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Humor September 2015

Agelessly Yours

Everyday Caregivers — May Heaven Help Them!

By Karen White-Walker

Nope, I'm not suicidal nor am I prone to depression. In fact, I have a propensity for joy and laughter, but I'm one of four surviving daughters of parents who were ages 87 and 91, and let me tell you, that surviving stuff was killing me — and my sisters!

It's pretty darn unlikely that I'll be curtailing anymore my intake of sugar, salt, saturated fats, or upping the numbers of those backed-up-sewer-looking high-fiber muffins that taste like a gourmet version of a laxative. How many of us have subjected ourselves to such torture all in the name of procuring longevity, and for what? I'll tell you for what! So we may endure heartache and heartburn caused by incessantly worrying that we'll be a “burden” to our loved ones “later on.”

Yep, tonight it'll be Alfredo sauce over linguini (otherwise known as heart attack on a plate) apple pie with a lard-laden crust, and I'll wash it all down with a margarita in a heavily salted, crusted-rimmed glass. Nope, I'm not suicidal nor am I prone to depression. In fact, I have a propensity for joy and laughter, but I'm one of four surviving daughters of parents who were ages 87 and 91, and let me tell you, that surviving stuff was killing me — and my sisters!

Please don't get us wrong, we deeply loved and revered our parents — they were truly adorable folks, but for them claiming to be such independent souls, they sure both required almost round-the-clock supervision. My sister Joyce did their cooking, Mary the laundry, and Beth chaperoned them to countless doctors' appointments, and I, well, I prayed that all three of them remain darn healthy enough to carry out all of their duties.

You see, I'm the out-of-towner who lives 1,500 miles away, but three times a year for six weeks at a time, I visited and practically single-handedly took on all my sisters' parental responsibilities without complaining. Well, maybe I walked around with a martyred expression on my face, and occasionally mentioned my sacrificing nature in all the articles that I write, but that's positively, absolutely it!

You might say Dad was hard, but Mom, she seemed to want only her “girls” around. We were her sole entertainment and c'mon, if we were that amusing, wouldn't our faces be plastered on some magazine cover? And today we would unquestionably have our own reality show so viewers could gain insight into how to brighten one's parents' day. By the way, how does one pull that off? Really, any moving body should excite and capture anybody's aging parents' attention because if they're crowding 90 or over, they're practically chained to the couch, am I right?

"Maybe if you let me help you get up so you can walk into the kitchen," I'd suggest to Dad.

"Slow down, girl, slow down," he ordered." With you it's always rush, rush, rush! What are ya, going to a funeral?"

Yeah, mine, I wanted to utter, because I could feel myself hyperventilating and a lightheadedness settling over me, all because such a big deal was made over my wanting to help?

If we girls were late with our daily phone calls Mom answered like she was in need of CPR. "Thank God, it's you! I thought something terrible happened. I'm so relieved the phone rang because it feels like it's been forever since I've heard a human voice."

"There's Dad's voice to hear, isn't there?"

"I don't know, is there?" she slightly snapped. "He's been resting since he got up this morning and besides, like there's something new to say to each other after 68 years of marriage?"

"Maybe nothing new to say, Ma, but you both sure always manage to fight over something – anything!"

Oh, why did my mean streak have to surface without provocation?

"Listen Ma, that was just a little joke," I stammered. "Didn't you hear how lilting and playful my tone was?"

"That's why I love being around my girls so much," she actually giggled, "you all are so darn funny," and I could have sworn that I heard her slap her thigh like she was having a jolly, good old time.

There's one haunting incident, one old-time saying, and such wisdom from Mother Teresa that guaranteed that my sisters and I would forever remain guardians to our mother and father.

You might need a hanky because it will surely break your heart. There was an aging mother who was a guest in her son's and daughter's-in-law home. The couple was hosting an elaborate dinner party for their friends, but this mother's insensitive son informed her that she would have to eat in the kitchen because there'd be no room at the dining room table. As his mother sat quietly alone at the kitchen table, the swinging doors suddenly opened, and there, amidst the gaiety and laughter, this lonesome little lady saw that there was indeed, plenty of room at the guests' table. She lay down her fork, but it was the knife stuck in her heart that she couldn't quite get at.

There's an old adage that says, "A mother can take care of eight children, but eight children can't take care of one mother." Well, half that number and my sisters and I were out to prove that that saying was all wrong. Just tell some “kids” that they can't do something and they'll do it for sure!

While Mother Teresa was still with us, she was voted the most admired person in the world. Almost every dignitary loved and admired her and the diminutive sari-clad religious Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke at the highest learning institutions in the world.

"Mother," one student asked her at Harvard University, "what can I do to promote world peace?"

"Go home and love your family," was her simple, direct reply.

Years ago Mother would not have needed to tell our family that, for during the good years when everybody was so young and vibrant, we were nothing but a delightful bunch to be around and so easy on the nerves — honest. But now because we daughters are now aging, our aggravating tendencies and slower movements seem to be intensifying and we think we might be turning into our parents. How do I know this? My birthday card arrived the other day and it read — "On your birthday, Sis, don't worry that you're turning into Mom — be grateful you're not turning into Dad!"

Laughter, it transcends all ages and connects all people, and you know something? We, the four daughters, seemed to be laughing more when caring for our aging parents. Kids aren't the only ones who say the darndest things — older folks do, too.

 

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