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Reflections August 2017

Laverne's View

Let's Trade Places For a Moment

By Laverne Bardy

The wrinkles on our faces, and the canes that we lean on are not indicative of who we are. We do not want to be viewed with pity, disdain, tolerance or condescension. We don't want to be a burden. We ask only that you be patient, and understand that while all of this is new for you, it is also new for us.

"Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them." –  Paulo Coelho

I was sitting in my favorite Japanese restaurant, alone, doing the two things I love most: eating sushi and eavesdropping. Two men, probably in their mid-50s, were seated in a booth behind me, discussing their mothers. Their conversation was so absorbing that I grabbed pen and pad from my purse and began taking notes.

"She drives me crazy," said Son #1. "She calls every f - - -ing day, complaining that I don't call. I asked what difference it makes who does the calling if we speak every day? But, she wants me to call her. And, each time we speak, she needs a full report of that day's activities. I dread hearing the phone ring. I mean –  I love her, but I don't have time for this crap. She needs to get a life."

"That's gotta be tough on you. I guess she's lonely since your dad died," said Son #2.

"She plays bridge on Wednesdays, and the senior bus takes her to the market once a week, so I doubt she's lonely."

Every woman's fantasy life.

"Does she drive?"

"No more. Her eyesight isn't great, so after she had a near miss on the road, we took her keys. She wasn't happy about it."

"Hey, I get it. What choice did you have?"

Touch my car keys and you're dead.

"She'd like to move to a senior retirement place. The one she wants is 50 minutes away. Too far. Besides, I hear a lot of sex goes on in those places. Not really the environment I want my mother exposed to."

"Well, get this ," said Son #2. "My mother, who's 73, made a plane reservation for California. I can't get her to sit in one place for more than five minutes. She'll be traveling, cross country, alone! And when she gets there, she'll be shacking up with an old boyfriend she reconnected with on Facebook, which makes me sick to think about. I'm damn sure they won't be playing Tiddlywinks. I wish to hell she'd act her age."

I stopped chewing.

What the hell does that mean? I've read books on what to expect from infants, toddlers and teenagers, but, if there's one titled “Characteristics Commonly Found in Women Over Seventy,” I missed it. And, by the way, Dummy, it's not as if she'll be piloting the plane. She'll be securely seated in one place – for more than five minutes –  which should thrill you. Furthermore, there's no expiration date on one's sex drive, so get over it.

It was all I could do to keep from turning around and poking him in the face with a chopstick.

"Does she have anything physically wrong that could prevent her from traveling alone?" asked Son #1.

"Not really. She has some arthritis in her back and she did have a hip replacement, but she says she's fine. Still, the woman's much too old to be traipsing around the country herself. I tried to talk her out of it but she blew me off."

By the time I finished eating, my head was throbbing. One son had neither empathy nor time for his lonely mother, who had become a pain in his sanctimonious ass. The other son would have been happy to contain his spirited mother within the confines of a fenced-in yard. Perhaps if he tossed her a pair of earphones and a bag of salted almonds, he could convince her she was in a plane.

How much easier both sons’ lives would be without these burdensome women.

On my drive home I tried to see both sides. Was there any validity in what these men were saying? Was Mother #1 too clingy? Should she not lean so heavily on her son and aim at making a new life for herself? Had alternate forms of transportation been discussed when they removed her keys? Was her son's exasperation justified?

Was Son #2 reasonable in his attempt to frustrate his mother's travel plans? Should his worries take precedent over her desires? Were his negativity and criticism his way of showing loving concern, or did he, quite simply, resent having an additional thing to worry about?

It suddenly occurred to me that I might not be the right person to judge these men. My parents died young. Losing them left a huge hole in my heart. I missed out on the enjoyment of having an adult relationship with them. But, I now understood that their deaths also freed me from the worries, demands and exasperation I might be experiencing if I had to care for them today.

I would hope that while adult children are trying to cope with aging parents they take a moment to understand that the wrinkles on our faces, and the canes that we lean on are not indicative of who we are. We do not want to be viewed with pity, disdain, tolerance or condescension. We don't want to be a burden. We ask only that you be patient, and understand that while all of this is new for you, it is also new for us.

Please take time to talk and to listen to us. You might be pleasantly surprised to find that we are witty, charismatic, well informed about a wide range of subjects, and still full of life. We ask that you discard your preconceived notions about our generation and be cognizant of the fact that one day, you will be us. 

Equally important is, your children are watching. How you treat us will, likely, be how they treat you.

 

Laverne's book, "How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old?" is available at  amazon.com and other online bookstores. Website: www.lavernebardy.com - E-mail her at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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