My mother is 85-years-old. She lives with my sister's family, having moved in with them about six months ago. They are discovering that as much as they love my mother, having her with them constrains their lives.
They worry about my mother. They worry about keeping me informed about my mother. They worry about keeping peace both within their home and within the extended family. For them, this is a new experience.
Our maternal grandparents lived with our parents for nearly 15 years, and they encountered many of the same difficulties. However, watching grandparents and parents interact from afar is different from actually living with your own aging parent. My sister has forgotten much of what happened in our family. So, normal changes in my mother alarm her and her family.
On the telephone last week, my sister said in a hushed tone, "Mother's memory is getting worse." I assured her this was typical and had been coming on for several years.
Then she said, "She sometimes can't remember what she ate for breakfast that morning." So I assured her that short-term memory is usually the first to go.
Still, my sister reiterated, "She can remember things from her childhood, but not recent events." I patiently affirmed that this is a common symptom of short-term memory loss.
Then my sister said, "She accuses us of not telling her things like we had planned on going out to eat tonight." Working hard not to laugh, I stated that what Mother was told over the past 24-48 hours was part of her short-term memory, which is usually the first to go.
After that phone call, I realized that life wasn’t working out for my sister the way it does in movies and novels. Our lives don't always work out the way we planned. We often find ourselves asking, "Now what?" Then we realize that the only thing we have to change is everything.
My fourth grade teacher once stated, "The day we quit changing is the day we die." The sooner we accept that inevitability, the easier life becomes.
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