Parenting Our Parents
By Robbin Whachell
Dec 22, 2016 - 11:54:16 PM
The above video is when I was interviewed for Shaw TV, by Tri-Cities Community TV in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Canada.
The host is Cathy Cena.
Mom and I during the first time she moved in with me. It only lasted about 6 months.
I moved back to Canada from the Bahamas in late summer 2011; and
before winter 2012, I moved my mother in with me. She was not thrilled
about living in the Vancouver area because she doesn't like the damp
"I've raised seven children; been butchered up by the
doctors after being in the hospital sixteen times," she likes to remind
us, even though seven of those times were to deliver babies. "Vancouver
weather just makes my bones ache."
But mom agreed to move in with
me anyway, and we were living in a high rise on the 33rd floor. "The
bird cage," she quickly dubbed it. She loved the views, the sunrises,
but hated everything else about it. All that said, mom's health
improved week by week, likely due to the regular and varied meals we
made, and the love received by her grandchildren. She didn't like going
out much, and I'm no sure if it was the high rise life that was foreign
to her, but the woman I knew as my mother always had a gypsy
adventurous spirit and it killed me to see her be so idle while I worked
on the computer during the day.
That Christmas she went to
'visit' her sister in Edmonton for two weeks and flew the coop by
refusing to return. I can't say I was surprised.
Mom only lasted two weeks
with her big sister and then moved in with a girlfriend. She stayed
there in Edmonton, ended up in the interior of BC for a bit with another
girlfriend, and went back to Edmonton until 2015. In 2014 she put
herself into the hospital at one point, and the doctors found nothing
wrong with her. It was hard to deal with as we wanted her in BC, but she
refused to come, and refused to live with her friend again. The
doctors suggested they find senior housing for her. The wait was a few
months, and I know it was hard on her.
Finally a place came up in
downtown Edmonton, and my sister and I went out to set mom up in her new
home. We went out and shopped and got it all ready for her, even buying
her new clothes. The seniors facility had all the amenities and no
cooking was allowed in her room. Thank goodness as she had been starting
to leave pots on stoves, etc.
Made with love! Every morning I put out breakfast for mom. Home made steel cut oats with raisins and flax; some kefir; coconut milk, stewed prunes; and her vitamins. She's only on one medication for her high blood pressure. Mom is always served first at any of our meals.
It wasn't long before mom said she
didn't like their food, and didn't' seem to engage in any of the social
activities they had on every day. I could tell when I called she was
depressed. All of her children, live in BC except my brother
who lives in Edmonton, but has ALS and lives in long-term care. If
anything urgent were to happen with mom's health, we'd have to fly in. I
continued to express my concern about this with her. Finally mom
agreed to move to B.C. but wanted to live in Abbotsford instead of
Vancouver, as she assumed it gets less rain.
found the best seniors home in our budget and were able to get her in
when we wanted. My brother drove out to get her things and put her on
the plane. This was the spring of 2015. Within only weeks at her new
place in Abbotsford, mom was complaining about the food, and the staff.
She was mostly upset that the units had only walk-in showers and no
bathtubs. She's been a bathtub girl her entire life. Again, I could
hear the depression setting in, although I was driving out to visit her
one day a week, bringing her home on a weekend overnights, as was my
brother who lives in Abbotsford.
Then our roommate moved out of
our home, and in my heart of hearts I knew my mother should be with
me. I talked to my siblings about it first. We all agreed she had to
stick out 3 months at the seniors home first, so she would understand
her actions better and have time to assimilate the transition into my
When I asked her if she'd move in with me again, she burst
into tears. "I thought you'd never ask me again, after living with you
the last time," she said. She stuck out the 3 months and moved in with
me last year in September.
This Friday mom turns 83 and she's
finally calling our place 'home.' She stopped answering the phone
saying, "Robbin's place" and now just says, "Good afternoon."
been institutionalized, and expected meals to be on time, at certain
times, even though I told her she's living with family now and we are
all busy. Things will not always be on time, and she'll have to learn
to go with our flow. We still have to remind her of this.
Out for a walk in February 2015. After winter she was not wanting to walk much, so I had to get out with her to get her back in the swing of daily walks.
She's eased up a lot, and her health is
getting better and better, although her short term memory has not
improved much. She's begun sharing her stories (over and over as she
forgets), and has also begun going through some of her things like
photographs, and has starting giving them as gifts. I truly believe
that if we care for and live with (or near) our parents, this is how our
family stories get passed from generation to generation.
started writing about mom under the hashtag #parentingourparents on
Facebook, and since we baby boomers are all taking care of, or assisting
our parents in their final years, my writing seems to strike a chord
with those either dealing with similar, or those who appreciate the
insight of what to expect. Some of my writing is touched with sadness,
but much of it is laced with irony, laughter, and a lot of love.
care of my mother is the least I can do. I am lucky she is still in
great health and has her mobility. It is now her time to rest, reflect,
share her stories and enjoy life, the way she wants to. I often want
for her to enjoy life the way I think would be best for her ... and she
quickly lets it be known if those ideas are going to work for her, or
She's one stubborn woman, but then so am I...
Mom sitting in the park at Town Centre, Coquitlam overlooking LaFarge Lake. She was tired because a bear got into our garbage the night before. I did the lake loop on my own.
Here's one of my favourite #ParentingOurParents pieces from 2015:
in my 82 year old mother the other night after putting in her eye drops
from her cataract removal, I gave her a little squeeze, and she said,
"Oh my that feels good. I don't get many hugs these day."
Then she said, "Thanks for taking such good care of me."
I turned out her light and held back some tears on the way to my bedroom. #ParentingourParents
find more of my #parentingourparents entries, go to your search bar at
the top of Facebook and put that hashtag in and hit 'Return' - please
note that there are others using this hashtag also.]
About the author Robbin
Contact Robbin at Editor@thebahamasweekly.com
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