Monday, August 2, 2010

Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia

Our most recent adventure was to go on vacation with my mother and my 16 year old nephew. The premise of such a vacation was for us to get away where there was sun and water and to also share our time and experience with mom and Alex. Oh if only someone had warned me of the lifestyle of a 16 year old. At one point, I called my sister Cynthia to exclaim:

“It is a good thing I did not have children….this one might not be coming back with us!”

Much to my amazement with a beautiful lake, kayaks, fishing, swimming and biking available, it would seem that not all in the group were interested in the above activities….I will not mention any namesJ

This trip served as an eye opener for both Rick and me about my mom. In the times we have visited or spent time with her, we always go home within a few hours. This extended stay really allowed us a true glimpse into what her life is like now and what she sees coming.

Yesterday was the anniversary of my father passing away three years ago. He did not prepare for his passing and did not prepare for the future of my mother without him. At age 79 her life should be easier and yet it is still fraught with financial worries, health concerns and the reality that things are not simple and easy with dad gone. My mom worries incessantly about things going wrong with a house in disrepair, the upcoming dread of winter and the realization that her own home is really too much for her to handle on her own. On top of that, she still bemoans the fact that she is still searching for a “career” or something that she still loves to do. Her heart and mind are not challenged and this allows for a negative spirit to prevail on most of her thoughts and conversations.

My heart sunk when I helped her make her bed and she wanted to put a plastic sheet down:

“Just in case….” She said. Her arm had grown a strange and terrible growth in a matter of days and she has other strange skin growths that seem to come over night. Most often she is frustrated by her hearing disability and snaps if she cannot understand what you are saying. It is frustrating for everyone.

My mother has a warm and giving heart. Even when she has had next to nothing, she finds time and energy to make fresh, homemade bread for friends and neighbors or soup for someone she hears is not feeling well. I often wonder if she is acknowledged for any of these simple generosities. Sometimes she takes an anti-anxiety pill to help relieve her stress. I don’t think she had enough available for this trip.

The biggest change has been her daily references to things being the last time she might experience something. Her days floating on a pool noodle in the lake ended on the morning we left as she half whispered:

“That is probably the last time I will ever swim in a lake.”

I even got her to go out in the kayak and she made a similar comment. My heart is troubled as I don’t know how to help her or what I can do to make things better. She wants to move, but not start over somewhere where she does not know anyone. Having no real close friends, she reads the obituary each day to see if anyone she knows has passed away.

My nephew joked often that Rick and are old. My claim is that we are in the summer of our life, while it is difficult to admit that mom is in winter. How do we make the winter bearable and positive for her? What kinds of plans can we help her with without interfering and allowing her to remain independent? How do we share this time with her and keep her journey remarkable and still full of wonder and love?


  1. OMG this is soo sad... My heart goes out to you and feel your mom is suffering from depression. Her worries are certainly legit, as the economy has hurt the elderly tremendously. The cost of prescription drugs is astronomical and takes quite a toll on the elderly budget. We have programs up here to assist people in dealing with there parents through depression. Ours is run through Catholic Charities. You do not have to be catholic, nor religious to participate. Here is the address I found for your area. See what they have to offer:
    Challenges: Options in Aging
    Shenley Square
    2706 Mercer Road
    New Castle, PA 16105

    The hospitals, as you know, offer a lot of classes. Shelley and I just took a belly dancing class, but I don't recommend that for her. Ask her to join you for one. Ours also offers "classes" in women studies or theology and the such. I think anticipating something coming will take her mind off the despair of getting old and awaken the joy of a new challenge.
    I am fortunate to not have to had gone through this with the passing of both of my parents at such a young age. In fact, I feel so guilty as my step mom constantly complained about my dad's coughing from his copd, that in my mind, I was thinking that my life five years down the road would be caring for my dad, because my step mom couldn't stand the coughing any more and would have left. Then he died,,, just like that... and somehow, there was a sense of relief as I know he had been suffering both physically and mentally this constant battle with the illness and his wife. I also felt relieved that he was now with his true love, my mom. Upon cleaning his "things" we found hidden bottles of alcohol... as you recall he was an alcoholic and hadn't drank in years. My guilt is in feeling the relief of it all.
    I think your mom has years to go and hope they can be filled with joy.

  2. I love visiting Smith Mountain Lake. My family and I always have a great trip.