How you treat your aging mother is an example to your own children on how to treat you as you enter you final lap, a passage that can be physically painful and lonely. Be consistently grumpy around your old mom and your kids may do the same when you are their old mom- and stick you in a nursing home far away from your grandchildren.
As I've watched my mother grow old I realize how little control we have about how long we are fated to live. I've changed my thinking about the goal of a long life. Quality of life is more important to me. And how much control do we have over that? Still, I hope I will have the kind of spirit and pride Mom shows the world despite her certainty that she has outlived her time.
I've never felt so conflicted as I did when I packed up 40 years worth of family possessions from the only home I ever knew. Watching your parents age and being the one on the front lines of denial -- I'm not moving, I don't need help, etc. -- slaps you awake into a reality no one wants, or is prepared, to face.
While I am a huge fan of using different digital tools to stay connected with others, I also think that nothing can replace the impact of spending some face time with loved ones. These moments are important in building relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren, but can also be useful in helping families keep an eye on an aging loved one's health.
My mother is a character from a Tennessee Williams play... but without a Southern accent. I am her second child and was born when she was 16 years old. Her childhood was cut short and never spoken of in a way that imparted a sense of safety or innocence. Each man she ran away with she hoped would rescue her from the last. She gave up every child she bore to some degree.
I open the door to step back into the room, and he is already asleep again. Sitting in the chair by his bed. The effort to get dressed and move to the chair was too much. He is spent. His lungs are filled with fluid, and he no longer has the physical strength to cough it up. They are giving him medicine designed to help, and he tries, but he just can't get it out anymore.