We talk about many things, but in particular my mom’s side of the conversation focuses on my sisters and their families and how she and my dad are doing. In our conversation I hear about the outcomes of my parents’ doctor appointments, what they had for dinner the night before and what’s new with my sisters’ children.
But the other day I was thrown for a loop. I called my mother at our usual time. She asked that I call her back as the physical therapist was there with my dad. So I went along walking Rolo, waiting for her call.
Somehow in my morning fog, I tripped on an uneven sidewalk and came down hard. I hit my chest and my chin, and bruised my hands trying to stop the fall. As soon as I got back home, I put ice on my hands and waited for my mom’s call.
The call came, and after getting an update from my mother on her life, I shared the story about my fall and complained for a minute about my slightly bruised hands.
After listening, my mom said, “Well, I had an accident, too, a few days ago, and have a huge bruise from my wrist to my elbow.”
She explained she was getting my dad out of the car and he lost his balance and fell back, wedging her hand against the car door. After she wheeled my father into the building, she got some ice on her hand, which had started to swell.
My mother told me she had my father’s physical therapist look at it. It appeared nothing was broken, just badly bruised. I asked her if she could take a picture of it with her iPad and send it to me.
The bruise was nasty, and it amazed me she did not break anything. It occurred to me that if I had not shared the story of my fall, I may not have heard about her accident. And then I wondered what else she might not be telling me.
Maybe more accidents had occurred. Or maybe other less physically obvious things were occurring. Maybe my dad is not eating as he should since he had two teeth removed a week ago. Maybe my mother’s diagnostic mammogram did not come out “all good” as she had told me.
Maybe my mother is up all night worrying about what will happen to my father if she cannot take care of him anymore. Maybe she sees this recent accident as one step closer to that situation.
Generally speaking, my mother is great about sharing information, but what if she is embarrassed, reluctant or forgets to tell me things?
Being 3,000 miles away, I can’t drive over and visibly see what is going on. One of the ways I have tried over the past few years to encourage my parents to share with me is to acknowledge that they run their own lives. For those who know me, that is no easy task. But early on I realized that unless there is imminent danger to my parents, their way is the right way.
I also try to share information and let them come to their own conclusions. For example, I shared information about palliative care when my father was in the hospital to see if that was the kind of care they wanted for my father.
I’ve considered that my mother may feel there are certain things she does not want to share because it will only worry me or because she believes there is nothing I can do anyway. Or it could be that throughout our lives we all set boundaries of one sort or another in the belief that this will better protect us. Whatever the reason, eliminating some of these personal boundaries may be one additional challenge faced by seniors with children or friends who care.