Only Child explores senior living past and present

Only Child and Mom mid 1960s

My late mother had a saying – “you can’t win no how.” Which sounds negative, but when you look at how people’s lives pan out, Mom maybe had a point. Especially as her life was cut short  by a brain aneurysm at age 63. She was also somewhat crippled by arthritis and scleroderma. All this happened after my dad died of cancer at 66.

Perhaps I should consider her somewhat lucky that she didn’t live longer to have to deal with more bad things happening in her life. At the time of her death she and I shared an apartment. However, I was engaged and the wedding ceremony and reception were already booked – the latter by Mom herself. She was scared to live alone and pondered whether she should spend six months (late spring to early fall) annually at her younger sister’s on the farm. Maybe not a good choice as Mom fell on the doorstep outside my aunt’s farmhouse. This was a new house and these entrance steps numbered two.  It was the damn arthritis.

The damn arthritis really was what killed her. It made her fall off the vanity dresser chair  (in her bedroom) onto the wooden floor and bang her head. She got headaches but thought they were because of her eyes – maybe new glasses – and she had an ophthalmologist’s appointment in mid-September.

She went into a coma overnight the end of July and had to be rushed to the hospital. Despite surgery, she never woke up and died five days later.

When I look at my life compared to hers, I begin to wonder. First, about her saying “You can’t win no how.”

I certainly am not going through my senior years without a fight despite my health issues of diminishing eyesight in my left eye and getting worse, a digestive disorder, living on low income, and  having to deal with more problems than well – let’s just say that the phrase about God not giving anyone any more crosses than they can bear is a myth.

As a child,  I was meek, mild and shy  and didn’t really get my courage legs until in my 30s. My writing and being a single parent then forced me to change. It grew gradually. But I have one trait ,which I think comes from my Dad – I am a stubborn senior and God or somebody help those who make my life miserable. On the other hand those who are good to me and help and treat me well, I try to do the same for and to them. “Do onto others as they do onto you” is more my saying than “you can’t win no how.”

Perhaps besides the stubborneess, my saving graces are my writing, my garden, my son and his girlfriend, my cousins,  close friends, reading (despite the bad eye) and even watching favourite TV shows, and walking. A keen interest in life and a desire to see justice done doesn’t hurt either.

Now, if I could just find time to get to bed early enough to get enough sleep…

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

What is your story – along these lines?


Only Child Writes

My son, Martin, me, and Juni by my garden





Filed under Arthritis, Assertiveness, Health, Mother, Only child, Seniors

2 responses to “Only Child explores senior living past and present

  1. Rio

    I like your question at the end, “What’s your story?” because we do tend to wrap a narrative around choice bits of our lives often based on how we are feeling, or on habits, but I’d prefer to say “traditions”. The great thing about story telling for me is I can have a bit of control whereas in life it is the opposite! Our family tradition was to make our stories funny or to “shut up about it” and I have that tendency now. Telling heart-felt truths is difficult for me.
    My brother, sister and I have very different recollections of our parents but we are eight years apart and very different people. But we all agree that they were hard people. I got close to my father when I had cancer and he was dying at the time also of cancer. It wasn’t so much that we bonded over shared misery but that he finally softened a bit. He was a man who suffered greatly in his youth, worked hard to rise out of poverty and kept armor around his emotions. So I guess without giving me much, a “sorry” and a hug while we wept will remain for me the truth that matters. He died at home in my mother’s care.
    My mom was “a hard nut to crack” and that is an expression she used to describe herself.
    Getting old and infirm comes with a lot of frustration and anger. It is just the way it is. There is a reason why so many old people die in hospital or old age homes, it is really hard on those who love you.
    My mom would not tolerate the staff in hospital. She told me the day I took her home that she’d apologized to a nurse for how she behaved and was told, “That wasn’t me.”
    It was so hard. I went for weeks without a solid nights sleep. I cried a lot, alone. She would rally for other people, and complain. She put on her favorite outfit for her birthday with friends and family. After that I would awake in the next room to find her dressing for “a special surprise but now you have RUINED IT!!!” The doctor came to the house to try to get her to go back to the hospital. Her body was shutting down, she was often confused but she was determined to stay and die at home.
    “That was very nice” was what she said after her breakfast of weak tea and pancakes, her favorite. She was being so sweet I thought she was getting better and we would have a nice Xmas together. While I was baking cookies to give as gifts because there was no way I would get any shopping done, she died in bed.
    Slowly, after three years I am remembering better times and how strong and funny she was. Maybe its just in our bones to be hard. She used to brag, “My grandmother walked from Wyoming to Alberta pulling her baby brother in a hand cart when she was fourteen.”

  2. Very interesting story, Rio. Like you said we all have our family stories. My mother grew up on a farm near Mildmay, Ontario. There were eight siblings (including one who was stillborn). The sibling were all quirky, very distinctive people. As a child I bonded with my maternal grandfather when Mom, Dad and I visited every summer. When he was sick with cancer (although I wasn’t told that) and he had to have an operation in a Toronto hospital, he stayed with us to recuperate. Mom looked after him. Grandpa and I bonded even more. He would sit at the livingroom window facing the veranda watching for me to come home from school and when I did we played some card game called “Chasing someone out of the country” – not the game’s official name. When he died a few years later I was very sad.

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