A couple of years before my mother moved in with me, she came for a visit.
I fluttered around her, letting her do hardly anything for herself, helping her up the steps, and holding her arm as she walked along the sidewalk.
My youngest son demonstrated unusual insight after I had helped her down three steps to my townhouse.
He took me aside and said,
"Mom, you're making Grams feel like an old lady. She doesn't even use a cane, but you won't let her walk on her own."
I was surprised at his remark and said,
"But Scott, she's almost ninety. She is old."
He just shrugged, leaving me to think about his remark.
After Mother left, Scott's comment kept coming back to my mind.
Was I responding more to her actual years and ignoring that my mother was in very good health for her age? Was my concern for her safety overriding my ability to see her as an independent woman who was able to do for herself?
Then one day when I was shopping, I tried to get out of my car but was having some difficulty because of an arthritic hip.
I must have looked particularly helpless because a gentleman came and asked if he could help me get out of the car and over to the grocery store. I smiled and thanked him but declined the offer. What I wanted to do was scream,
"I'm not that old!"
I didn't like appearing crippled and needing help. I wanted to do it on my own.
I sat there thinking about my mother and how she must have felt when I tried to protect her. My ninety-six-year-old mother has lived with me now for almost four years. The Lord is teaching me many lessons about caring for the elderly. I thought that taking care of my aging mother would be like watching a child, but the aging person is not a child.
Now, I try to allow her to be as independent as possible, even in small ways. Getting old is difficult enough, but losing your ability to do things you have done all of your life is a deep loss.
Children open new chapters of their lives with each accomplishment, but the elderly are ending their chapters. I pray that the Lord will give me a deeper understanding of how to help my mother keep the remaining chapters of her life open, as long as possible.
© 2013 Barbara Lighthizer