. I discovered that I had in my register more than one check written to the same charity (so that check register is Off Limits to you kids, OK?).
I consider it too much of a hassle to call and verify the legitimacy of that nice young man on the phone. Why he knew my neighbor’s name and address, he said it to me! We had a nice long chat. I felt good about sending in that donation, and he will call me personally, he said, during their next campaign!
So what if a few extension cords are lying around, and things are kind of cramped in the family room? We plug in extra lights during the holidays, right? And who doesn’t rearrange during the holidays to accommodate extra guests?
The furniture arrangement is not so odd; I will never admit to this, but I hold on to the furniture as I walk through the room these days. It gives me extra stability since I fell. And you didn’t know that, either, did you? I had quite the bruiser on my arm and hip for a few weeks, but of course, there was no reason to mention it when we were only talking on the phone. You’d never see it; you live clear across the country.
If it’s one thing I do remember, it’s your favorite foods! Got ‘em all here, ready. I don’t eat that much anymore, but you and the grandkids will. Nowadays, it’s normal for me now to simply have a bowl of cereal, sometimes for more than one meal a day. It’s convenient, especially when I haven’t gotten out to the market (and certainly not after that last fall, Hoo, I was down the better part of a week after that one).
I read in an article that older people can lose their sense of taste and smell and then use too much salt. Since I know about this > I won’t overseason your food.
Better yet, I will place festive salt & pepper shakers at either end of the table and make small talk about not knowing how everyone liked their food seasoned (like I haven’t since you were born, ha!). Tom’s gained weight; I will tell him that I am being mindful of his high blood pressure.
Of course, the fridge will be stocked with extra holiday food, so things will look good around here. If I really have my wits about me, I will have the holiday snacks set out that an outreach representative from the church brought by last week. “Oh yes, I have a number of friends around here. Neighbors stop by all the time.” No isolation here…
Even if I haven’t been to my church recently, I will have the church bulletin they left for me. I will leave it lying around. It’s a current one, at that. If it has an activity or project story in it, all the better. I will be ready to tell you what’s up at the church (that I haven’t felt like going to even when Brenda calls to offer a ride).
Would you like to know why I am this way? I lived alone since your father died, and I have managed to get along okay. I always say that things are a bit more difficult, but I have the time and the smarts to get them done. With a little ingenuity and finagling, I will survive. I miss your father very much, and I miss Janice.
Do you remember Janice? She was my neighbor for over 30 years. We’ve been through a lot together, raising our kids, seeing them marry, and then we both waited for and welcomed grandkids. Janice’s family visited last Christmas, and not long after that, they moved her out to Kansas City to be with them. The last time I talked to her, she’d recently been in the emergency room and was going to rehab. She has never returned my last call.
All in all, I’m just fine here. We don’t “need a plan.“ I don’t want you kids to make me go to a lawyer, and I don’t want them or you meddling in my finances. I don’t quite understand all that, but I pray that Jim left me enough to keep me going. If he didn’t, I don’t want to know.
And I surely don’t want YOU to know you’ll put me in a home! I am not saying a word.
Yes, I’ve really thought about this day, the perfect day, our perfect gathering.
Now, I have truly enjoyed our time together.
Now go home, please. I’m fine. I love you all so very much.
(Don’t forget to call me next week).
If you sense changes in your aging loved ones this holiday season, I can help you sort it out: It’s not only what to look for, it’s then how to talk about it, and then what to DO. My job is to help ensure you and your elders have a say about how things will go and where you’ll end up.
Want more timely tips for the holiday season? See the original blogs from Nancy’s former Holiday Vault, series written over the years as owner and Patient Advocate working inside her former agency NAVIGATE NC.