Life grows bigger, then smaller

by Mémé

When I retired, Rhett was very worried about what I would do all day.
I quickly found plenty to do, taking up or increasing time spent on hobbies and activities, helping out with my grandchildren, and making plans for lots of travel. I had money, energy, time, and my sweetie. Then a young family member got sick and I had to keep my time flexible for most of a year just in case. When that passed my husband was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and exotic travel is no longer on the agenda. Managing his medication, rest, and diet in addition to running the household, the calendar and being his companion, uses up a lot of time and mental energy. The dear cats we adopted have increased in importance from cuddly greeters when we got up or got home to our full-time furry roommates. We are still planning to travel, but in geezer class, not active retiree class.

I don’t have any wisdom to impart from these life developments beyond carpe diem. I have a good life and the ability, at least in decent weather, to engage in solo outdoor activity for both physical and mental health. I guess it is a bit like waking up a few months or years after the children are born, especially if one or more has serious issues or if other life events intervene– elderly parents or tragedy or divorce or job loss – and realizing that although your life is different and in the long run good, it is even less in your control than you expected or imagined it would be.

Today as the days shorten I am just feeling the little losses. By the time the post goes up I’ll be restored and bubbly and positive, I am nothing if not resilient. (I am editing the post the day after initial composition and just the writing of it has given me an idea. I am going out, in the car, to purchase a wheeled shopping cart so that I can do my local grocery runs on foot.) So please share encouragement or challenges or hopes – whatever you feel today – about how to hit the curveballs of life.

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118 thoughts on “Life grows bigger, then smaller

  1. Meme – My DSs are doing fantastically well – good health, great report cards, enjoying each other. And then I notice my near 8 year old still can’t tie his shoes, doesn’t wear jeans because he can’t maneuver the zipper and button well enough and can’t tape two pieces of paper together. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    Work has been unbelievably stressful this year. Par for the course I am hosting Thanksgiving and my boss just scheduled a meeting for tomorrow at 4 pm. So much for cooking a bunch of stuff ahead of time.

    There always seems to be a curveball, big or small. I love this post because while I usually handle the big stuff well, after a point all the small stuff really gets under my skin. I truly look forward to hearing everyone’s advice on managing life’s curveballs.

  2. This is timely as I just left a small business that I visit many times a month. It is owned by a husband/wife. He broke his back a few weeks ago while working on his roof. I walked in today for the first time and I found out that she died last week of a heart attack.

    I was so upset about problems with a new sink, caregiver issues for my mom etc etc. My mind set changed after I spoke to the owner. He is just so sad. The whole thing is tragic.

    It was a shocking reminder of how annoying my own problems are today, but I’m still here. That’s all that really matters.

    I just took the bus through Central Park instead of the faster route on two subways. When I’m in a funk, or taking care of a lot of other people’s problems…. I really try to look around at something as beautiful as the park and enjoy little things.

    There are so many scary things going on right now in the world, and I’m trying to enjoy the little things. I was a classic NYer -always rushing and I’m trying to be more present in the moments.

  3. Right now, I am dealing with challenges of curveballs. As Meme said there are ups and downs, but this week mine is full of downs, but I also know in a few days to a week it will look more positive again.

    My main curveball is managing my mom’s life – from day-to-day needs to health care to finances. After my dad died, she bounced back at first, but then has been on the decline. She has finally agreed to some in home help, other than me, but that is off to a rocky start as the agency sent a caregiver who is looking for full-time work to our part-time assignment.

    I still have the needs of my family including two teenage daughters to handle. My partner, who is also aging, has been withdrawing as well. They all see my mother’s care as solely my problem that shouldn’t impact them at all. At this point, I am not getting much support, so feeling very overwhelmed.

  4. I still have the needs of my family including two teenage daughters to handle. My partner, who is also aging, has been withdrawing as well. They all see my mother’s care as solely my problem that shouldn’t impact them at all. At this point, I am not getting much support, so feeling very overwhelmed.

    I just want to say I know this story well, and I sympathize. No useful advice, just BTDT, got no tee-shirt, just dismay and disappointment that no one stepped up to help.

  5. Honestly, how I handle curveballs is to stay on my anti-depressants. That’s not very spiritual or philosophical, but it keeps me a lot more resilient.

  6. Update – Composing the post made me even more blue, but also precipitated the long overdue “frank talks” at home about the habits of dependency and codependency that had arisen after his hospitalization last summer. We rearranged a few things to make it much easier for him to manage his own meds (5 administration times a day is tough for anyone). He doesn’t call for me at the first frustration and I don’t drop everything to prevent him from getting frustrated. He is feeling better about himself and I am less harried.

