Be warned that there exists, as you grow older, a point in time when a certain role-reversal takes place. It doesn’t always have a defining moment; in fact, from what I can tell it kind of creeps up on you and suddenly you realize it’s there. Not only is it there, it often requires immediate attention and/or action. It is, of course, the moment you realize you are starting to parent your parent. As in, “Mom, stop crying. I’ll thread the needle for you…No,no, you are not going blind…the thing is really small. Look, even I can’t see it!” Those small moments, where, in the matter of minutes, you begin to do the comforting, problem solving and emotional supporting of the person or people in your life who you thought were absolutely perfect. I mean, they taught you not to swear or pass gas in public, laugh and make fun of others (ok, some of us are still working on that one), cook and do laundry and bathe on a regular basis…they pretty much, except for the odd genetic flaw, made you YOU. All of the sudden, you notice your dad burps at odd times and your mother calls to ask you what she should do because the pharmacy messed up again and she’s so mad but didn’t say anything because she didn’t want to make a scene and you suddenly find yourself telling your dad to stop it, that’s gross and telling your mom you will phone the pharmacy and give them hell. I think I have definately arrived. In ParentTheParentVille.
It has been a few months since my mother had her heart attack. Since then, she has graduated from cardiac rehab, maintained a daily exercise program, revamped the food supply to all things heart-healthy, and has generally done everything she is supposed to do on the path to good health. Despite her good intentions and the support of her family, she is extremely fearful of something going wrong again. I have noticed it in phone calls and conversations…she got dealt a nasty blow and, in many ways, is still on the mend. I was, in fact, getting to the point where I was trying to figure out how to suggest maybe she see a counselor; however, my parents are extremely private people. You don't discuss finances or personal difficulties...they will just work out in time, dammit. (If only they knew about the place called BlogLand where one can rant like a raving lunatic to everyone in the entire world who has an internet connection and everyone can not only read life’s juicy details, they can even make comments if they wish.) Even suggesting my mother “talk to someone” is about as likely as me giving up my evening cocktail. Not gonna happen. Last week, I got a phone call that went something like this:
Mom: As part of my volunteer group, I am taking a training class to assist people who have lost a loved one. I am supposed to help put them in the right direction in case they need help.
WTC: Good! You will be really good at that.
Mom: Wellllll, not really.
WTC: How come? You are good with people and you know practically everyone in town.
Mom: Well, (here came the tears) we were doing a role-playing exercise and I was playing the part of the bereaved person.
Mom: (sniff) I was doing my thing and all of the sudden I started just sobbing. WTC, I was SOBBING! (Is actually sobbing by this point in the conversation)
WTC: Hmmmmmm…what did the other people do?
Mom: The woman in charge took me aside and said she didn’t think it was really time for me to be doing this…that maybe I am just not ready to be counseling sad people.
It turns out this lady happens to be (as luck would have it) a professional counselor who has now offered to “meet” with Mom. My mom explained to me how wonderfully nice this woman is and how it will probably be so good to talk with a professional who will understand what she is feeling and help her get past whatever is going-on. She was practically gushing with relief.
WTC: That sounds great, Mom…It’ll probably do wonders for you.
Mom: Well, you know, it isn't like there's anything WRONG. And of course I am not going to say anything PERSONAL to her.
WTC: Right. Just give her the cliffs notes and you’ll be cured.
Be warned...just think, one day you may be here, too. I'll be sure the bar is stocked when you arrive.