Tag Archives: parenting

Parenting Our Parents

I moved back to Canada from the Bahamas in late summer 2011; and before winter 2012, I moved my mother in with me.  She was not thrilled about living in the Vancouver area because she doesn’t like the damp climate.

“I’ve raised seven children; been butchered up by the doctors after being in the hospital sixteen times,” she likes to remind us, even though seven of those times were to deliver babies. “Vancouver weather just makes my bones ache.”

But  mom agreed to move in with me anyway, and we were living in a high rise on the 33rd floor.   “The bird cage,” she quickly dubbed it.  She loved the views, the sunrises, but hated everything else about it.  All that said, mom’s health improved week by week, likely due to the regular and varied meals we made, and the love received by her grandchildren.  She didn’t like going out much, and I’m no sure if it was the high rise life that was foreign to her, but the woman I knew as my mother always had a gypsy adventurous spirit and it killed me to see her be so idle while I worked on the computer during the day.

That Christmas she went to ‘visit’ her sister in Edmonton for two weeks and flew the coop by refusing to return.  I can’t say I was surprised.

On a warm May day in 2015 walking through Hoy Trail in Coquitlam. I took mom on a walk through the woods and she said, "This spot is so beautiful you should take a picture."
On a warm May day in 2015 walking through Hoy Trail in Coquitlam. I took mom on a walk through the woods and she said, “This spot is so beautiful you should take a picture.”

Mom only lasted two weeks with her big sister and then moved in with a girlfriend.  She stayed there in Edmonton, ended up in the interior of BC for a bit with another girlfriend, and went back to Edmonton until 2015. In 2014 she put herself into the hospital at one point, and the doctors found nothing wrong with her. It was hard to deal with as we wanted her in BC, but she refused to come, and refused to live with her friend again.  The doctors suggested they find senior housing for her. The wait was a few months, and I know it was hard on her.

Finally a place came up in downtown Edmonton, and my sister and I went out to set mom up in her new home. We went out and shopped and got it all ready for her, even buying her new clothes. The seniors facility had all the amenities and no cooking was allowed in her room. Thank goodness as she had been starting to leave pots on stoves, etc.

It wasn’t long before mom said she didn’t like their food, and didn’t’ seem to engage in any of the social activities they had on every day. I could tell when I called she was depressed.  All of her children, live in BC except my brother who lives in Edmonton, but has ALS and lives in long-term care.  If anything urgent were to happen with mom’s health, we’d have to fly in. I continued to express my concern about this with her.   Finally mom agreed to move to B.C. but wanted to live in Abbotsford instead of Vancouver, as she assumed it gets less rain.

Made with love! Every morning I put out breakfast for mom. Home made steel cut oats with raisins and flax; some kefir; coconut milk, stewed prunes; and her vitamins. She's only on one medication for her high blood pressure. Mom is always served first at any of our meals.
Made with love! Every morning I put out breakfast for mom. Home made steel cut oats with raisins and flax; some kefir; coconut milk, stewed prunes; and her vitamins. She’s only on one medication for her high blood pressure. Mom is always served first at any of our meals.

We found the best seniors home in our budget and were able to get her in when we wanted.  My brother drove out to get her things and put her on the plane.  This was the spring of 2015.  Within only weeks at her new place in Abbotsford, mom was complaining about the food, and the staff. She was mostly upset that the units had only walk-in showers and no bathtubs. She’s been a bathtub girl her entire life.   Again, I could hear the depression setting in, although I was driving out to visit her one day a week, bringing her home on a weekend overnights, as was my brother who lives in Abbotsford.

Then our roommate moved out of our home, and  in my heart of hearts I knew my mother should be with me.  I talked to my siblings about it first.  We all agreed she had to stick out 3 months at the seniors home first, so she would understand her actions better and have time to assimilate the transition into my home .

When I asked her if she’d move in with me again, she burst into tears. “I thought you’d never ask me again, after living with you the last time,” she said.   She stuck out the 3 months and moved in with me last year in September.

This Friday mom turns 83 and she’s finally calling our place ‘home.’ She stopped answering the phone saying, “Robbin’s place” and now just says, “Good afternoon.”

Mom’s been institutionalized, and expected meals to be on time, at certain times, even though I told her she’s living with family now and we are all busy.  Things will not always be on time, and she’ll have to learn to go with our flow. We still have to remind her of this.

Out for a walk in February 2015. After winter she was not wanting to walk much, so I had to get out with her to get her back in the swing of daily walks.
Out for a walk in February 2015. After winter she was not wanting to walk much, so I had to get out with her to get her back in the swing of daily walks.

