Friday, February 12, 2010

Family Sandwich at a Certain Age

I have so many visitors stopping by, sent by Une Femme to have a peek at my red bag, worn with my new shoes, that I feel somewhat self-conscious. Many of you -- and welcome! so good of you to stop by! -- are only here to see shoes and clothes, but as the name of my blog suggests, I often chat about family, especially as it concerns women of a certain age. In my case, that age means that not only do I have four adult children (I know, crazy lack in the English language -- requires an oxymoron!), but I also have a gorgeous young granddaughter and I have a mother and many, many sibs.

And if you can feel sandwich-squished between parents and children in the early middle years, and I know you can, you can feel even more caught between children, grandchildren, and aging parents in the late middle, early senior years (okay, I know, I know, I'm really more senior than middle, but let me ease into it gently, will you?).

While work has me in one place during the week (and during term, work is very busy, consuming evenings and weekends quite rapaciously), family pulls me rather compulsively on weekends toward Vancouver where my husband works and where most of the family lives. That's where my granddaughter is, and I want to see her often so I don't miss a step, and that's where my three daughters and their partners are, and we love catching a meal with one or other of them. But it's also where my mom and many of my siblings live, except that visiting mom requires a half-hour car trip one-way, so those trips are more guilt than pleasure-propelled.

This past year has seen my mom settling into a new and lovely condo -- she seemed to be managing her independence fairly well, although she's been depressed and dismayed at the (diagnosed) Mild Cognitive Impairment that's creeping into her life. My sibs have been great, with someone stopping by almost daily, checking meds, taking her for the walks she loves, driving her to dentist and doctor appointments, arranging Driving Miss Daisy services for her so that she can get to the concerts she loves.

Much more difficult to cope with has been mom's relationship with someone she calls a friend, although we have long suspected he's more than that. A long-time friend of my father's as well, we've known this man since my teen years, and I have to admit he's not a favourite. He doesn't hesitate to express judgmental and reactionary opinions, and he can be fairly keen to criticize youth, which seems to be widely defined (heck! I might even be an occasional target for critique!). That said, he's good to Mom and still drives, at 84, which she no longer does, so she can get out places during the day when we're all working. And they've gone on several road trips together so she can get to see her sister in the interior, which she likes very much. Most of us realize that we don't have to like him to treat him graciously, as we would any friend of mom's, but there have been a few holdouts, and the situation's been complicated by Mom being evasive about the relationship to the point of deceit (understandable, in many ways, but plans have been scuttled, appointments missed, to serve her evasiveness--frustrating).

Anyway, this past week she's come clean -- with a vengeance! Apparently, she's been proposed to, and, she says a bit defensively, she's accepted. Roses and hearts and champagne and hurrahs, well and good, we'll try to get to that, but meanwhile, certain concerns about how, now, to ensure that she will be looked after 'til the end of her days, when the financial situation gets considerably muddied by the legal complications of marriage. My sister, a very savvy para-legal, has power-of-attorney, but is not willing to exercise it and overrule, recognizing the unfairness of such a move, but we're all feeling pretty protective, indeed. At the same time, we recognize our own biases and we wish mom the comfort and companionship and sense of security that she clearly craves.

So I'm heading to Vancouver later today, fighting my way through the traffic that's sure to result from the Opening Ceremonies. Some time tomorrow or Sunday, I'm hoping to visit Mom and reassure her and myself about the big step she's taking. Tomorrow or Saturday I'm also hoping I can visit little Nola and her big people. And then Sunday evening my sisters and sisters-in-law are getting together to vent and worry and laugh and cry and celebrate. We don't do this often enough, but when we do, it reminds me why all the sandwich-squishing that a family involves is well worth it.

If you were here for the shoes or the bags, I'm sorry. But shoes are for walking through life and bags are for carrying what you need in that life. So sometimes when you talk about shoes and you talk about bags, you get 'round to talking about that life as well. At least, that's what seems to happen here, at Materfamilias Writes!