    Yesterday (wakeup temp below freezing, but sunny) I took the car up for the rest of its unexpected service and used the new shopping cart to walk the mile and half home. I stopped at the drug store (only 3/4 mi from my home) for some prescriptions, then the bagel shop for a loaded lox sandwich (lasts two meals), the mini Petco for kitty litter. 15 dense lbs is probably the right amount of weight for the cart. Didn’t need to stop at the bank machine, butcher, TJs, branch post office, UPS store, nail salon, Dunkin Donuts, vet, hardware store all between the drug store mini plaza and home. In the other direction 3/4 mi is town center with library, Stop n Shop, another drug store, full service bank and post office, Whole Foods, fish market.

  7. I echo Lauren’s sentiments.
    Too easy to get wrapped up in the immediate vs the (really) important. As much as I try to model the “this too shall pass” approach to things that (probably) won’t matter too much in a year, 10 years, 100 years, my type A personality still comes out too often, especially wrt times when I get worse customer service than I think I should.

  8. At this point, I am not getting much support, so feeling very overwhelmed.

    Maybe a dumb question, but have you asked for help? And not just “I need some help”, but “I need this person to do X, this person to do Y” kind of requests. As a generality, not saying you specifically, I see a lot of people in this situation who complain they don’t get enough help, but then they never ask for it. They assume people should know to offer.

  9. Our new challenge is DD’s headaches and increased CSF pressure have returned. We had a nice 3 months where she was doing great, and then the headaches came back a few days ago. An eye exam yesterday confirmed the pressure is elevated again. The earliest appointment we could get with the neuro is in two weeks. He said to restart topamax in the meantime, but I think we’re going to be looking at more invasive treatments this time.

  10. Wow, scary, Denver. I don’t know if it’s good or bad that you have medical training. Sometimes you don’t want to know all the possible outcomes.

  11. For big terrible things, mostly I try to keep my head down and just get through it. When my oldest was in the hospital and not doing so well, I asked his primary nurse if he was going to be okay. She kind of looked at me sadly and said, “I don’t know. But right now, he is okay and we are doing everything we can.” Strangely, it helped focus my worries and stress. So, for lots of things now, I try to focus on the immediate without going down the path of what might happen. I actually did some CBT not that long ago. It was helpful for this. I am not a therapy kind of person, but it is goal oriented, of short duration and you don’t have to talk much about yourself, all of things that appealed to me.

    For daily annoyances/smaller things. Alcohol. Or exercise. I should do more of the latter and less of the former. But the former is more fun.

  12. Denver: Your comment about asking for help resonated with me. I mentioned previously that I recently took a new job. I went from a very flexible schedule of 30 hours per week to a packed schedule of 50 hours per week. The job is stressful, but interesting. When I had a flexible job, I happily handled all the errands, cooking, etc.

    For weeks and weeks, I’ve asked DH to “help” around the house. He ignored me or forgot or whatever. Finally, we had a fight (if you can call 30 minutes of me screaming at him a fight) and now he’s much more helpful. He had the gall to say “Why didn’t you ask?” I told him I asked and asked and that he didn’t hear until I started screaming.

    Now, he does much more the errands and chores and I’m happy about that, but Jeez. If people have it good (i.e. you are doing all the work), they might not be eager to change the situation.

  13. DD – hope you are able to get some answers quickly and a plan that is manageable. Kid health issues are difficult.

  14. Houston, what I’ve also found with the chore conversations is that often people aren’t even aware of all the things their spouse does.

  15. Denver: I’m so sorry about your child. Been there, done that. Please reach out via COC if you want someone to talk to about migraines in kids. For DS, no pain meds worked. He had transformed migraines that lasted 24-36 hours at a time without break…for 3-4 months at a time. I still have PTSD.

  16. Houston – I hear you. =) Many years ago DH and I had a similar fight. He wanted me to remind of things – everything. I said no, you be responsible for X, Y, Z, and you remind me. He got it (mostly).

  17. Thanks all. With DD, they put her on diamox to reduce the CSF pressure last time and it worked, but the side effects were really hard on her so we don’t want to put her through that again. The probable alternative would be putting in a shunt to drain the fluid. The thing is they don’t seem to know what causes it, so they can’t treat the root cause.

