Everyone Has a Story

Perspectives on Aging

Can I Get You Anything Else?

Things were not going well. I had a lovely friendship with my mother and when she needed more assistance, it seemed a natural step to have her move in with me.  Three months later, I was questioning our decision as I’d never seen her so unhappy.

I tried everything to make things easy for her. Somehow, I thought if I could just do more it would make things better.  I took care of all the household chores, ran every errand, cooked her favorite meals, took her on outings and tried to make sure my mom didn’t want for anything. But nothing seemed to help. There was always some complaint which I dutifully added to my list to fix or change. I didn’t understand how the more I did, the more dispirited she became.

One sunny day, I took my mother out to visit our dear friend, Loretta.  We were having tea in the living room that overlooked the foothills which were awash in beautiful fall colors. My mother finished her tea and held her cup out to the side while continuing to chat with her friend. I was sitting on the other side of the room and quickly moved to take her cup. I took the cup, refilled it and gave it back to her without a word. She never stopped her conversation knowing I was standing by to get her what she needed.  I didn’t notice the shocked look on Loretta’s face as my full attention was on my mom to see if she wanted anything else.

The next day, Loretta called, and we talked about the tea incident. It took some time, but she helped me to understand that my actions were contributing to the problem. By trying to do everything, I was whittling away my mom’s feeling of independence. My intention was to help but instead I was handicapping her sense of relevance. It was a painful lesson as my idea of being lovingly helpful was not what she needed. I began making small changes and made more balanced decisions of when and how to help. I can laugh about it today even though it was a very difficult time. I learned because my friend gave me the gift of insight. I learned to assess the right time to ask, “Can I get you anything else?”

I’ve Had Enough

It had been a busy day. Mom was in great spirits as we were having good friends over for dinner. The house was ready, the table set, and I was busy in the kitchen.  I casually suggested to Mom that she could rest for a bit while I prepared dinner. I knew her energy often didn’t keep up with how much she wanted to do. My idea was immediately dismissed, and she continued working on her projects.

Everyone arrived early and the afternoon was filled with conversation and laughter. The energy level was high and enthusiastic, and Mom enjoyed being the center of attention. Dinner was a boisterous affair with lots of talking and sharing of stories.

I could see Mom’s energy lagging after dessert but knowing how much she relished social interaction; I didn’t begin wrapping up the evening. However, not much later, it was apparent Mom was ready to call it a day. She stood up and simply said, “Thank you for a wonderful evening but I’ve had enough. I’m going to bed. Good night.”  It was an effective conversation stopper. 

Everyone gave their goodbyes and headed out. It was still a lovely evening despite the abrupt ending but I learned an important reminder — pay attention to clues and my intuition.

But He Said He Wanted to Move

“You won’t believe what’s going on,” my friend blurted the moment we sat down for lunch.  Over the past several months Sue had kept me up to date on the changing saga surrounding the move of her father.  The entire family had chimed in and a decision was made.  To be continued…

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