If you would like to see a textbook example of selfishness, look no further than Dvora Meyers’ recent article on Slate. I’ll sit here and wait while you read.
Let me know when you get to the author’s soul crushing realization that the world doesn’t revolve around her.
There’s a great deal of petulance and selfishness in Ms. Meyers attitude towards caring for her aging mother. Like the author, my mother was 42 when I was born. In fact, she was a month away from 43. Dad was 45. Also, full disclosure, I am the youngest of seven. My parents’ ages were something that I was cognizant about from very early in my life and their impending deaths were something that I’d always prepared for. There is where any similarity ends.
What infuriates me about Meyers’ “Why Me?” attitude is that it runs counter to what a child must do when a parent becomes infirm. Aging is part of the game of life and parents are not immune. There will come a time for my children, long away I hope it is, that they will need to look after me and make sure that I don’t run off with any starlets intent on blowing their inheritance. It’s part of the parent-child bond. They cared for you when you were not able to look after yourself, so why do they not get that same respect?
Meyers’ mother could have had her at 35 or 30 or 25 and just as easily been hit by a bus or riddled with terminal cancer well before Meyers reached whatever she considers an acceptable age. Or her mother could’ve developed multiple sclerosis and her wannabe writer daughter might have turned to caregiver before she went to prom.
Unfortunately, there is no time table for when your parents begin to decline and die. I was lucky, perhaps, in that both of my parents made it to 80 and were able to lavish love upon my daughters. I’m lucky, too, in having three brothers and three sisters to have shared in their care taking. Beyond the physical toil, losing a parent is a horrible existential situation. My siblings are still around to share stories about mom and dad and growing up. A friend of mine is losing her mother to Alzheimer’s and, being an only child, losing all of the memories and stories from when she was growing up. Not only does she have to go through this alone but she loses a great deal of family when her mother does pass. My ex nursed both of her parents through their terminal illnesses with only me and the long distance support of her sister. The point is, you don’t throw a hissy fit when your elderly parents become ill. You take care of them. You don’t shunt them off to Florida, you don’t consign them to the elderly relatives, and you certainly don’t quarantine them in a nursing home to live out their time in drugged, lonely atmosphere.
Sometimes, you have to go home again.
We, as children, are obligated to take care of our parents because that is what families do. If that means putting our careers on hold, so be it. If it means doing it without the help of siblings, so be it. There is no stomping of foot and screaming “No Fair!” when loved ones need our help. Even if your mother did promise not to put you through what she went through.
You play the hand you are dealt. You don’t whine about it. You love.