The last week has been horrendous. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I’ve primarily been an observer. Mom’s the one who’s had it tough. As tough as it’s been, it could have been worse, if she’d lived her life differently up to this point.
Whatever your sob story is, I assure you, Mom can go toe to toe with you. Since she didn’t allow her circumstances to define her, I’m not going to air her dirty laundry, but if I wanted to, I could paint a pretty sad picture. In spite of where she began, Mom made good life choices. It would be easy to think she was lucky, but that would be short-sighted.
Mom never looked at those around her and believed she was limited to their situation. She always looked toward what she wanted and kept her focus there. She never settled for anything that would limit her future. She worked hard at school. College wasn’t even a hope for her, but she made the most out of every class, every assignment, every textbook of the public school system. She joined everything and took positions of responsibility. She walked alone to church,sang in the choir and taught Sunday School.
There were boys, but she kept them at arm’s length. She had plenty of friends who had hurry-up weddings or disappeared for a few months, but she wasn’t going to be one of those. She and Dad dated for five years, with her living with her family and him living with his. And we’re not talking freeloading. Dad was head of his household, because his father had died. Mom worked full time and was a major contributor to her parent’s household budget. As goofy as it sounds, they waited to get married – not so they could afford some outlandish wedding, but so they could afford a home and a family.
After they were married, they lived frugally. Cash was king and tithing was a way of life. They always saved as much as they spent, paying into retirement plans and insuring themselves, their family and their belongings against any eventuality. When they did finance something, like a home or a car, they made modest choices. NO – I mean REALLY modest choices.
I’m the lucky one, because by the time I rolled around (five years after they were married) they’d socked away what they needed for the rainy day. Both of them worked full time jobs and I had everything I needed. Not everything I wanted by any stretch of the imagination. I’m flabbergasted by what I see parents give their kids today. I would not have had designer clothes, expensive athletic shoes, x-box or a cellphone and I didn’t even get on an airplane until I was out of college. We went on vacations, but they were road trips. My parents taught me to be clean and well groomed – and that what other people said didn’t matter. In other words, Mom & Dad showered me with enough love that if the mean girls at school said something rude to me, I felt sorry for the mean girls.
Because of the careful, frugal way my parents lived, they thought through what the future might hold. When their nest became empty and they were once again their own primary concern, my Mom thought about her future physical needs. She decided what hospital she wanted to go to for treatment and researched the doctors there. This was long before the internet, but she wasn’t satisfied with convenience and she didn’t turn herself over to the lowest bidder.
So now, her days are numbered. She’s set adrift on the sea of medical frustrations – but not exactly. Sure, she has medicare, but she also has secondary insurance. She gets social security and an annuity from Dad’s pension. Her own retirement plan was converted to an IRA and every penny of interest was rolled back into other investments, not bled off for cruises and color TV’s. And by the way, those investments were the slow, steady kind that didn’t depend on the vagaries of the stock market.
So Mom’s lucky, huh? I don’t think so. Mom made herself lucky. And that doctor she chose decades ago? Well, she’s spent those decades building a relationship with him. On another day, I’ll tell you some amazing things he’s done in this last week when it seemed my life and hers was falling apart. I’d never thought about it much until the last few weeks, but the most important things about caregiving happen a long time before the caregiver takes over. If you’re concerned about what’s going to happen to you someday – then today is the day to start doing something about it, because once your caregivers take over, it’s already too late.