She’s eased up a lot, and her health is getting better and better, although her short term memory has not improved much.  She’s begun sharing her stories (over and over as she forgets), and has also begun going through some of her things like photographs, and has starting giving them as gifts.  I truly believe that if we care for and live with (or near) our parents, this is how our family stories get passed from generation to generation.

I started writing about mom under the hashtag #parentingourparents on Facebook, and since we baby boomers are all taking care of, or assisting our parents in their final years, my writing seems to  strike a chord with those either dealing with similar, or those who appreciate the insight of what to expect.  Some of my writing is touched with sadness, but much of it  is laced with irony, laughter, and a lot of love.

Taking care of my mother is the least I can do. I am lucky she is still in great health and has her mobility.  It is now her time to rest, reflect, share her stories and enjoy life, the way she wants to.   I often want for her to enjoy life the way I think would be best for her … and she quickly lets it be known if those ideas are going to work for her, or not.

She’s one stubborn woman, but then so am I…

Mom woke up very late yesterday... and seemed to be in a zombie state. I had breakfast laid out and she told me she was going for a walk. "Before breakfast?" I asked. She went on her way, and I thought she must be mad at me for something...? She came back in and said, "Oh a bear got into the garbage cans last night. I hardly slept." I guess she didn't want to wake me up. I went out and sure enough our bins were knocked over. They are right outside her bedroom window. At least she wasn't mad at me :P Later I took her for a walk by Lafarge Lake and we only got as far as the first park bench and she said she had to stop because she was so tired. I hold mom's hand these days, as it gives her that extra security when we walk. "If you don't slow down, you'll have to carry me," she says every time. I left her watching the ducks and did a fast walk on my own. She slept like a log last night :) #parentingourparents #bearscare
Mom sitting in the park at Town Centre, Coquitlam overlooking LaFarge Lake. She was tired because a bear got into our garbage the night before. I did the lake loop on my own.

Here’s one of my favourite #ParentingOurParents pieces from 2015:

Tucking in my 82 year old mother the other night after putting in her eye drops from her cataract removal, I gave her a little squeeze, and she said, “Oh my that feels good. I don’t get many hugs these day.”
Then she said, “Thanks for taking such good care of me.” I turned out her light and held back some tears on the way to my bedroom. #ParentingourParents

[To find more of my #parentingourparents entries, go to your search bar at the top of Facebook and put that hashtag in and hit ‘Return’ – please note that there are others using this hashtag also.]

How to Call Your Parents

celeste-on-the-phone-600x300I know it sounds easy, but why is it so hard for so many of us?

Our parents are aging. They don’t want to be a bother.  You often hear seniors say, “Oh, my kids are very busy with their families, and I don’t want to bug them.”  Sadly many people do not talk to their parents for months or even a year at a time.

What is even more bewildering to me is that some people say, “But if I call, I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what to tell them.”

Our parents are aging, and their minds and bodies are changing. As we become seniors, we become more childlike.  Our parents need us. It’s payback time.

A child needs is food, touch, warmth and love.  Our parents deserve the same. They gave it to us.

If we can step up for at least the love part, then a phone call is very important, especially if our parents are living alone, as a widow, or widower; and even if they live in a seniors home or care facility.

If you need that nudge, here’s my basics on how to make that call:

  1. Aim to keep it short. Tell them at the start that you can’t talk long, but you called to see how they are doing.  “Hi mom, I can’t talk long, but you’ve been on my mind, and I called to see how you are doing?”
  2. After they answer (they may just say they are ‘ok’), ask them what they’ve been up to. They may not tell you much. Expect that, because for some, they may also not remember.
  3. Have three questions in mind to ask. Write them down if you have to. They may flip it over to discuss you, as not to talk about themselves, but try and get those three questions in during your call.
  4. Have three things to tell them about your life. Write them down if you have to. ie. 1. Your daughter Mary graduated from med school 2. You got a call from an old friend you hadn’t see since childhood  3. Your plans for an upcoming vacation.
  5. Some parents may bring up old grievances. If that should happen and you hear the old record player starting up yet again, then ‘keep it short’  – as you intended. It’s okay to say, “Hey mom, sorry to cut you off, but I have to run now. I’ll call again soon.”  (and yes you will!)
  6. Always tell them you love them before you hang up, no matter how the conversation went. Some people never hear “I love you”  enough, or are often afraid to say it to others, but your parent needs to hear it. So just say it, because it won’t hurt.  The more you say it, the more natural and easy it becomes…”I love you mom.”

