The day our pint-sized Granny came to live with us, us being my mother and her three teenage brats, was a sweet potato day. We kids loved our nonagenarian Granny given that we had a common enemy, namely Mom. But there was an adjustment or two that had to be made by all of us.
-We learned, by nauseating experience, never to tug at the Kleenex that was stuffed part way up Granny’s sleeve.
-We got to know the sharp, medicinal smell of Noxzema, which mated with every air molecule in every corner of the house, being particularly pungent in the bathroom, bedroom and wet bar.
-Mom had to give me a stern warning that, given Granny’s age, I was no longer to yank the dining room chair from under unsuspecting keysters that were about to alight upon it while I was “helping” to seat those at dinner. (I still remember Father Blair splayed across the carpet letting loose with some scriptural words that he never used in any sermon I recall. Granny laughed ‘till her dentures flew out. I think Mom said grace that night.)
-I had to enter our only bathroom with my eyes wide shut, just in case.
-Even Ralph, our yellow lab, had to learn not to jump up on folks, given that he had knocked Granny down, petticoats over tea kettle, about 47 times in the first two days. This take down was followed by a Benny Hill type chase through the house that involved Granny throwing, bobby pins, wooden spoons and even the nauseating Kleenex that we feared Mom would make us pick up, before Ralph ate it.
-Nylons that my sisters wore on their legs were now ending up decorating Granny’s head.
-Edgar Winter’s “Free Ride” was often accompanied by the blaring of a rogue hearing aid. Ralph eventually ate the hearing aid, which I think was fine with Granny who had no time for Edgar anyway.
-I always looked twice in a glass before drinking from it to see if there were any signs of Polident, Poligrip, Polyfilla or perhaps a loose molar.
-Grilled cheese sandwiches were made differently than when Mom made them as they now had a special white sauce in them along with a bread and butter pickle. The pickle was a nice addition but to this day I’m not sure if the white sauce was Miracle Whip, Elmer’s Glue, Noxzema or all of the above.
Though conversations took a little… OK, a lot longer and we had to open doors a little more slowly and speak a little louder… I miss it. Miss her and miss the times that we were Granny’s caregiver. Granny died at 96, but she died at our home, now her home, happy. Ralph laid at her door for a month.
Remember the days when your mother changed your diapers, breast fed you, spoon fed you that Gerbers “Squash and Prairie Oyster” slop. Well I do, and now, as my mother ages, it is my turn to do the same for her, though I’m a little sketchy on the breast feeding thing.
Remember when your dad beat you….to the corner. When he really gave it to you…money. Well now it’s your turn.
We would love to remember our parents when they were in their prime but the time comes when we need to care for them while we’re in ours. The role of family caregiver is thrust upon you, sometimes voluntarily and other times because your brother apparently is on the Space Station conducting experiments with Poligrip or whatever, that will take “30 or more years” or until probate court.
These days 80% of the care at home is done by family caregivers, saving our health care system billions. There are over a million family caregivers in my province alone, with, 1 in 4 people taking on that role in their lifetime. Over 70% are also trying to balance caregiving at home with their jobs, hardly an easy task. While it can be a rich experience it can also be very taxing and create a real caregiver burden.
Thankfully there is the Family Caregivers Network (www.familycaregiversnetwork.org). This amazing network has expertise in helping with the practical problems associated in caring at home for the elderly, the infirm or both. Experts at finding the specific answer to your unique situation, they are a remarkable resource who can offer respite, support, advice and Bingo on Tuesdays. Without explaining everything they do, I would simply suggest that if you are one of the million who are caring for a loved one or a husband at home and have not used this resource, Granny would slap you upside the head…with her Kleenex.