Tag Archives: aging parents

Mommy goes to her first “rock” concert!

I remember when I was 16, going to my first rock concert. I was with a date and a group of friends and we went to see Rod Stewart. The lighting, the noise, the costumes! Rod actually came out in a white, one-piece lycra outfit with a jeweled cape. I remember being mortified when you could see, shall we say, the outline of his anatomy.

Well, mom got to go to her first rock concert last night and she sure didn’t mind seeing Stefano Langone whip off his shirt at the American Idol Live! concert in Raleigh. Six-pack abs! Bring it on! She was giggling and smiling, saying, “I never thought I’d get to see anything like that!” The only moment of the concert where she showed any apprehension was right at the beginning, when she put her hands over her ears to block out the noise. Just like a little kid.

Mom was enamored by American Idol this season and was especially fond of Scotty McCreery, whom she faithfully voted for over and over again after each show. Now that mom lives in Raleigh, she loves all things North Carolina. With the exception of the GOP Legislature. But that’s another story.

My husband decided to get us tickets on a whim because he knew mom would be thrilled. We didn’t tell her until this past Saturday night, and she’s been excited ever since — sharing the news with friends, family, or anyone who might listen. So when Scotty finally came out to sing after the intermission, I thought she might just keel over. She was breathless, waving to him, standing up, cheering! In fact, I felt like I was at Game 7 of the Hurricanes – Oilers Stanley Cup Final — EVERYONE in the arena stood up and never sat down. Including my mom. Not bad for being 88 years old. Go Mom!

She had a twinkle in her eye that I haven’t seen in a long time. And she talked about the concert during the 10-minute trip home, exclaiming, “I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life! It was beautiful. Just beautiful.”

I’m writing this the morning after. Mom just came downstairs and rushed to get the newspaper. She hasn’t even acknowledged me. But she’s reading about the concert and just said to me, “That was a sold out concert. I’m so lucky to have seen it. Wow, he’s got a lot of fans.”

Is she talking about Stefano or Scotty? Hmmm …



A New Reality

Imagine my surprise when I got an email from a casting director looking for a multi-generational family all living under one roof for a new show called, CROWDED.

This isn’t a Celebrity Housewives kind-of-thing. This is actually a pretty legitimate producer, Gay Rosenthal Productions, the creator of an Emmy-winning show, Little People, Big World. According to their casting flyer, they want to “put a human face on a growing national trend through the daily lives of one fascinating multigenerational American Household.”

The show, it says, will explore the complications, the connections, the joys, frustrations, and shared experiences that only exist in one large and very crowded house. If they only knew.

I read the email and laughed. And laughed. I thought it was hilarious. First, that I would be contacted. And second, who would actually watch such a show?

And then I realized thousands of people are going through this, people like me who went from empty nester to caretaker to semi-insanity. People like me who are trying to be kind, be good, and at times break because it’s just so hard. People like me who want all the answers, want to do the right thing, but don’t always know how.

So here’s my question: Do I fill out that application form or not? Or do you know of another multigenerational family living under one roof who could fit the bill? It could be an important story to tell if done right and with compassion.

Publisher’s Clearinghouse … Where’s My Check?!

My mom is a bit gullible, as many seniors are. She gets more mail solicitations from charities than anyone I know. There’s a reason for that. If they send her address labels or cards (or whatever), she feels guilty and sends them money.

She believes that Publisher’s Clearinghouse will actually send someone to our door with a big check if she enters their contest. And she thinks that sending someone money to win a big prize is legit. Which is why we have to keep an eye on her mail.

But now we have a bigger problem: infomercials. My mom won’t spend more than a few bucks on shampoo, but a year ago she sent away for hair care products that cost over $100. While they promised soft, flowing locks, they didn’t tell her she would have to follow a three-step process, and leave some of it in her hair overnight. Or that they’d automatically refill her order and charge her credit card. Guess who had to call the company, return the products, and get her credit card refunded?

Several months ago she saw an ad for pills that rid of belly fat. She ordered them, and when they came in the mail she got a bit of a scolding. “Mom,” I tried to reason, “if getting rid of belly fat was that easy, we’d all be taking this stuff.”  They’re still in the drawer. And she’s still got belly fat. What a surprise!

