I have a serious question. Please see right through this next sentence. I’m asking for a friend. When, exactly, do adult children come to the realization that their parents are human, and have human reactions, emotions, fears and failings?
Some would say that by writing this, I’m being too transparent, especially that I’m planning on posting it on my blog. If they read further, my children will say this is passive aggressive behavior. They diagnose me of this all the time. At this point, I’m not sure it will matter one way or the other, so here goes…
In the last eight months, I have had the awesome responsibility and honor of caring for my mother as she navigated her way through cancer treatment (finishing just before the shutdown for the Coronavirus Pandemic). For six weeks, I chaperoned her through chemotherapy once a week and radiation daily. In between, we visited Pulmonologists and Primary care doctors to treat other maladies. She was a champ, most of the time. I jumped through hoops, though, trying to attend to all of her meds, her physical and personal needs, and most intensely, her dietary needs. I didn’t mind any of it. In fact, I loved finding new ways to tempt her compromised taste buds. It only got difficult when her mood was compromised as well.
What I didn’t expect was the physical and emotional toll on myself. I have degenerative disc disease and two autoimmune disorders, and unfortunately stress does affect them all. My condition had been affected, although I didn’t realize how much until the evenings when mom went to bed and I collapsed into my easy chair.
As many who know me are aware, I have been extremely distraught about the current state of affairs in our country. I have lost so many friends and acquaintances to COVID. There had been additional passing of loved ones or friends, or loved ones of friends. I have attended several Zoom funerals. The sadness pervades me.
On top of everything else, my husband and I have been at odds. While I won’t go into detail about that, suffice it to say that we are on different sides of the fence politically, and I will only say that he thinks that’s the entirety of the problem, and that if we don’t talk politics, we’ll be fine. He, unfortunately for him and for our marriage, doesn’t learn from experiences. It always reminds me of the Mark Twain quote, “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in, lest we be like the cat. She may never sit on a hot stove top again, but she may not sit on a cool one, either.”
We live in Florida, which is exploding with the Coronavirus Pandemic right now. On top of that, we are, quite possibly, in the path of a Cat 1 hurricane. I worry about the virus for me, but mostly for the fact my mother, the champ, didn’t survive cancer to succumb to COVID. I also worry that if we lose power, will we be able to get enough gas for the generator to keep her oxygen going? We’re always prepared for Hurricanes otherwise, but this year, I’m of no help to get shutters up because my back renders me incapacitated. I’m worried. Period.
All of these things have played a part in my inability to rest well or to eat well. I am not myself. So, when I reach out to my children, either one of them, in pain, and looking for some sense of normalcy in my life, wanting only to chat and hear their voices, I get attitude. Neither one of them can look past their own opinions and suppositions about what they expect from their mother, to realize that I am, indeed, a human being, with emotions, fears and feelings.
Last night, I tried to tell one of them just that, and when we began talking about another topic, I offered information that wasn’t exactly on topic, (and it was, I admit, a negative contribution). The tone in my offspring got testy and contrary. I couldn’t handle that sound, that feeling in the pit of my stomach. I said goodbye and hung up.
I’m not perfect. I’m not Peter Pan (that’s my brother). I can’t be held to a higher standard anymore. Both my kids are in their thirties, and I thought I did a good job raising them. They both chose fields in which they help people. Apparently, the sensitivity they possess stops when it comes to me.
So, who needs to grow up? Me or them?