Life, Death and Sandwich Mothering


Hi gang, it’s nice to see you again. I recently made contact with my friend Bird Martin at http://everyonehasastory.me/        Bird has a heroine role in my life. When I first started blogging after my husband Chris died of colon cancer,  Bird Martin was the very first person who made any comment at all on my columns.

It was a revelation. I wasn’t just talking to myself? Egads. Someone else might actually listen, and perhaps, even, BENEFIT from what I had to say? It couldn’t be so.

But it was. Bird and I developed a rollicking friendship, culminating with a visit to Colorado. Over the past year though, life has intruded, and we had fallen out of touch. I determined (or “Purposed” in Christianspeak) to catch up on her blog, and am backtracking. (Bird, dear, I am on October 2013)

Our lives have run parallel courses, and I am wondering how many of you are walking the same road. My dad has been sick too, Bird. Last fall, he fell in his house, and wasn’t discovered for nearly a day. Up to this point, he had refused daily care, accepting only the three hour daily visit from the local Visiting Angels helping agency. My brother and I check on him daily, of course, but his fall happened after all of those ‘safety checks’ took place. Of course.

Can't put 94 candles on that!

Dad just had a birthday. Can’t put 94 candles on that!

So, we went through the tiresome process of rehab, where these sparkling new hospitals treated my father like a number, and we eventually found him a place a mere three miles from our homes, which he seems to enjoy. His intellectual abilities are slowly fading, and he needs more and more care.

It’s difficult to ‘mother’ my dad. Once again I’ve gotten some pretty solid advice from people who sit around and think about this stuff for a living. I’m told as much time as I can give him, I ‘ll be glad I did later. Those of you who’ve been with me for a while, know that at the beginning of victoriasvisits, I wrote a lot about being constantly pelted by death for about 18 months. First Chris, then my dear friend Mickey, then Emily Berkeley, Tom Seedroff, and many others. It got old.

Being around Dad sometimes has that effect. That makes me terrible, I realize. Playing cards with Dad at his new place, and wondering, “Hmm, this could be the last time I play cards with Dad.” How morbid is that? Dad is aiming for three digits, which is cool. I think it would be hilarious to have a centenarian in the family. But I keep on remembering Mom. January 7th, 2010, she gave my daughter a birthday card, told her she looked gorgeous and wished her a happy birthday. That night she blew out an artery in her brain the size of a pencil and was gone in eight minutes.

What to do, though? Not hang around Dad because he could drop at any second? Hell’s bells, he coined that one. “Kids, I have one foot in the grave already, so be aware!” Got it, Dad.

Nope, not an option. I muster up the strength, drive over there, play cards, eat cake, and drop off Engstroms Toffee beside his bed. (He forgets I bring it to him, so his care provider and I joke that he must think the Candy Fairy comes from time to time.)

In the mean time, get a load of this bunch.

Aroo! Down we go!

Aroo! Down we go!

The Lierheimer gang at Vail. Where did these adults come from?

The Lierheimer gang at Vail. Where did these adults come from?

Chris and I used to joke that we’d be poor in our dotage, but we’d have a great bunch of little powderhounds. It’s true! The bigger kids all had spring break at the same time, so they came back from their various colleges and we took off to Vail for a few days.

Chris and I were a great parenting team. Boy, do I wish he were around for this one. See, we believed very much in the power of habits, and repeated activities simply being normal. So, we committed that each kid would get ten years of concentrated ski instruction. (Nothing too intense, Copper has an 8 week program we did for years, then extra family days, of course)

The point being, that when they were done with that, each kid could ski anything on the mountain. Then, when they start to scatter and live their lives, as they are beginning to do, the thought process would go something like this:

“Hmm, what to do with my two weeks paid this year? Huh, a few days in Colorado skiing with the sibs? Sure! Sounds like a blast!” Mothering these kids through this and various other transitions to adulthood takes a lot of intentionality.

Planning to see my increasingly childlike dad is also quite a trip. But right now? I think I’m good with it.

What do you folks think? Sign in below if you’re a sandwich mom or dad, let’s hear your stories.

Much love,

Victoria

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8 Comments

  1. Quite the juggling act Victoria. I know it’s hard, but be grateful you have them all. You’re a real trooper. Dad may be declining, but so many don’t have their parents around for near as long. I bet he has a great smile for you every time you visit! Just a thought

  2. I spent more time with my father last year than for several preceding years, including a month before he died; and in that week he surprised and delighted me with his vivacity. Enjoy.

    • Delightful, Clare. Did it lessen your sadness upon his departure?

      • On his departure, I knew of a life well lived, and completed rather than stopped.

      • Oh, well said, dear Clare.

  3. Emily Clark

    Hi Victoria! My 87-year-old dad moved in with us in September. I am having to learn to pace my life quite differently. I was ready for a change, so this expansion of our family is a good one. I was recently asked to sit of the board of an organization and told those involved that I would decline as I did not want to have anything more in my life that would make me feel miserly about the time I wanted to have available for my dad. Some days are hum-drum, but on other days I learn about something new, like the cool pins he has in his man-jewelry case (a tie pin from the 1933 World’s Fair! ) or his experience watching the nuclear testing in the Bikini Islands. Other I feel fear wondering how I will cope when his bedroom is empty. But I know that God will be with me that day just as he is today. Hugs to you.

    • Hi Emily! Good for you! It is a different pace, isn’t it. It’s pretty cool to hear those stories, even if many of them are reruns! Warm regards to you all! Victoria

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