  18. One of the things the last 5 years has brought home to me is that we have very little control over the path of our lives. Some, certainly, but nowhere near the amount I thought I would.

    We are trying to focus on feeling grateful for what we have, and trying not to look too far ahead to what will happen next year.

    Meme, I have no useful advice, but offer the hope that your closer relationship with the grandchildren may prove far more meaningful and precious to you than any travel experience could ever be :) My Nana did not get to travel much in her later years since she had to continue to work, but we wound up being very close and I still miss her every day.

    Denver, I think I missed the beginning of your DD’s story – do they know what is going on, or are the doctors still figuring it out? I hope she feels better soon.

  19. Houston, thanks, but they aren’t migraines. It’s an increase in the CSF pressure that needs to be reduced per my previous comment. Topamax seemed to help provide pain relief last time but it’s just symptomatic relief.

  20. Denver–Regarding the chores. They know. They would just rather you do it v. them. I’m talking about washing dishes in the sink, folding laundry, cooking dinner, etc.–visible chores.

  21. Sky, long story short, she started having really bad headaches with nausea starting at the end of last year. She also had bad stomach pain and was diagnosed with Celiac in Feb. Headaches got worse, finally in April they figured out she had increased CSF pressure. They put her on diamox to lower the pressure, and that worked but gave her some bad side effects (dizziness, more nausea). The pressure resolved and we finally got her off all the meds at the end of August. Now it appears to be back.

  22. Do they suspect hydrocephalus? I know a couple kids with it who had similar symptoms. Since then, they have had shunts placed. But these are kids who are medically complicated so have always been followed pretty closely by doctors.

  23. Denver – hope they can figure it out!!!

    Austin – so sorry you are not getting more support. It is really tough to be the only caregiver. Hope the PT person can help!

    Cat – I have been thinking I should try CBT; lately I wake up at night and can’t get back to sleep because my mind keeps going. :-0

  24. DD – FIrst so sorry your child’s health issues are recurring.

    I have asked and asked directly. The one thing I have specifically asked him to work with DD#2 to handle the incoming requests from DD#2 and her school. He gets all the same email I do – need permission slip for this, money for that, make sure your child brings this, remind your child to wear that club tshirt, sports practice is now on this day, payment for class trip, etc. I even went on to discuss that “handle” meant to respond by fulfilling the request timely, not just being aware of it. But, I still get email or texts from school aksing if DD#2 going to come/pay for/bring because he has not followed through. And, yes, I have directed those people to contact him. I get frustrated that he isn’t handling it and when I point out that others are asking me so could he please follow up he gets mad and gives me some excuse – they put too many things in one email, they didn’t give much notice, etc. I have responded that I cannot control the incoming requests.

    I have also asked the teenagers when they want something to email me or text me because I cannot keep it all in my head any longer and many days my mom’s needs throw the rest of the day into a tail spin. They don’t do that and then say “I told you I needed…”

  25. L – I highly recommend it. I think the key is finding who really does it. A lot of people claim to, but really do more talk therapy. I switched providers after a few sessions with someone like that.

  26. Austin: Give your partner the work having to do with your mother, so you can handle the school related work responsibly. DH, though he used to shirk chores, was great at larger, simpler tasks (i.e. take kid to dentist appointment).

  27. “Maybe a dumb question, but have you asked for help?”

    IME, not a dumb question. Not asking for help has led to a resentment and a fracturing of relationships in my family.

  28. I’ve been getting frustrated because I don’t have anyone to even ask for help with the little things. For example, one of the light bulbs in the security light above my garage door went out a couple weeks ago. I can’t reach it and don’t have a ladder, so I thought it was pretty clever that I took a picture of it with my phone and took that to Lowe’s to find a matching fixture and figure out what kind of bulb to buy. But now the bulb has been sitting around for 2 weeks because 1) I don’t have a ladder, and 2) I’m rarely home with free time in the daylight. (I get off work at noon tomorrow, so I’m hoping I can find a neighbor at home with a ladder I can borrow.) I have learned to ask friends and family for help with bigger things, like a girlfriend who switched her day off to take me in for female surgery that I didn’t want to tell my parents about. But the day-to-day little things, like walking the dog, washing dishes, and changing lightbulbs, have become a much heavier burden now that I’m on my own.

  29. The number one thing that helps me manage stress and life’s curveballs is running. When I run regularly, I’m so much more able to absorb and deal with stress. Since I know that about myself, over the past couple of years I’ve prioritized it much more. I used to fit it in when I could. Now I arrange my schedule around it, and run no matter what – rain, cold weather, crazy work, sick kids – as long as I’m not throwing up, I’m running 5 days/ week, first thing in the morning before the day can get away.

