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Changing of the Guard

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I turned 40 last month. I refuse to consider myself middle-aged, but seeing as my mom turns 70 this year and I have a 7 year old son – I suppose you can think of me as middle-ish.

What’s weird about being in the middle is you start having a parental role for not only your child – but also with those who raised you, those who smacked your bottom when you were bad (back when they did such things), those who dried your tears, those who taught you pretty much everything about life starting from the birds and ending with the bees.

It’s a slow process, of course. First your mom will email and ask your opinion on something. And you will look at the screen and think, “Whoah. Did my MOM, the one who gave me her hand-me-down Chevette 20 years ago really ask me if I think this other such and such is a good deal?”

Next is a harder transition.

They get sick.

Recently my mom had major heart surgery, and if that wasn’t traumatic enough – they accidentally found lung cancer. Accidentally. Like they were spilling soup.

The good news is, she came through the surgery well, and the doctors are optimistic about the lung cancer. Although I tell ya, it feels weird to type the word optimistic and cancer in the same sentence.

Either way – our adventures of the past few months have certainly not made my mother an invalid, but in many ways – it has made her a spectator in the management of her own life. My sister has become the patient advocate, taking copious notes from many different doctor’s perspectives, relaying them to me and other family members, fighting with nurses when necessary to ensure the best care possible for our mother. I flew in to be the cheerleader, a role I continue to hold as the helpless daughter who lives across the country, but wants to support her mother in any way she can from afar. There is also my aunt, who is eerily close with mom – a confidant for every single person in the family. She weathers ALL our storms combined.

The point being?

That feeling – the shift in care-taking with your parents is not something I ever thought about nor was prepared for. It is another aspect to illness that can take over if you let it – the struggle of power between mother and daughter.

Luckily for me, my mother is riding the wave of her illness with grace, humor and a dash of feisty.

It certainly makes it easier for me to keep going in my role as cheerleader.

Speaking of, do you know Ze Frank? He is another cheerleader, and I thought about this song today, paired it up with thoughts of my mom, and it made me smile.

This is a song that I sing when I’m scared of something, I don’t why, but it helps me get over it.

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Comments
  • comment avatar Denise June 24, 2010

    My parents also live across the country and are just a few years older than your mother. I feel very fortunate they have been remarkably healthy with just some lifestyle diseases right now, but I fear the day one of them may be in the hospital. I have three brothers that live close to them, but know I would need to help oversee things. Thinking of you and sending lots of healing love your moms way!

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson June 24, 2010

    Well-written, Aimee. For me, the first challenge I had growing up was when I realized my parents weren’t perfect. The next one has been coping with their various illnesses as they grow older. Coping with grace, humor and a dash of feisty is what I would hope for everyone. The apple definitely does not fall far from the tree!

  • comment avatar Megan June 24, 2010

    That was lovely, Aimee. Sorry to hear you guys are having a rough time. But clearly you are doing OK.

  • comment avatar Hannah June 24, 2010

    Poignant. And hits so close to home. Your strength and optimism inspire me Aimee.

  • comment avatar Ginger Jones June 24, 2010

    Thank so much for sharing your story! It meant a lot to me, since I am starting on the same journey with my Dad! What I loved about the article is the little dash of hope at the end with the song! …Great touch! Again, thanks for sharing and making my day!

  • comment avatar Emily June 24, 2010

    Oh Aimiee, I am so there with you. My Mom has gone through such a tough couple of years and she’s young, in her 70s too. I never imagined aging would come so early and precipitously for her. I’m sending hugs to you, your sister and your mom. xoxo

  • comment avatar meghann June 24, 2010

    I said most of my thoughts in email, but I wanted to say that it is very weird to go through it. It was even weirder for me, because at the time, I was in my early 20’s, and my mom was in her early 40’s. It makes me feel a lot older than I really am, since I already completed that whole part of life, complete with losing my mom 5 years ago, and I’m just now about to turn 30.

    You already know this, but I’m rooting for your mom!

  • comment avatar Carrie June 24, 2010

    Right here with ya Aimee. Right here with ya. And yes, I agree it is a tricky road to suddenly find ourselves in, taking care of our moms – whether near or far it doesn’t really matter.

    I’ll continue to think happy for your mama! And this song certainly helps. Love it.

  • comment avatar Gretchen White June 24, 2010

    “Luckily for me, my mother is riding the wave of her illness with grace, humor and a dash of feisty.”

    I wouldn’t expect anything else from the Mom of Aimee! You are good people and this is a fantastic post.

    Sending my best wishes your way and her way.

    I wasn’t prepared for the emotions when my parents had serious health scares within days of each other back in August 2008. Grappling with their sudden fragility was difficult and overwhelming. Nothing can really prepare you for those phone calls, those racing thoughts of “what if?” I’m the eldest of the kids and my siblings were looking to me for direction, which was another tricky thing to navigate. Luckily, my parents rallied and healed with no major setbacks from their ordeals.

  • comment avatar Melissa Taylor June 24, 2010

    Rah, rah! Aimee, your mom is luck to have you as a cheerleader! Sending you a hug and hoping that your trip in August is a blast!

    Melissa

  • comment avatar Lori Lavender Luz June 24, 2010

    I hope she’s back to spanking your bottom really soon. She looks like a fighter and a winner, a kind one.

    Cheers to the cheerleaders and the caretakers, too.

  • comment avatar Melissa Caddell June 24, 2010

    Aimee–lovely and poignant. Thank you for sharing. The adjustment in relationship as we grow up and gain experience in life shifts things a bit.

    It’s weird, though. I’m not so good about thinking of myself as being a grownup in relationship to my parents. Hmm. Food for thought.

    Hugs to you and your mom.

  • comment avatar Kagey June 25, 2010

    Thanks for sharing your experience and sharing the song. It is catchy. It is a scary thing when you realize that your parents don’t have it all figured out, and never did.
    Watching my mom grieve the death of her mother earlier this year was that turning point for me. And it’s still tough for me to think about seeing her experience that pain, and wonder if that’s what it will be like for me in the (preferably far, distant) future.

  • comment avatar Vanessa June 25, 2010

    oh aimee, it all sounds soooo familiar. as you know, i’ve been going through a really similar time myself lately. i just turned 39 and my dad, who just retired recently, had the misfortune to have a blow to the head result in a chronic subdural hematoma which has required two major surgeries. he’s on the mend now, thankfully but, wow… it was all so scary for a while there. and the whole experience has irreversibly shifted my entire perspective, my future outlook. this ‘changing of the guard’, as you so aptly put it, takes some getting used to!
    i LOVE the song, aimee… i think i’ll just put it on a loop and listen to it for a few hours now 😉
    thinking of you and sending healing thoughts your mom’s way.
    xoxoxo

  • comment avatar Dana June 28, 2010

    What a great post, Aimee. I think about this question often. The transition of being in the “middle” has been a challenging one for me. I think it’s because the process started before I was mom yet. I don’t know exactly when, but at some point the light switch turned on soon after I got married six years ago and it’s been on since. I guess it’s just what family is all about. Your role changes throughout your life and your family loves and supports you no matter what role you have or don’t have.

  • comment avatar JoAnn June 28, 2010

    What a great post, Aimee! I know that it’s hard to cheer when you’re worried. Good luck to all of you! It sounds like your mom is in good hands. (…with or without the pom-poms.)

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