While I don’t usually use the prompts that Linda helpfully lists for Just Jot It January, I decided to use the prompt today from Sadje, reversal.
I immediately thought of role reversal in the context of family, specifically as it pertains to generational caregiving. As a child, my parents took care of me and my sisters. When I became an adult and especially a mother myself, I appreciated that my parents continued to care for us, although in a different and appropriate way than when I was a child.
As my parents aged and encountered health problems, though, our roles reversed and I became a caregiver to them. That being said, caring for an aging parent is different than caring for a child. My parents had chosen to enter a senior continuing care community, so household help and the ability to move between levels of care from independent to assisted to skilled nursing was available to them. I was able to concentrate on helping with medical needs, handling bills, chauffeuring, running errands, and emotional support.
Our roles reversed in terms of caregiving but not in personal terms. They were always my parents and I was always their daughter. Even though they have both passed away now, I’m still their daughter.
That will never change.
I’m thinking about this in a particular way right now as I’m preparing my chapbook Hearts for publication later this year by Kelsay Books. The poems center around my mother, particularly her last few years battling heart disease. There are several poems that deal with the generations of women surrounding her, her mother and me, her granddaughter, and great-granddaughter.
Earlier this week, I received a beautiful blurb that will go on the back cover. It referenced this generational element in the manuscript.
Thirty years ago, our television was often tuned to Sesame Street on our local public broadcasting channel. It was an hour long and we followed the story lines of the human and Muppet characters. We had Sesame Street songs on cassette and some Sesame Street toys. We even had a Sesame Street songbook that served us well for many years and often sat on the music rack of our piano.
Now, our television is sometimes tuned to Sesame Street on our television, which is much thinner but with a bigger screen than it was thirty years ago. We still have it on our local public broadcasting station, but the episodes, which are only a half hour, are delayed by months, as the series is now on HBO. I admit that it bothers me, although I know that they needed to make the change to keep the series going.
Our granddaughter ABC, like many other young children, is more likely to watch Sesame Street segments on a tablet or smartphone. And, unlike our old cassettes, there are no tangles of tape as they got used often.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. We were able to bring Nana from the skilled nursing unit over to the dining room in the Village Center for Thanksgiving dinner, which was delicious.
For years, Nana had been the unofficial goodwill ambassador of the retirement community. She used to make the rounds of the tables after dinner, visiting with everyone and catching up on them and their families. After she went into hospice care in early summer 2017, she wasn’t able to be out and about. Now that she has been decertified by hospice and has done some rehab, she was strong enough to come over for an hour using a wheelchair outfitted with portable oxygen.
A number of people stopped by the table to say hello. There was lots of good food, conversation, and warmth, all of which counteracted the blustery day outside.
Last year at this time, I hadn’t thought it possible that we would have the privilege of another Thanksgiving with Nana and Paco. I am so grateful that we had this day together.
My younger sister came to visit Nana and Paco recently. She was excited to give Nana a special gift.
Under the wrapping paper and green ribbon was a box holding Nana’s father’s pocketwatch!
Her father had worked for the railroad and had used the watch to keep to the schedule when he was foreman of the maintenance crew. When I was growing up, I remember that he always carried it attached with a thick gold chain. He would wind it every day and it kept excellent time.
When he passed away in the early ’70s, I had hoped that my grandmother would keep the watch or give it to my mother, but she gave it to my uncle who lived out of state. I never expected to see the watch again.
My uncle passed away a number of years ago and my sister contacted our cousin to see if he still had the watch. He did and immediately sent it to her.
She brought it to an expert in antique watches who cleaned it and got it running again. He said it was in excellent shape for a watch of that vintage.
I’m so grateful to my cousin and my sister that her father’s watch has come home to Nana, its thick gold chain linking the generations together.
Earlier this week, daughter E and granddaughter ABC left for an almost three month stay with son-in-law L and his parents in London.
The trip itself was not without drama. A four-hour layover in Detroit stretched to twelve. Fortunately, the waiting passengers bonded in support of those traveling with young children and ABC gained a number of honorary aunties and uncles.
After having ABC with us for nine months, other than her prior three week visit to London, it was difficult to say good-bye, especially for great-grandparents Nana and Paco. As if to give us all a gift before she left, ABC showed off her new mobility skills, doing a bit of crawling and some of her first unassisted steps when we were visiting with Nana and Paco.