    Also, over the years I’ve learned to distinguish between productive worry and non-productive worry. Productive worry is the internal nagging that lets me know something needs to be taken care of. Non-productive worry is the perseverating on something that can’t be helped. When my brain starts spinning I now know to pause and ask myself – is this productive worry? Do I need to make a list/take action/follow up with someone/etc? If so, then I do it. Or is this non-productive worry where my stupid brain has just fixated on something and won’t let go? If the latter, I’ve gotten a LOT better at distracting myself until it goes away – I read a book, watch something on Netflix, immerse myself in the kids, etc.

  30. Austin, I’m really sorry to hear about your situation. It sounds like your partner and kids may be passive aggressive in a “I can’t say I really hate the way your mom takes so much of your time and attention because that sounds selfish, so I’ll just fumble everything you ask me to do so you will have to continue taking care of us” kind of way. Sucks.

  31. Meme – I’m sorry your plans were derailed. Hoping you can adapt and find other things that bring you joy. I think the walking is probably very good for your health and your head!

    DD – geeze – just so tough and scary. I hope you can solve it quickly and easily.

    Austin – There’s got to be more the teens can do. Can you put a list on the wall where they can add things that they need with the understanding that you need a week’s heads up to get things? They should be able to fill out all the forms that they might need,you can just sign. Forward the emails to them and make them be responsible for wearing or having what they need. They may drop the ball a few times but once they learn you won’t save them, I bet they will get their act together. It might have the effect of making them feel grown up and competent after awhile too! Have you explained to them how stressed and how tired you are and asked them to do more. They could also do some meals even if they kind of suck it is something you didn’t have to cook. Not judging just suggestions. I think as moms sometimes we get stuck in the habit of doing everything for everyone and it doesn’t occur to us to offload things. Good luck!

  32. “Managing his medication, rest, and diet in addition to running the household, the calendar and being his companion, uses up a lot of time and mental energy.”

    If you were to travel once a year on your own, with a group of active retirees, could he manage for two weeks on his own?

  33. DD – I hope they figure out your DD’s health issues.

    I am grateful for the good health of the seniors, I am directly or indirectly responsible for. At times, I feel resentment that the BILs/SILs don’t want to deal with their parents. I don’t blame them but it isn’t something I signed up for either. My parents, I know pray that nothing happens to me, before it is time for them to pass away.
    I understand where AustinMom is coming from. I think it would be easier to train the teenagers than train the spouse. My parents had certain family responsibilites and when I was in fifth grade, my mother sat me down and told me that she couldn’t continue to monitor or do this or that for me. I was to step up not only with school related work but my chore list increased. My brother had his own set of responsibilites when he was a teen.

  34. I think of Risley and her household full of teen drivers who drive to the store and have taken on other tasks as well.

  35. Austin, this is the exact opposite of what every advice person would tell you. I know you’re supposed to have calm discussions, wait for a good time, then share hugs or whatever. But what worked for my mom, and then later for me, was to gather everyone together and have a huge screaming fit, with emphasis on “I try SO HARD and THIS IS THE THANKS I GET, I get NO HELP FROM ANYONE, WHY DO I EVEN TRY?? I CANNOT GO ON, I SIMPLY CANNOT GO ON.” Then flounce out and lock yourself in your room and do NOT forgive them on their first several attempts at apologies.

  36. I have never been one for journaling, but I hear that keeping a “gratitude journal” can be helpful. While I don’t write things down, I do spend time every evening thinking of things I am thankful for. (Usually along the lines of “it could be so much worse…”) And going to church makes me feel better too – sometimes just a verbal reminder that God loves me can help me find peace with myself.

  37. SWVA – Part of getting used to being on your own is acquiring bit by bit all of that useful householder stuff, such as a ladder or small power tools or socket wrench set. Another item is a battery powered lantern (I have several for power failures) that will shed enough light in the garage to see the fixture, or maybe just carrying out a table lamp and plugging it into one of the outlets in the garage (if any) or running an extension cord to a lamp. But I am not trying to channel an every problem has a quick solution engineer with this reply. All of that stuff takes a lot of mental bandwidth, and physical effort after a long day, not to mention some discretionary dollars in what is likely a time of straightened finances. As a divorced woman, asking a male neighbor under 75 to borrow a ladder, is not all that easy – if he doesn’t get the wrong idea, it is likely his wife will.