Last week she received a second order for arthritis pills she saw advertised on TV. We didn’t know about the first order, for which she paid $166. She was supposed to get two bottles and a third free. The free one never came, but they did automatically send her another monthly supply and charge her credit card.

Of course, she asked my husband to deal with this and not tell me. He did deal with it. And he did tell me. And I did talk to her. I pointed out that she paid $166 for a pill that contains Vitamin C and D. That it wouldn’t help her arthritis. That it’s a scam. And I got the same response as before. Which means she didn’t hear a word I said.

My husband wants to take away her credit card. I feel that taking it away would make her feel more diminished, less independent, and more child-like. At the same time, I can only imagine what might arrive at our door next month. Mind you, mom orders other things that we know nothing about but I find in her secret stash in the kitchen drawer.

Any suggestions out there? Besides calling the Attorney General’s Office?



Raleigh’s New Senior Center Has New Meaning

When I was elected to the Raleigh City Council three years ago, the first issue I worked on as part of the Public Works Committee was funding and approval of a new Senior City, which was approved by passage of a bond referendum.

There was infighting. One group, SAG, which worked diligently for the center and the bond, believed the funding should be used for their center. Another group of seniors in North Raleigh, who got thrown out of their space all the time because of programming conflicts, had other ideas. They wanted the center to be located near them.

We reached a compromise. I was in the thick of it, negotiating, listening, cajoling. It was great to be able to come up with a solution that made everyone happy: two centers, the larger one at Whitaker Mill and a second at Millbrook Exchange Park. Because of this connection, the centers have always had a special place in my heart.

Today we broke ground on the Whitaker Mill Center and it has a whole new meaning for me. Now when I look in the face of people like Jean and Jilma and others, I have a whole new appreciation of what this center represents to them … Physical activity. Mental agility. Social connections. Cards and games. Comfort. Friendships. A meal. A hug. A helping hand. A smile. A laugh. A sense of accomplishment for making it happen. A legacy. A place to call their own. All the little things that make it a big thing.

I never would have known this in an intimate way if my mom hadn’t come to live with me. I take my mom twice a week to Independence Health, where she enjoys all of the above amenities. And I’ve come to understand what going there means to her.

As we pushed the shovel into the ground and flung the dirt, symbolizing the start of construction of this new building, I had a lump in my throat. I knew that many seniors would come to enjoy this new facility in ways I had never understood before. I thought, “Maybe my mom will get to go here.” Now I never imagined thinking that three years ago.

These senior centers, AKA “active lifestyle facilities,” are a joint project of the City of Raleigh and Wake County. You can check out the designs by clicking here


Three Generations Under One Roof

It is Mother’s Day and I am sitting here reflecting on the past year. Last May, I knew that I would be moving my mom to Raleigh to live with us. What I didn’t know was that my 25-year-old daughter Lauren would be moving back to Raleigh for a new job.

Since Lauren was in the middle of a sublease in Aspen, she rented her apartment with the furniture in it. So guess what? She had no choice but to move back home for the interim. With her little puppy Henri. And camp out in our study. For three months.

So what is it like having three generations of strong-willed, passionate, perfectionists living under one roof? Do you really need to ask?

Really, most of it has been fun. Lauren and I love to cook so we take our weekly trip to the Farmer’s Market, make these elaborate meals together, and pick out good wines to match. We take our dogs on walks together, talk. We’re both busy with work, sometimes burning the midnight oil until … well … midnight.

But there’s tension. Mom thinks she’s the boss. She tells us when to cook and how to chop the veggies, comments on our clothes and hair, laments when we don’t put on lipstick. And more. (Today’s example: Mom says, “Lauren, I saw your recipe and it says that your cake takes three hours to make. You better get it started now.” Well, it’s 12:30 and we’re eating dinner at 7. Lauren says, “I’ve got it under control, Grandma.” Mom, “Well, I’m just reminding you.” Five minutes later, she says the same thing. You get the picture).

Lauren is a little bit bossy herself. I remember when I was 25, I thought I knew everything. It’s only later that you figure out that your parents are a little smarter than you give them credit for. So she’s at that stage where she’s asserting her independence. And she’s not afraid to take charge or speak her mind. (Example: Moms reading this don’t need an example. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Enough said.)

