In a couple of weeks I am heading to Newfoundland once again, to spend a couple of weeks with my mom.
I returned her to her marital home, after she spent the winter at my place, in the middle of May, and while my sister has visited her for a while, she’s had some time to be on her own that she hasn’t had for a very long time.
My plan is to arrive with my sleeves rolled up to work. Aside from the fact that she’s not really capable of doing outside maintenance on the house, the man of the house getting up each morning and heading out to putter with her to-do list is a lifestyle she was very accustomed to.
My father was always up early in the morning, heading out to paint something, fix something, move something or fish for something.
Inside, my mother would clean something, cook something, boil down something or launder something. There was a rhythm to their daily life that brought them both comfort and a sense of purpose.
In the context of our current millennial values, their roles might seem stereotypically gender-based, but they were happy.
They were good to, and for, each other, and the division of labour that worked for them was simply the way it was.
I don’t think either of them ever thought they were being forced into a specific role by the other.
I spent all of last summer and fall with my parents when my father’s condition had worsened. I did a lot of puttering around and berry-picking at that time, and while I dragged him along when I could, he still spent most of his time in the house and my mother felt the stress of his care and condition.
They both seemed a bit out of sorts with the new reality.
So, my objective for the couple of weeks I am visiting is to restore a little familiarity to my mother’s day. The outside will be my domain and the inside her’s.
I’ll be popping in more often than my dad did, to check on her and reaffirm I’m doing the work the way she wants me to; that’s more to keep her engaged in the process than to really ask her handyman advice.
My father told me long ago that you just had to let her have her say, then do it the way that makes sense anyway. He could have been a diplomat.
My sister and I have both noticed a certain disorientation in my mother since my father passed away. Perhaps there is some natural decline in the information processing pathways, but I suspect it’s more the confusion that has accompanied routines that were not those she’d become accustomed to for many years.
Change is hard on anyone, but life-altering change has to be extremely difficult on the elderly, particularly those whose mental processes have already begun to deteriorate.
I am hopeful that a little normalcy in her routine will, in fact, give my mother a two-week vacation from the uncertainty she has felt for some time.
She needs that vacation a lot more than I need one.