    Austin Mom – I got nothing. I had the care of my mom (only child) for the last years of her life, probably when I was the same age as you (mid 50s). It was only 4 years – not what you and RMS and others will have to go through, although she was expected to live longer. But my kids were grown and out of the house, although I was newly married then and it definitely put a crimp in some of our travel and marriage building. It may not be possible to offload any care to your partner – the elder may not permit it even if he were willing. You are truly DD – darling/designated/doormat daughter.

  38. SWVA, we have a local company called something like “Mr. Handy” that will send someone to your house with a van full of tools to do the small things that aren’t worth hiring a contractor for – cleaning out the dryer vent, changing the really high light bulbs or putting up the holiday lights, cleaning out the gutters, etc.

    It seems to do really well – a few years ago it was only one truck and now there are at least a dozen. There are a lot of people here who are either not handy or not able to do the chores around the house, and this lets them stay in single family homes.

    If there isn’t one near you I would seriously think about starting one :)

  39. Austin: I heartily agree with Rocky. Per my story above-thread, this is the only thing that worked for me.

    Be prepared to bring up specific examples of asking for help and getting rebuffed again and again. Be prepared with specific requests for how work should be split up in the future. Ask for more help than you think you need.

  40. “They all see my mother’s care as solely my problem that shouldn’t impact them at all.”

    That’s the hard part, the sort of unstated assumptions/habits. Things change radically for you but not for them; it seems *so* obvious to you that you all need to readjust the division of labor, since you just took on XYZ, but for some reason they just don’t see it (which only adds to the infuriating).

    I’m gonna disagree somewhat with DD’s “have you asked?” comment. Yes: always better to ask than to suffer in silence. But a partnership means looking out for each other. And if your partner has just lost a parent or taken a job that doubles work hours, and you can’t figure out that s/he is massively stressed and jump in without being prompted, then, sorry, you’re a doink. When I lost my stepdad, the best gift DH gave me was just figuring out something he could take off my plate and doing it — because I was so stressed that I didn’t even have the headspace to sit down and think through what three specific tasks I would like him to take over.

    For the less obvious situations — a/k/a the “mission creep” where things just slowly build until something has to give — then ITA, take a breath, find a calm time, and talk about the division of labor. Preferably before your had explodes.

  41. But, I still get email or texts from school aksing if DD#2 going to come/pay for/bring because he has not followed through.

    I’m having a hard time understanding why this is something that you or your partner feels responsible for. If the teen DDs forget their permission slips or the check for the trip, etc. then they can sit in study hall all day and twiddle their thumbs.

  42. My sympathy and hugs to all who are struggling with curveballs right now. I’m in a sweet spot at the moment in regards to health and family, so I should remember to relish it. A close relative is dealing with a serious issue involving her child, plus she is responsible for the care of her aging mother. I feel I can’t do anything to help, except maybe be a sounding board. Her mother doesn’t want other people involved in her care, and I have no advice for her son’s medical problem.

    I’m usually a calm person with my kids, but once or twice when I’ve “lost it” in a manner similar to what RMS describes, it seems to have shocked them into changing a little. It seems to have scared them a little, in a good way.

  43. More on topic, I think about this a lot. Won’t repeat my prior posts about my stepdad’s death being a wake-up call. But I do have a long history of planning for the future, without ever realizing that the future might not be there. Just last week I looked at DH’s belly and realized, you know, I’ve been focusing so hard on making sure I’m around to enjoy that planned retirement, but it’ll suck if he keels over of a heart attack before we have a chance to go have fun. I hadn’t really thought of that aspect of it.

    Like Lark, I do know what makes me feel better/saner/more able to enjoy life on a daily basis (learned that after my stepdad) — running, being outside, hugging my kids, pleasant dinner on the back deck with a glass of wine, all that. But now it’s been long enough and the grief has faded and life has pushed back in, and I’ve fallen away from that. It’s really, really easy to take care of yourself when you honestly don’t give a shit about anything else except your family. It’s harder once the depression fades and you start to care about other stuff again. So I need to find a way to get back to that balance, preferably without the spur of another big crisis.

    Longer term, I am focusing on the dual conflicting goals of taking more trips/enjoying the ride more now and seeing if there is a way to retire sooner, maybe in 7-8 yrs instead of 11-12.

  44. @Austin: the one thing that has worked with us with the 9th grader is that we require her to send us Outlook appointments for anything she needs us to be ready for so we get it on the calendar. That way it’s her problem if we don’t have sufficient advance notice.