Make that call today!

(Check out the hashtag #ParentingOurParents on Facebook to get a peek into my life, living with and caring for my 80+ mother)

Pets in a Cage – Parents in Apartments

Photo: Robbin Whachell
Father and son…   (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

We all realize the dilemma of pets in cages. We understand that they are in a foreign environment and so we compensate by taking them out, petting them, or talking to them to ensure they feel loved.

Do we give our aging parents that same amount of thought ? A talk, a walk. We walk our pets to ensure they maintain their bodily functions… do our parents not deserve the same attention to ensure they are moving their bodies?

They too deserve a pet, a soft kind word… An “I love you mom,” before they go to bed, or hang up the call. Put it on a postcard.

When you finally do reach out and touch them, you realize it’s good for both of you. Warmth grows from the inside out. You reconnect, reconfirm, that you will be there for them – for each other. They can be the ones that feel the gift, that all is safe in their world.

Just like when you were little and they tucked you into bed.

Our parents are growing older, and they need us. It’s payback time…

Death, Grieving, Healing: In Memory of My Father, Curt Whachell

“I encourage any of you that may have unresolved issues with your parents, to discuss, resolve them and/or forgive, now before later...”

My father passed away at 87 years old on March 11th, 2013. I’d seen him twice this year before a visit just one week prior to his death.  He was doing so well those first two times, that the last time I saw him, was when it finally sunk in that my father was actually going to die. Until then, I naively never felt it possible.

I’d always felt blessed that all of my loved ones were alive around me, while so many families deal with sudden deaths, accidents and sickness. The whole idea of death and dying waited until now to visit my psyche.

My father lived a full and rich life. I have no regrets regarding our relationship, and have no thoughts or words left unsaid to my father, as we had a relationship that seemed even-keeled throughout my entire life.

On his last birthday I had the pleasure of reading this poem (see link at bottom) to him as he laughed and listened, and I am so glad I had that opportunity, as I also read it at his funeral, and I am glad it wasn’t only the latter.

This my first experience in grieving death and it is still very fresh. I’ve grieved lost love, and I have to say they are nothing alike. Lost love ranks up there with personally dying, whereas the grieve I am feeling now, comes in waves. There was the initial shock, sadness, and heart-wrenched outpouring of sorrow, that led to moments of disbelief, and denial, which were hit by the next unexpected wave of sorrow.

The funeral, or memorial, is such an important process to go through. My older sister reminded me that the funeral is not only for the deceased, but also for the living. It helps up to personally come to terms with the loss; to realize, and release, the attachment to that person.

How dad reacted to the poem  I read about him. This was his last birthday.
How dad reacted to the poem I wrote bout him. This was his last birthday.

Losing a parent is like losing a part of your identity. Another benefit of putting together a funeral is, that in the process and delivery, you revisit that identity. I know for certain that our family’s identity was strengthened through my father’s passage. What a gift he gave us.

With my 50th birthday approaching this month, I’d asked my eldest brother to convert our old home movies to DVD so we could show them at my party. How perfect that in doing so, they were ready for my father’s funeral and dad even saw a few clips on his last day on earth. We watched hours of old movies covering Wachell life from the 50s and 60s leading up to the days before the funeral, and the montage you see here (see link at base) was produced from those films by my nephew Davyde.

Curt-TBW-RobbinsNest

Our family and step-family came together to support one another and to grieve together as a family;  and of course to share our sentiments and honour the man that touched our lives individually, and collectively, in so many ways.  With seven children, and a divorce and second marriage, his life created a thread-work of stories and connections, and yes, even disconnections. We were able to share many stories, not only about my father, but about times gone by.

With the death of a loved one you end up having to honour the place you end at, even if there were things left unresolved. I witnessed this with some of my siblings.  I am content to know that I am at peace with each of my parents, but I realised that it’s ‘my decision’ to have that peace that really counts. Forgiveness truly is a gift one gives oneself. I encourage any of you that may have unresolved issues with your parents, to discuss, resolve them and/or forgive, now before later.  And if you have not told a loved one that you love them, do not wait another day to do so. Life is so very very precious.

Rest in peace my sweet father…I miss you so.

Link to HOME MOVIE MONTAGE (1950s/60s) on Curt Whachell: http://youtu.be/MvL_0Sftvn8

A WEBSITE created for my father: http://curt.whachell.com/

Writing-Dads-Birthday_1
What I wrote for my father on the last birthday he had… just 2 month prior to his death.