  1. I come here for you, whatever you write, as you know. Although I am also a huge fan of those new shoes. Your mom is getting married? And the guy is not well-liked? Hmmm. My best wishes. I will say, no harm in taking a stand of protection if protection is required.

  2. Wow,wow. Great big steps to be taken by your mother. Did this come as a complete surprise? I´m following your blog, because you provide a wide line of subjects and you seem interested and taking part in just about everything. Each post is different, interesting. If you showed no interest at all to `the light stuff´( shoes, bags, etc.), maybe you would seem too perfect to be. Having no siblings at all, no parents alive, it is interesting to read about someone who is in a totally opposite situation. Have a nice weekend!/m

  3. materfamilias - I come here to check in with a friend. :-)

    Ah, interesting family situation there. The balance between being protective and allowing her as much independence as you can isn't easy to find. I wish you and your family much luck as you navigate those waters.

  4. I come everyday looking for you, not just for the shoes or the bags, (who is the bag by?) they are fun and I love seeing the polyvores on the floors...
    Your current family challenge is a tricky one to be sure. Hope that the visit will settle any reservations that you and the family might have.
    Nola will no doubt make your stay worthwhile!

  5. I came for the shoes and bags, but I am in roughly the same situation you are - although, thankfully, Mom doesn't have a current romance. It is instructive to see how other women deal with having grown children on the one side, and aging parents on the other. I certainly need all the help I can get, as things develop.

    I'll be visiting more - I've bookmarked your blog.

  6. By now (I don't even know how long I've been reading)I simply come to see what you are up to. I enjoy your stories of family, I LOVE your style and like hearing about all the cool things you do on your weekends in Vancouver. That's a tricky situation with your mother -there must be a lot of different feelings there but I know that you and your family will keep the focus on her happiness and security.

    On another topic - have you made your plans yet for Paris this spring? We just booked our flights for early August - we will spend my 50th birthday in the City of Light!! Patricia

  7. lpc: Thanks -- somehow the way you put the situation so clearly makes me feel less responsible, less guilty for not liking. I find that clarity really helpful -- I will be as gracious and kind as I can, but liking is tough to will . . .
    Metscan: thanks for the kind words, and I'm glad you do keep visiting. And no, it shouldn't have been a huge surprise if we'd ignored what mom kept telling us . . . as my husband said, "wow, your spidey sense was tingling"
    Pseu: and thank you, friend!
    and yes, it will be tricky, but at least there's much good will.
    hhb: Thanks! The bag's by Adrian Klis, Canada Leathers -- really great value for the price
    g: it's tough, isn't it? We try to respect mom's dignity and independence as much as possible, but she knows she's not as sharp as she was. And none of us can know what the future will bring.
    Patricia: Yes, and I really appreciate your visits and I miss them when you're away.
    As for Paris, we're holding off decisions on what we'll do this year, but spring will be a change from our usual plans. We're still hoping for a visit there within the year though -- what a lovely way to spend your 50th!

  8. Thank you for the warm welcome, mater! Mom went through a very rough patch last year, living alone and refusing to change her life-style until she had a medical crisis. It took an effort by all 4 of her grown children to help her change her life, but now, a little over a year later, she is still going strong at 84.

    Patricia, we just went to Paris last July; it was my very first time in France, and it was quite wonderful. If you feel inclined to visit, I wrote a lot about our trip on my blog.

    It is about much more than shoes and bags - but, mater, I just ordered a pair of oxford-style pumps on line last night after your inspiration!

  9. Wow, this is big. Really big. So much adjustment for everyone. The paralegal can brief you on family property law, etc. but no one can make someone like someone he or she does not. Nor should they. It's one thing to be civil to him and congratulatory to your mother (who I am guessing desperately hopes for that), another to *like* the man.

    For me, it would be about his behaviour toward your mother- whether he is kind, affectionate and fair. The same things we wanted in our husbands, and got! :)

  10. Woah, a deja-vu post for me, since my mother too appears to have had a secret life with all too similar convoluted deceptions. The whole marriage thing must be unsettling though for you at least I have been spared that for now.
    I love the heady mix of family versus fashion in this and other blogs. It; makes for a far more interesting mix.