    Imperfect, of course — it still seems like every day I work at home she forgets a book or something. :-)

  45. RMS – spot on. I’m always amazed at how much a good tantrum will get me! Which then sometimes makes me angrier “WHY do you only do things when I freak out?!” But hey, whatever works right?!

    SWVA – I have a friend who was in a situation similar to yours and she went out and bought one of those silly cupcake carriers. Her theory: how bad can her life be if she has a cupcake carrier? It means she is affluent enough to drop $20 on something stupid, that she has an invitation someplace to take said cupcakes and enough space to store something that she uses infrequently.

    Coc – maybe a meal for your friend. If is something frozen then on days that it is all too much she can just pull out your dinner. Also if she’s close little things matter like bringing up her trashcans on trash day or putting the Sunday paper on the front stoop. Little anonymous things that make her feel like she has a safety net or just some flowers left on her porch on a random day to let her know she is loved. Anonymous gifts have a way of making the recipient feel like the world is a benevolent place without the obligation of thanking the giver. It is hard to watch a friend struggle.

  46. Milo – I might do short US based travel (such as a trip to the Colorado/Utah parks, or Santa Fe, maybe with one of my daughters – altitude is a no no for him) if his physical condition improves and as he gets less easily frustrated. We have a trip to French Canada with Road Scholar and a paddleboat cruise in Oregon booked for this year, and we can always go to Manhattan for opera and Broadway. We’ll see how those more modest and less strenuous excursions work for the two of us. He has started cardiac rehab twice a week (a hospital based exercise program that is covered by insurance) and although he is really exhausted it is improving his blood pressure and I can see the benefits. But I had to keep checking on him and finally wake him up at 3pm on Sunday after 14 hours of sleep (we stayed up for the Big Game). However, two 78 year old guys in our circle have died suddenly in the last several months (he is almost 73), so I think I would rather spend time with him than strive to get to Namibia before my personal window for that sort of travel closes.

  47. Meme – that’s a tough call. My father doesn’t like to travel due to health issues and my mother struggles with whether to go without him or stay. So lovely that you would rather be with him. He’s a lucky guy!

  48. I spent most of my life ineffective in asking for what I needed, so I periodically threw a tantrum. As long as it is extremely infrequent, it might work for some people. But my tantrums, even if apparently effective in the short run, made me feel even less powerful and more out of control than not being able to get the help I needed. So YMMV.

  49. I think I’ve mentioned before that when I was in my mid-20s, I was engaged, but my finance left me suddenly. To say that I was devastated is an understatement, and it took me way longer than I want to admit to get past that curveball. My whole vision of my future just evaporated. But now, with over 20 years of hindsight, I can see that that event set in motion a chain of events that I never would have anticipated, but that have brought me to the contented place where I am today. I have sort of embraced a philosophy that life might not work out the way I had planned, but it will work out somehow. I try to hold onto that mindset in times of personal challenge.

    On a day-to-day level, taking walks is my go-to activity for clearing my head and coping with stress.

    Austin — Good luck dealing with your mother’s situation. I was solely responsible for overseeing my mother’s care and well-being through her struggle with Alzheimer’s, and it was draining on all levels. And to add insult to injury, now my sibling (who did nothing all those years to help me) is nagging me regularly to hurry up and distribute his share of the money that’s left from the estate. Sigh.

  50. Moxie – realistically, it is not likely he’ll make 80, and I am nine years younger. If I take care of my own health and manage my money well, I’ll still be able to travel as a widow and probably will need the diversion a lot more.

  51. I initially injured both wrists when DS was a baby and I was diagnosed with de quervain’s tendinitis “mommy thumb”. This is a common condition for new mothers, and most of the time the pain can be relieved by injections. I needed surgery on both wrists on the thumb side in late 2012. At the beginning of 2013, I started to have pain on both wrists on the other side (extensor carpi ulnaris tendinitis). After ruling out some possible underlying conditions, they sent me to PT and I now have to wear a brace from my wrist to elbow the next 8 weeks. This makes everyday activities difficult: getting dressed, driving, taking care of DS, opening my medication, etc. There is about a 50% chance this will help or I will still need surgery. Started with the left hand because the pain there is worse (and I’m right handed).

  52. As a divorced woman, asking a male neighbor under 75 to borrow a ladder, is not all that easy – if he doesn’t get the wrong idea, it is likely his wife will.

    People really still think this way?