And then there’s me. I admit,  I like to do things my way. I’m really independent, have been since I moved out of my house at age 19. Now I’m 54 and I really don’t need my mom telling me what to do. But that doesn’t stop her. So I’m learning to listen to her “suggestions,” say something like, “Thanks, mom, for the suggestion,” and then go do what I want. It’s better than getting into it with her. (Example: I say to mom and Lauren, “Enough out of both of you. You think you’re the boss, mom. And Lauren, you think you’re the boss. Well, I have news for both of you. This is my house and I’m the boss. So both of you knock it off right now.” Then I walk away and mom sticks her tongue out at me. Highly effective.)

Lauren has now moved to her own apartment. But she’s here today for Mother’s Day. The dogs are chasing each other around the house, barking. The TV is on too loud because mom can’t hear it otherwise. Lauren just discovered she forgot buttermilk for the cake. She’s running out the door, leaving a mess in the kitchen, and yelling these instructions: “Don’t touch anything. I’ll be right back.” Mom is yelling, “See, I told you to start the cake earlier.” The phone is ringing. Mom’s “offering a suggestion” about how to get the dogs calmed down.

Ah, the joys of family. But I wouldn’t change a thing. There’s something to be said about three generations under one roof. It’s never dull. Just ask my husband.

Happy Mother’s Day!

The Emotional Side of Growing Old

I finally got to my Sunday New York Times (okay, it’s been a busy week), and I came across an interesting article about Dr. Marc E. Agronin, who cares for seniors at the Miami Jewish Health Systems. His focus isn’t on the physical, it’s on the mental health of his patients.

As people age, they deal with different issues … like losing a spouse, their best friend, their independence. Their body doesn’t work the same, there’s the aches and pains, and for many a move to a new place, where it be a child’s home, a nursing home or an assisted living facility. No wonder seniors suffer from depression, grief and anxiety.

One of his patients describes him as a “lifesaver,” saying, “He helps you walk down the mountain.” That mountain, of course, is growing old and all that is associated with the aging process.

One of the reasons why I insisted my mom come live with us is I felt she was depressed after the death of my dad. In fact, I think she was depressed before that. Once a social butterfly, she lived a very isolated life. She wasn’t eating right (frozen dinners) and she wasn’t getting any exercise. You could hear the sadness in her voice.

If this sounds like your mom and dad, step in. You don’t have to move them in with you, but can get them an exercise bike. Take them a home-cooked meal. Or get them to a group therapy session like the one that Dr. Agronin holds. It will improve the quality of their lives. And ultimately, yours.

Unsolicited Advice is the Worst, Or So I Thought

There are a lot of books and articles written about communication between men and women. I remember reading Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. And although it was many years ago, the one thing that stood out for me was: unsolicited advice is never appreciated.

Women, for instance, like to talk and vent. They really don’t want you to say anything, they just want you to listen. (By the way, that’s why we have girlfriends. They understand that instinctively, offering sympathy or empathy). But men are different. They listen, then offer advice because they want to help you solve your problem. It’s maddening to women because all they want is for someone to listen.

This all came back to me the other day after listening to my mom give me unsolicited advice time and time again. I was getting frustrated to the point … well, you don’t want to know. And after a conversation with my sister, she said: “Unsolicited advice is the worst kind.” Ahhh, it suddenly all clicked. When you ask someone for advice, it’s appreciated. Otherwise, not so much.

So I had a heart to heart with my mom the other night and told her that when she gives me advice I didn’t ask for, it makes me feel like I’m a four-year-old again and i really wished she wouldn’t do it. We talked quite a bit, she apologized profusely, and I really thought she understood. Success!

That was Saturday. This is Monday. I’m leaving the house and she says, “You work too hard. I can’t believe you’ve been on the phone all morning and now you have a meeting. Is that what you’re wearing? Really? Where’s your lipstick? You look really pale.” Seriously. My response: “Mom, don’t you remember the conversation we had the other night about you giving me advice I didn’t ask for? I’m more inclined never to wear lipstick if you nag me about it.”

She looked at me dead in the eye and said, “What conversation? I don’t know what you’re talking about. But if you don’t want me commenting on your lipstick, then fine. You’ll just look pale.”

So I found out there’s something worse than unsolicited advice. It’s when someone doesn’t remember giving it to you.