The Good Daughter

January 13, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

A friend of mine, lives locally, “rescued” if I may so use the term, her elderly mother from seven weeks in hospital.

All the same sort of story that we hear all the time, particularly in these times of everything – so – crazy. The mother had an infection that had hung on for too long and her doctor admitted her into hospital, with the assurance that she would be out within a couple of weeks. Hospitals are dangerous places for anyone with an weakened immunity – the food’s not great; there’s too much danger of unrelated infection – we know all about it, even with the tremendous trust we place in medical staff, an old lady is better off out of there than staying too long, if she has some place else to go that is safe, clean and loving.

By the end of seven weeks, it was clear that she needed to leave and my friend pulled rank and pulled her out to bring her home – to her own home in the country, lots of windows to see the birds and watch the weather glow and grumble.

By then, Mom was largely bed-ridden but her daughter had shifted things in the dining room to give her space and light, made it nice to keep her involved with whatever was going on – her daughter is busy with work and other matters, doing what was needed to care for her mom, with the assistance of home help – nurses, PSWs, all that.

What mattered was not the dining room nor the shuffling nor the extra work. What mattered was her mother, who had been pretty well independent, even in her nineties and even coming home from the hurly-burly of the hospital, she had her wits about her and enjoyed reading the newspaper in peace.

It is a matter of respect, for which both the deserving and the giving must be guarded, like something expensive. Love is easier, less demanding, more comfortable. We count on love to get us up in the morning but respect remembers civility; respect keeps us constant.

As parents, we need to show our children the respect they deserve right from the beginning and this is really different from indulgence – that can lose us our children’s respect. I guess things can fall apart when the parent requires the guardianship of the child. The innate disappointment in the adult child when the power of parenthood begins to fail, when facility starts to fail, can lead to contempt and thence to abuse.

Never was this more powerfully shown than in the last two years, when elderly people died in droves in those seniors “homes,” where they had been sent by their children or “the system.”

Many cultures refuse this treatment of their parents. In especially southern Europe and much of Asia, parents are brought into their children’s homes, where they are still useful and involved. In many parts of the world, people live to a happy old age because they stay with their communities. They don’t get shuffled off to where they have nothing they have to do; nothing is required of them. All our lives, we have responsibilities and those are the glue that keep us together in our own heads. Even if the body’s abilities are reduced there is still the need to be there as consul and reassurance.

It is incumbent upon us to take care of ourselves as we age, to pay attention to our weight, our healthy minds. That begins in our forties, when we are so busy with life. Yet, like anything, we have to focus on maintenance with what we eat and drink; what are our conversations, what do we read, how much stress do we allow in our lives, how much respect do we give and receive?

Times are tough. We are surrounded with idiot and sinister governors. We elect people and they betray us right away. We have democracy but little choice about whom we can trust with it. The stormy waters of the internet toss information, truth and respect around in such furies that a person can hardly sort it out. Much of the rest is foolishness.

A daily break from it to take time to think our own thoughts, look for clarity in nature or old books or each other is therapy.

At the base is the lack of respect. When respect is missing, things fall apart.

At 99 years old, my friend’s mother died since the birth of the New Year. They were together and she held her mother’s hand as she passed. Age doesn’t matter to grief; a hole in our lives has been created. We will learn to put the fresh pain to one side, harbour it in a safe place in our psyches but the memories of that relationship are forever a salve or a burden.

That is why our respect for our children and their respect for their parents matters so much.

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