  53. MMM will teach you how to replace your furnace. I’m not sure if I were retired if this is something I would enjoy or not. I agree with him that it’s technically simple. I well understand heat transfer and thermo. I just imagine that it’s logistically very complex with a very steep learning curve. But it’s interesting to ponder the early retirement, DIY lifestyle nonetheless:

    http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/11/23/diy-gas-furnace/

    Ideally, I’d hire a professional who would be happy to have me tag along and assist the entire time.

  54. When I find the family is slipping into take-Mom-for-granted mode, and talking about it doesn’t change anything, I schedule a client meeting out of town and am gone for a couple days. Amazingly effective for resetting everyone’s expectations.

  55. Wine, btdt. Try ever more effusive praise:

    “Thank you, dear.”
    “Oh, how delightful, darling, and how clever of you to think of bringing the laundry upstairs for me.”
    “HOW could I ever manage without you, and your marvelous ability to open jar lids? What strong hands you have.”

    Must be done with sincerity, as a hint of sarcasm will ruin it.

    Either eventually they are satisfied or they decide the meds are making you loopy and they go away :). (Try cautiously, though, I usually apply this to my praise hungry six year old.)

  56. Milo, if I tried that it would end like the dad in the Christmas Story, complete with billows of smoke and expletives audible throughout the house :)

  57. DD- this is probably obvious, but have you taken the time to really read the provider article on UTD about your daughter’s condition? I find the reference section often helpful – I rarely read primary literature, but I can critically review the abstracts. It also shows you where research is being done and who is doing it.

    In general I advocate not being my kids’ doctor – I am proud that I have never looked in an ear of a person related to me. However, this is a situation where it may help to have a lot of information at your fingertips. Perhaps also an evaluation by a pediatric specialist. While the condition you are talking about is not exceedingly rare, I can’t remember the last time I saw someone middle-school aged being treated for it.

  58. Ada, she is being seen by a pediatric neurologist and we feel very comfortable with his care. I have done plenty of research :) and he followed the current treatment guidelines. Now that she is having a recurrence, the options seem to be repeat the previous treatment or move on to more invasive treatments. Unfortunately the earliest appointment he had is the 8th, so we’re on hold until then. But the topamax did provide pain relief last time so hopefully that will kick in soon.

  59. Yeah there are plenty of handyman type tasks I’d like to be able to DIY. Gas and electrical I will forever leave to the professionals. Way too chicken to mess with that stuff.

  60. Gas and electrical I will forever leave to the professionals.

    With replacing your own furnace you get gas, electricity and plumbing all rolled into one!

    Milo, Do you think MMM is a character he plays or is that who he really is?

  61. On the original topic, I’m sorry to hear of everyone’s struggles, it’s kind of encouraging to see the diverse sorts of things that many of you are dealing with and able to find a new normal with. Seems like there’s something to happiness set point theory. I’ve had a few curveballs thrown at me that I may or may not eventually open up about on here.

  62. “and he throws it in my face too how helpful he is being”

    Wine, does that brace still allow you to give him the finger? Helping me and then making a “thing” of it is not helping. Besides it really isn’t praiseworthy it is what he is supposed to do. You would do the same for him. I share your scorn.

  63. Some workers screwed up and hit a gas line a few blocks from where my grandma lived and a house blew up like in the video Rhett posted. Grandma had bits of insulation in her trees for years. So did the whole neighborhood. And I heard the explosion from several miles away. Part of why I don’t want to mess with that stuff.

  64. On everyday aggravation at work and home I sit back and repeat to myself “nothing lasts forever, not the good nor the bad.” As for illness and caring for loved ones there is nothing to say you just have to get through it and hope for a good outcome.

  65. Wine, yikes! I think you mentioned that he recently agreed to go to marriage counseling? That is definitely something I would discuss there.

  66. I could call a handyman service, or wait for my dad or uncle or brother to visit, but I want to do stuff for myself, even if just to prove that “I don’t need a man.” I bought a small (you might say girly) drill and appropriated a hammer and some screwdrivers when I moved, and that has been sufficient for things like hanging pictures and changing locks and boring a hole in the back of a cabinet for internet & DVR cables. Fortunately, my neighbors on both sides are older couples, and I will ask the wife I have gotten to know a bit about borrowing a ladder tomorrow. I also have several mom friends in the neighborhood who would happily send their husbands to help me if I asked, but I don’t want to ask.