  11. Further proof of what a gifted writer you are.

    I've always envied big families with all their love and complications and misunderstandings and all the rest. It must be wonderful.

    My mother was proposed to in her late 70s by a lovely man our family knew before I was born. Her response was: "Don't you think we're a little too old?" He replied: "Maybe you're right."

    And that was that. He was such a sweetheart and her life would have been so much happier with him. I think if he had persisted, but who knows?

    It's a shame the family doesn't particularly like your mother's beau. In France no matter how much or how little money, property, etc. one has, marriage contracts are the rule. It's part of the culture. No one is offended. It is a perfect solution to a delicate problem: What's yours is yours;what's mine is mine -- particularly at 80-something.

    Did I get too personal? If so I apologize.

    And btw, Happy, Happy Valentine's Day.


  12. g: wonderful that your mother is back in her stride at 84! and you'll be striding along happily in your new oxfords -- happy to inspire!
    duchesse: a wise analysis. he has some very tough shoes to fill -- my dad treated my mom so well. it makes me sad that mom still doesn't get taken to the music concerts, opera, etc., that's so very important to her, but I do think he treats her well in many ways. The biggest hurdle is the financial-legal, and we may not be able to control everything we'd like to. . .
    Alison: especially given what mom's expected of us in our upbringing, the lack of honesty has been tough to manage -- still, I can almost see why she's taken this route. Old age doesn't look like a picnic.
    Tish: While I can see why you might have wished the romance for your mom, I admire the independence that let her resist -- something my mom lacks, that kind of independence. Nor does my mom have romance in this relationship, as far as we can tell, but rather a way to have company and security, nothing to sneeze at, certainly, but not to be settled for in no matter what package either, perhaps. I do wish we had the French approach to pre-nups here. Meanwhile, though, a few key players including my mom's wonderful and trusted physician are urging separate finances and perhaps even residences (his would take her a 90-minute drive away from most family, her regular doctor, etc., and she doesn't drive!)
    And no, not too personal at all, and thoughtfully offered.
    Happy Valentine's Day back to you!

  13. Like the others, I am here for you. You can write about anything you want and I will happily read it.

    I understand having an older mother with a BF you are not thrilled with. My mother, at 80, had a beau who delighted in telling racist and misogynist jokes. He knew it drove me cookaloo and because of that he did it more. Happily he is out of her life.

    Hope your weekend is filled with all the things you love, including shoes and bags.;-)

  14. Old age can be so lonely (I see it all the time, I run a hospice home). It's wonderful that your mom has a friend to keep her company. As long as he loves her and she maintains her financial independence, she should be fine.

  15. I always come for you, and whatever you write is interesting and well-thought and well-stated.

    As for your mother, it sounds like you are negotiating the difficult waters of dealing with an elderly parent well. Not liking is not liking and cannot be helped. If he makes her happy and treats her well, and she is happy that is probably enough. The diagnosis of any form of dementia is frightening and unsettling and I am certain that the idea of a companion is a reassuring thing at this stage of her life, even though your mother knows she has loving children who will take her interests to heart.

    All that said, protection of your mothers interests and well-being are necessary, but completely separate from personal feelings.

    It is tough, the evasiveness and lack of honesty must be hard when you have been reared to respect honesty, but I think this also relates to the issues of aging and dementia. You should not take this too much to heart as it is a common symptom and reaction of an aging brain that is sometimes floundering.

    It is too bad that prenups are not necessarily more common here or there, and that we cannot more efficiently separate the legal and the emotional sides of marriage when necessary.

  16. LBR: Yikes! Good reminder to me that it could be worse. At least this guy keeps his misogyny and racism quiet most of the time.
    Angie: Hospice work -- tough and rewarding! And I'm sure you do see much loneliness.
    Mardel: You're so understanding. Even before the creeping cognitive impairment, my mom's personality has always been a challenge. This only exacerbates, although in other ways, because it's a medical condition, it makes some aspects more tolerable -- or us more tolerant!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...