I’ve moved in with my elderly mother. She has been living alone in the house I grew up in since my father passed early last year. Other than being on a first name basis with everyone at AllState and the local body shop, she has been faring pretty well. She is lonely, I am sure, but the three telephone calls a day following my dad’s death became one, then finally normalized to the one or two a week pattern we’ve had for the past thirty years.
Her health has been deteriorating, but I stubbornly contend this is as a result of years of abusive diet roller coaster rides, mostly free fall, and a largely sedentary lifestyle. She isn’t at death’s doorstep, by any means, but she is certainly dancing around on his front porch, at eighty nine years old with a list of serious ailments almost as long as her driving record.
I am quite certain she values her freedom and independence, as do I. As the only child, I really have no one to consult regarding those difficult decisions adult children have to make; requiring she give up driving, pursue or refuse life prolonging treatment, move into assisted living. My personal philosophy on all this is that it is her decision. I am not going to persuade or dissuade her in any way from what she wants. The consequences be what they may. I inherited my intense stubbornness from her and my thinking is that two intensely stubborn people trying out “out devil’s advocate” each other on topics of such magnitude is probably not in anyone’s best interest.
Don’t get me wrong, we have always “been close”. I like to think that my mom and I have always had the type of relationship most hope for. Until recently. Now, in my middle age, I recognize the relentless poking and prodding and antagonizing we inflict on each other. And when I really think back, it has always been this way. She has always poked, prodded, needled, and tried to provoke me, and my dad, too, into some type of reaction. Usually negative. Usually us lashing out or poking, prodding, needling and provocation in retaliation. I have almost always stood my ground if for no other reason than to be right. Not convincing her to my way of thinking, of course. But right, if only in my own mind. I have been trying to teach myself, lately, that sometimes, just letting it go and not reacting is actually “winning”. Not that it’s all about winning. But it is.
Enter into this idyllic scene, my daughter, visiting briefly from upstate New York. Now, my daughter and I are extremely close. We have an occasional moment, but for the most part, and I think she’d agree, we are more aligned on just about everything than my mom and I are. Fashion. Food. Fitness. Politics. Religion. Philosophy. Media preferences. Leisure time activities. Life.
My daughter has also inherited the stubbornness gene. There are now three strong willed, stubborn, and somewhat selfish and self-righteous women living under one roof for a full ten days. My daughter did not specifically come to visit me, or my mother, we are just providing free lodging and some transportation, which is fine and I fully understand. She came to attend an annual convention for a youth group she has been involved with for the past several years. She also hoped to catch up with friends she didn’t meet up with during her last visit during the holidays.
The day after her arrival, my daughter and I decided to strategically remove ourselves from the house to a local wifi hotspot to work, study, read, write, people watch, but most importantly, in order to try to regain our sanity after an intense session of “here, eat this highly processed, genetically modified, fertilized, pesticide laced, food like substance that contains enriched flour, refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated fat, and a list of chemical additives you can’t pronounce, that you used to eat and enjoy all the time, that I know you won’t eat but like to force on you anyway because I bought it on sale, with a coupon, because it is approaching the expiration date on the package even though I know you don’t generally eat food that is processed, poisoned, packaged and that have an expiration date.”
We three have our definite differences in philosophies on food and fitness. My daughter an I eat organic and work out religiously, believing that both will provide the strength, endurance and flexibility to ensure a long, active, healthful life and the independence and fortitude to enjoy it to the very last moment. My mom has always embraced technological advances in processed foods and believes exercising wears out your joints, causes arthritis and is a health risk. And she was a registered nurse, and against her wishes, neither of us are, which means the argument is over, in her eyes.
So, back to the point. We were a few blocks from our destination, a local tourist attraction/wifi hotspot, which, ironically, is an eclectic collection of food venues, though most likely more wholesome than what we were being “offered” at home. Pandora muted and my cell phone started vibrating and buzzing. The screen identified the caller as “Mommy and Daddy”. I answered and the shaky voice on the other end of the call was all I needed to hear to know we weren’t going to Oxbow Market. Mom had been to the lab for her routine blood work for one of her conditions I can never seem to remember. Anemia, but not quite leukemia. The results were alarming and the clinic wanted her to go to the emergency room immediately. We made a series of left hand turns to correct our direction in a small town that has a frustrating affinity for one way streets. We piled Mom into the car after she reapplied her lipstick and gathered her cosmetic case together. Pride in appearance is one thing the three of us do agree on.
She ended up spending the night in the emergency ward in order to receive a transfusion, three units, to elevate her hemoglobin count to normal. We stayed the whole day with her, the whole evening, and finally headed back to Napa with just enough time to swing by Whole Foods for some real food for dinner before they closed. However, much to our disappointment, the Napa Whole Foods closes a full hour earlier than the Whole Foods I recently moved away from. We made do with a frozen, organic pizza and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s from the only grocery store we could find open at 9:13 PM. And some beer.
The next morning, we awoke with our day preplanned for us. Not working, for me, with deadlines looming. Not visiting friends, for my daughter, but going to the dreary hospital for however long before, hopefully, Mom was discharged. My daughter was upset to the point of tears, and wracked with guilt for her selfish thoughts. I was to the point of tears with resentment at this development and the toll it would take on my freedom, my ability to travel, which is required for my job and for my long distance relationship, my resentment for being the only child, and the guilt for these thoughts.
Mom was discharged and then nearly readmitted for the theatrics she employed over a leg cramp resulting from a diuretic she’d been administered. I tend to be extremely stoic and actually, quite intolerant of theatrics, performed by others. I think my daughter feels similarly. We were annoyed, and frustrated, not moved to compassion or sympathy. We three even have differing styles of manipulation. Sigh. Miraculously, we got her to the car and home. Then the long day of sitting home and doing nothing began. At least I could sort of work, between interruptions.
My daughter and I’d had hopes of trying out local yoga venues, the Dailey Bar Method in a neighboring town, the various health clubs in town, since none of the three I currently pay dues to are within a reasonable driving distance. All these plans were now sidelined. We haven’t worked out at all, which negatively impacts our mood. Tension rose further. I, thankfully, was able to rely on my son to stay with Mom over the weekend so my daughter and I could attend the youth group convention, from which my daughter was to participate in a graduation ceremony, having reached the age of majority. This would be her only opportunity, ever, to receive this honor and the main reason she parted with a significant portion of her savings to fly to California.
We did make a trial attempt at short lived freedom later in the afternoon, with a trip to Whole Foods for some greens, some dark chocolate, some local beer and some wine. We found a wine from a neighboring county (ssshhhh) that was made from organic grapes. A Zinfandel. We were elated at our successful foray from the house, at our successful attempt to enter the doors of Whole Foods during their business hours, and at our purchase of real, recognizable foods. We returned home reinvigorated, rejuvenated and ravenous. I prepared a meal of udon noodles, homemade marinara sauce with ground moose meat my sweetie killed, processed and packaged himself, which I brought home in the checked bag a week earlier that I’d used to bring him California wine. Totally worth that extra twenty bucks for the second checked bag. With our “spaghetti” the three of us thoroughly enjoyed the organic wine. Over that bottle of wine, we got giggly, had good nourishment, good conversation and a good time. Differences of opinion, philosophies, preferences, lifestyles were all set aside and we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. We laughed, we smiled, we felt blessed to be three generations of fiercely strong, stubborn, opinionated, independent women, under one roof, sharing a bottle of wine.