For the past couple of months, ABC has wanted to be on her feet, often only holding on to one of our fingers. She was impatient with being down on the floor, so we thought she might never crawl, but she decided to both crawl and walk at the same time!
Walking at nine months is on the early side developmentally, especially given that ABC was born almost a month early, but ABC is strong and determined!
Fortunately, L had prepared with gates and other babyproofing measures.
L has been visiting with E and ABC nearly every day via video chat. Now, we will need to do that (though it won’t be daily), bolstered by photos and video clips that E posts. We will miss E and L’s birthdays and ABC’s first Easter and first birthday, all of which will be a preview of living on opposite sides of the Atlantic when E’s visa situation works out and she and dual-citizen ABC move to London permanently.
For now, we just need to get through the next eleven weeks.
This week, ABC celebrated being eight months old with her first haircut. I should probably say trim, as it was just a bit of her bangs and some locks of hair near her ears that had grown long.
E and ABC accompanied me to my bang trim with Diane, my long-time stylist. We had been planning to ask for a trim for ABC when E is having her haircut next week, but Diane had a bit of time and said she would be honored to do it right then.
E held ABC on her lap and Diane draped her with a towel and gently and safely snipped the fine, dark locks, while talking to ABC, who was amenable to the whole operation.
Diane placed the locks into an envelope, sealed it, and signed it with name, date, and place. E now has it for safekeeping.
In a photo album on the bookshelf in my living room is a similar envelope from thirty years ago, when Diane first cut E’s blonde hair.
I haven’t meant to keep you in the dark about life here. I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around posting much lately.
We have made a lot of progress with care for Nana. We now have her nurse/case manager from hospice on board and have been able to pass off prescription management to her. The number of medications needed has dropped because a number of them are no longer needed. For example, she doesn’t take a statin anymore because her cholesterol level is irrelevant at this point. It makes it easier to keep track of her meds, especially because hospice has taken over the ordering of refills.
Hospice is also handling medical equipment, such as oxygen and a wheelchair. They are good at solving problems, like providing cushions to protect her ears from the oxygen tubing. Simple things like that make a big difference.
It is nice to have just one number to call. If there are any questions, we just call hospice and they contact whichever doctor or service is needed. There is always someone on duty, even in the middle of the night, to address concerns or problems.
Meanwhile, ABC is already five weeks old! She had a checkup and is now almost two pounds (0.9 kg) heavier and 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) longer than when she was born. She has outgrown her preemie clothes and can wear regular newborn sizes. She is starting to focus on her surroundings. She is playing with some of her toys and is getting more tolerant of diaper changes, baths, and getting in and out of her carseat/carrier.
She is fascinated by her reflection in the mirror.
It is a blessing to have her here with E and L, watching them become a little family and assisting with baby care and general household tasks. Most advanced economies give parents paid time off for this life stage, although, sadly, the United States does not. We are grateful that E and L are able to have this important time to bond, especially because L will have to return to the UK in mid-August. We will miss watching his tender care of her, especially when he sits at the piano with her, cradling her in one arm and singing to her, accompanying himself with his free hand.
We are also blessed to be able to bring ABC to visit Nana and Paco. Unlike the earliest weeks, ABC now stays awake for part of the visit, so Nana and Paco get to see her deep blue eyes.
Tomorrow, L’s mom arrives from the UK and our younger daughter T arrives from Missouri. We are gathering for ABC’s baptism on Sunday.
ABC will wear a tiny white dress, first worn by my older sister, followed by me and our younger sister, twenty-some years later by my daughters, and twenty-some more years later by my granddaughter.
I retrieved it from the bottom of Nana’s cedar chest last week and we will return it there next week, in case another precious baby girl arrives in our family to wear it.
When I wrote this post in the wee hours of Monday morning, I had no idea what new highs and lows the next twenty-four hours would bring…
At 9:00 AM, Nana and I met with her primary care physician, Dr. T. What began as a discussion of her recent symptoms that had prompted us to be there quickly segued into a discussion of how her numerous health conditions and our treatment plan were not succeeding as we had all hoped, how the trajectory while there were ups and downs was trending downward, and how we needed to discuss and prepare for end-of-life planning.
