Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Girls' Day Out

A couple of times a year Mother and I get the opportunity to spend the day together doing "girl stuff" - usually running errands and shopping for things she needs help getting, and eating a nice lunch somewhere. Last Saturday was our spring opportunity.

It was a pretty normal day - groceries, a few plants for the garden, a visit with my Aunt Margaret who is mother's only remaining sister, lunch overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, and shopping for bras. Yes, that.

Remember the first time your ma took you to purchase a bra? The embarrassment, the fumbling, the frustration of finding the right size? Well, it's no different when the roles are reversed and the purchaser is your 80-year old mother and you are the fitting expert. Like all of us, she had waited until it was way too late, and there was absolutely no elastic left in the old one. The tag was too worn to read the size and her figure has changed radically in the past few years, so basically we started at ground zero - fitting-wize. All I can say is that Otto Titzlinger earned his money on this one!

The actual finding of the right bra wasn't so hard, it was the change in roles that reminded me of the long term change that is happening. I know that mother needs my help more and more, but this was a rather intimate item and it was awkward to be helping her in ways that I think she probably helped me about 50 years ago.

Later, we visited with Aunt Margaret who is nearly 96, and practically bedridden. Her mind has been in good shape, but this visit she seemed confused and didn't make sense sometimes. For the first time I worried that she may be reaching the end of her run. So, twice in one day I was reminded of the fragility of old age, and of our changing roles as daughters, nieces and caretakers. It's a lot easier to rail against the decisions one's mother makes when she is in charge, than it is to begin to take charge oneself.

Where 10 years ago I would have called Mother to seek her opinion about a health issue, or a job change, or what to plant in my garden, she isn't mentally acute enough now to give those opinions, and it is more likely that she will be calling me to ask advice on medical decisions or financial ones. I'm happy to be available to her, but know what it costs her in independence to have to ask. She is a very independent lady, who wants "to do it ownself" and for whom the worst part of old age is needing to ask for assistance.

So we continue along the bell curve of life. As I approach the top of the curve, Mother is moving steadily down the far side - from weakness to strength to weakness again. So it is with life, and so we all play our parts in this great game of family.

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