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October 7, 2017

Elderly Mothers and Emotions

Mom stares, emotionless, as I tell her about going back to the trailer. But I can tell. There are thoughts back there behind her eyes. Stoic as always, she just won’t express them. Or, perhaps they are too vague to explain. I ask but get no answer.

I shouldn’t have mentioned it this far from the actual removal date. We are required to give sixty-days-notice before moving her. I doubt if all their clients are so accommodating. Two have up and died suddenly and two more are on hospice, but clinging to life grimly.

When one of the staff members expressed concern about “facility population,” I assured him that there was nothing to worry about. There are a lot of us coming down the pike headed their way.
So, save your pennies. You may be counting them to figure out how many years you can live here. One family was told by their attorney that their 97-year-old mother could stay 5 more years on her remaining income. That ought to stretch just fine for her although there won’t be much left for an inheritance.

Of course, that doesn’t include caregivers, which is where our funds will be going next. We are fortunate. A dear friend is a nurse who has trained nurse’s aides for years. Since she is Hispanic, she has been particularly good about training other Hispanics to serve as caregivers. And since Mom lived in Mexico for nearly 20 years, her Spanish is passable and she should be comfortable with Hispanic assistants.

One of the couples here at the facility has had a Mexican maid for something like fifteen years. She has become practically family and the couple have watched her two young daughters grow up into good, hard-working, well-educated teens. I think they even plan to help with the girls’ college funds.

Another one of our residents, however, has a young Mexican maid who helps her during the day. The cranky resident refuses to allow her caregiver to ever bring her two children around. Even when they are sick or have to come home from school. No love lost there.

One elderly codger, who has been reprimanded for turning the dining room air blue with his cursing, refuses to have anyone but Anglo girls. I asked one girl who comes and plays cards with him if she was a relative. She assured me she wasn’t but that she and the other white girls who come to help him have maintained that fiction.

Another friend of mine who has suffered several health issues with her husband has paid an agency to have caregivers come to her house, at an exorbitant cost of $3,000 a week. She complains that many of the girls just sit on the couch texting or playing on their infernal cell phones instead of staying busy caregiving. There have been several “discussions” with the agency about the assistants they send.

Many of the caregivers at our Facility are African-American. One short, rotund, cheerful assistant who helps someone in Assisted Living cruises through the dining room every morning giving everyone—and I mean everyone—a quick hug and a kiss. Another, who has taken care of Mom in the past, always seems to be smiling, thank goodness. She willingly puts up with several cranky old biddies who insist on wheel chairs and hand-delivered meals. They have offered to come to the house, but they charge $15 an hour. The Hispanic girls only charge $10.

Thinking to comfort Mom, I reminded her that she once said that one of her reasons for moving to Mexico when she married my Mexican father was to have maids to help with us children. And it is true. All four of us have fond memories of our maids. My sister will tell you that she and my younger brother were brought up by the maid and saw more of the maid than they did of my mother. That may sound racist, but it’s just the way life was in Mexico, and still is.

Suddenly Mom started laughing. Only the laughing was actually crying, great, jerking, gulping sobs. She has almost never cried in front of us. It just wasn’t done. But now, she used the laugh as a cover for her terrible sadness. No tears, just sobs. Perhaps it released her repressed emotions. Once again, she was going to be moved willy-nilly. Once again, she would not be allowed to take care of herself. Once again, she had no power over her own life.

She wanted Al. She wanted to make sure he knew where she was going. Even in the mists of dementia, she remembers him. She’s forgotten that he lived at the trailer with her when they came through on their annual path north and south. But she knows he was there to take care of her. Not maids. Just Al.

He doesn’t like Huntsville and, if he does show up, he won’t stay. But if he comes, she will want to go with him. And she can’t. Which means there will be year-long angst and months of agonizing over why he has left her for Florida. She’ll worry, again, over whether he will ever come back. So far, he always has.

So maids it is. At least Mom speaks a modicum of Spanish. Maybe she’ll think she is back in Mexico.

About Caroline Castillo Crimm
Retired Professor Emeritus from Sam Houston State University, interested in writing novels and speaking about topics such as the history of Latin American. Would like to share the AMAZING world of the 18th century in Northern New Spain, that's Spanish Texas and Mexico!
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