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An Errand for My Mother
By Nancy Jones


(Page 1 of 4)

My mother took the best years of my life. When I was 39 years old, and she 69, she announced quite matter-of-factly during my visit to her home in Worcester, Massachusetts, that she now knew how she would cope with her recent first heart attack: "I'm moving in with you." It was a simple declaration; not really open for discussion.

The year was 1976. I was married and living in New York City in a small apartment with my husband and l0-year-old son. I visited her frequently in Worcester, where she had lived all of her life. It was also the house I associated with "home" even after I married. Living in New York City where my husband had his business and my son was going to school, I always felt quite lucky to be able to return to Worcester. My mother had provided our get-away vacation house, and we would go there whenever we wanted to escape the noise and heat of New York City. Evan, my young son, had enjoyed years of non-city living there and summers at Cape Cod.

My first thought after my mother's blunt announcement was, "Where would we go now?" It's funny how the most picayune thoughts clutter your mind when momentous things are happening. When my father died of a massive heart attack in 1948, I was only 10 years old; and although I adored him and would miss him terribly in the years to come, my first question to my mother was, "Well, who's going to feed us now?" I meant the question quite literally since he had been the cook in the family. Every weekend while my mother did housework, he did the cooking, preparing the most sumptuous meals.

I remember how alarmed and irritated my mother was with that question. "What's that got to do with anything?" she snapped, no doubt preoccupied with her almost unbearable loss. Now again, when my life was about to be turned upside down, I was asking another seemingly irrelevant question: But what will we do for a vacation home? When the shock of what we were both saying to each other ceased to reverberate, my mother explained what was behind her epiphany. "I probably will live only another year or two considering my ill health, and since you have an extra bedroom in your apartment, I'll move in with you. Why shouldn't I spend my last years helping my daughter? Id rather save my money and give it to you.  This declaration was coming from a woman who had vowed to all her friends that she would never, ever live with either one of her two daughters. "It would put too much of a strain on them." When I think back on this episode in my life, I wonder why I never thought to suggest another housing alternative. I think that I, too, believed she would not live that long. And how could I deny the poor woman her last request? When my mother was born in 1908, life expectancy was not more than 50 years, not the mid-70s of today. Many of my relatives had died before they reached 60.

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