My Blog

November 21, 2015

Elderly Mothers don’t grow old gracefully


On the roads again

On the roads again

And a great voice rose up. And it said, “Take up thy rod and thy staff and follow me.” And he bought her a plane ticket to Florida.  And she took up her friggin’ canes and decided she was going back to Hubby Al in Florida. And there was great consternation in the land.

Hubby Flatbottom – silently (he rarely expresses his opinions aloud). He’s her husband, he should take care of her.

Bro Joe – don’t take her to the airport, tell her she can’t go.

Sister-in-law (who suffered with her in Atlanta) – she shouldn’t go, she can’t take care of herself.

Sister Sara – let her go. If she dies out there on the road, so be it.

And I start tearing my hair in great chunks from my already-showing-signs-of- male-pattern-baldness head. What on earth should I do?

The problem is Al. He is a tall, gangly, tennis-playing 85year-old who has been with Mom for nearly forty years. Five years ago, they finally got married, hitched, legally conjoined, headed for connubial bliss, and made as one by Judge Danny Pierce, our local County Judge. It had been a long time coming.

As I’ve commented in other blogs, Al is very strange. We think he has high-functioning Asbergers. Is that how you say it? I’m not sure. He has no home and lives out of his car. As they cruise the highways and byways on their route following the tennis circuit north and south, he rents rooms in people’s homes, usually Indians-from-India, or elderly ladies needing additional income. They have a series of people who know them and places they rent on each north-south expedition.


Swimming pool in Orlando

Swimming pool in Orlando

Winter time, he goes to Florida and rents from an Indian lady named Superna. He leaves the house at about 5 am and knows which fancy hotels in and around the Orlando area have The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and all the local papers as well.  He cruises each of the hotels, collecting newspapers, and feeding off the free buffets. He  brings home bananas and muffins and slabs of cold egg omelettes and crusty croissants for Mom. Then they eat his ill-gotten gains in bed while he peruses all the newspapers. Then he takes her to the pool to swim. He’s never too busy to take her, unlike me. (Guilt strikes again).

After going through all the newspapers, he leaves them piled in great heaps around their room. Mom makes a half-hearted effort to dig out from under and throw them away. From this mass of material, he can remember every single word he reads. He just can’t put the ideas together into a coherent whole. It is possible to talk to him about whatever he’s been reading for about fifteen minutes. You actually think he is, maybe, a retired brain surgeon or a brilliant physicist. Then you realize he’s well, NOT.

Mom reads the funnies

Mom reads the funnies

But he gets along amazingly well in society, winding his way through free breakfasts and lunches, checking out dumpsters with still-good food, raiding trash piles for useable anything, and always finding fairly fresh flowers to bring home for Mom. I don’t think he steals them off graves. That I know of. But you never can tell.

The problem is that he doesn’t cook. She has to do the cooking. I don’t know if you remember my blogs about the burned beans in the pressure cooker, or the splatter of spaghetti on the inside of the microwave, or the boiled-over oatmeal, or the pizza on the paper plate in the broiler of the oven. This is why we gently suggested she come stay with me.

But now, stubbornly, she says she’s been cooking for herself for 96 years. She’s fine. She can take care of herself. And Al takes good care of her. And she’s not going to fall. And she is not going to get sick. And she’s not going to starve. And she’s not going to have any trouble making her way up and down Superna’s stairs to the second floor.

To refuse to let her go is to suggest she is incompetent, useless, stupid, inadequate, worthless, whatever. I certainly don’t mean that, but I can promise you, the mere suggestion is going to get her dander up. And make her more determined than ever to go.

I cringe . . . and cower. “Yes, Mom, I’ll get the car.”

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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