As I am sure you can imagine, or, perhaps, know from your own experience, the discussion was painful and emotional, but I am grateful for Dr. T’s honesty, care, and concern that made it possible for us to consider our options and get the help that Nana and all of us need. Barring a sudden event like a stroke, we are likely to have some unknown number of months with Nana, which we want to make as comfortable and peaceful as possible, as filled with family and friends as her strength allows.
We are starting with getting home care recommenced, but the new goal will be to have therapists and aides to help care for her so that she can conserve energy for fun things, instead of wasting it on mundane things. For example, while a goal of her physical therapy had been to be able to walk down to the dining room at their retirement community for dinner, a new goal will be to get a wheelchair so she can ride to the dining room and have energy to eat and visit with friends.
We expect that there will continue to be some days that are better than others, but we hope to have enough support to keep Nana at home in the apartment she shares with Paco. They have been married for 63 years and belong together!
I spent much of Monday afternoon communicating with family members that needed to know what was going on and wrapping my head around our next steps. E and L took over dinner preparations and we settled in for an evening together watching television. E wanted to watch the Stanley Cup (ice hockey) game and was ensconced on the couch with L, when, a bit before 8:00 PM, she startled all of us with the news that her water had broken.
In short order, there was a call to the obstetrician’s office, the message saying to head to the hospital, the hurried assembling of some supplies, and the four of us driving off to the hospital where we arrived at about 8:30.
E and L headed into the delivery suite while B and I set up in the waiting room, thinking that, given that E had not been having noticeable contractions, they might send us home while she rested for the night and waited for labor to begin in earnest. The reason we thought this might be the scenario is that, when I was pregnant with E, my water broke at 36.5 weeks and it took 26 hours for her to arrive.
And E was also at 36.5 weeks.
This was a different labor-and-delivery story.
Baby arrived before 1:00 AM Tuesday, on the sixth of the month.
E was also born on the sixth of the month.
Baby weighed five pounds, five ounces (2.4 kg) and was eighteen inches (46 cm) long.
E was born at that exact weight and length.
Baby has a full head of hair, as did E, although E was strawberry blond (later changing to golden blond) and Baby has dark hair, like L’s.
E and L named their new daughter Ada. Henceforth, I will likely refer to her here on the blog as ABC, which are her initials, but I did want to share her lovely name with you in honor of her birth.
B and I got to share a little time with the new little family before heading home to catch a few winks before the sun rose. We each got to hold our precious first grandchild and reflect on the parallels between E and little Ada.
One more: Ada, like E, is the first grandchild on both sides of the family.
L was able to stay at the hospital with E and ABC until they came home on Wednesday. On Thursday, they went up to meet Nana and Paco.
Maybe Ada was in a hurry to arrive so that she could meet Nana as soon as possible.
I’m sure she will bring us all much-needed joy in the coming months.
Last year on Mother’s Day, I was with my husband B in Honolulu with both daughters E and T and son-in-law L. You can read about it here and here.
This year, B and I will be having Mother’s Day brunch with both of our moms and my dad in the dining room at the senior community where they all live. I am especially grateful to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with with my mom and mother-in-law this year because the past year has been rough for both of them health-wise but they are both much improved and able to enjoy the day, which is oddly summery for mid-May.
Meanwhile, E and T are on an adventure together in New York City. They converged there on Friday, E from Honolulu HI and T from Syracuse NY, and are staying with my sister. E is attending Japan Day in Central Park because six members from jpop phenomenon AKB48 will be performing. E’s master thesis is about the fandom, especially the online fans outside of Japan, so this is a great opportunity for her to make connections and conduct interviews for her research. T has just finished her semester in her master’s program and came down to help her sister for the weekend. It is also their only chance to get together this summer because T will be doing an internship assisting with botany studies in New York State parks. (Way to go, T!)
I’m so happy that they will have this special long weekend together. Their bond with each other is one of the true joys of being their mother. While B and I won’t get to see them together, we will get time to see them separately. T will get a couple of weeks at home before her internship begins and we just made reservations to go to Hawai’i in June to see E while L is in London working on his dissertation research.
The generations of our family illustrate that being a mom is forever!