    Those of you dealing with illnesses in the family and physical injuries and uncooperative children – I am so sorry for what you are going through. Tonight, I will be grateful that my problems du jour are at least something I can fix for myself rather than having to take care of others or persuade others to help me. My thoughts and prayers are with you all for your recovery and assistance needs to be met.

  67. Wine, I just remembered that you had talked about hiring a cleaning service, not a counselor. Sorry, tired new parent brain!

  68. This is a minor annoyance as such things go, but this is what the side yard right next to our house has been like for the past few days. Our sump pump drowned this time. The heavy rains have pretty much gone away today, though, and as of this morning the volume of the waterfall down the stairs was finally diminishing and the water level was going down in the pond alongside the wall of the house (it is not supposed to be a pond). When it gets like this we get water running through our garage too and we have to constantly put down towels in my daughter’s room because water seeps up through the slab and pools on her floor. (It’s all tile so no flooring is ruined, although it’s done a number on her desk over time. And anything she leaves on her floor.)

  69. I was not wired for curveballs. I have always been a planner who considered every possible thing that could go wrong and then found ways to prevent them. When my kids were little I kept a spare change of clothes for everyone (ripped and stained items that otherwise still fit were perfect for this purpose) in the event of a diaper malfunction or playground mishap or milkshake overflow. Until the youngest was out of diapers, I always had an auxiliary diaper bag in the car with the essential supplies that were restocked when necessary but otherwise the diaper bag stayed in the car. When they were older there were power bars and bottles of water stashed in a drawer for starving boys stuck in traffic. I never let the gas tank get too close to empty, so that if we needed to make an emergency room run we would not have to stop at the gas station first.

    You get the picture.

    I did not plan to get cancer. I was not in a high risk group, and had just had a clean mammogram. I got my diagnosis exactly a year after my mom died of pancreatic cancer, another life event that neither she nor I had planned for. It’s been two years and I am still trying to get used to the “new normal” that cancer survivors and others who have been blindsided by accidents or serious illness are told to expect. I haven’t developed a new appreciation for the little things in life just yet, and I certainly would never describe cancer as a “gift,” though more than a few cancer survivors do. When people say “I don’t know how you got through that” — well, I had no choice and neither does anyone else who has faced a serious diagnosis or disabling injury. I don’t think I handled it particularly well, but I got through it, so now I know that I CAN deal with another bad scenario I did not plan. I also deal much better with the everyday annoyances — just today, our primary credit card was compromised and we have to get new ones, only a month or so after getting the new chip card. Another round of changing payment information for the growing number of online and other merchants that hold our credit card information. It barely registered, where two years ago I would have been annoyed and stressed for hours. “This too will pass” got me through a lot of unpleasantness during the past two years, and I expect that “it’s not as bad as chemo” will get me through unpleasant things to come.

  70. I could call a handyman service, or wait for my dad or uncle or brother to visit, but I want to do stuff for myself, even if just to prove that “I don’t need a man.”

    Why not buy a ladder? You’ll probably need one again at some point.

  71. Thanks to all for some ideas. Last time the temper tantrum had zero effect other than they all gave me a wide berth for a week. I told my kids to text me because they are doing that all the time with friends, so it seemed easy. May try the kitchen list. The older one is better at it. The problem with money, permission slips with DD2 school is it all go to parents via email. That is why when my my partner doesn’t follow through or to the kid the school checks with me. I keep redirecting them to him but it’s slow going!

    Picked mom up for the dotor only to find out she lost a hearing aid in the house today and neither she or the care giver could find. When we returned home I found it by accident. Yea!!!

    Also we went to the bank today to take care of a few things and found out my dad had a account we weren’t aware of with a balance I the low 6 figures. Nice surprise.

    When I left home my partner and Dd2 were planning Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe we’re headed in the right direction for a while.

  72. I didn’t get to read the comments since I posted much earlier in the day due to running around with child care, and elder care stuff. I had an unplanned crazy day. AustinMom and others, your comments helped me put some stuff in perspective today.
    Meme, thanks for this post because I really need some of the advice that was shared today.

    I have to work on my patience when dealing with my mother. The women in her family live into late 90s/early 100s. If she is fortunate enough to have those genes, I am going to need a lot of patience and wine to get through the next phase. I see how she and my aunt struggle (fight) everyday about issues for my grandmother.

    I never imagined that the care for my mother might actually be the tipping point that causes me to go back to full time work. maybe. I know I need the flexibility to deal with her issues, but she is going to start to need money from me to get the care she needs.

    I hate elder care issues. It is a blessing to have elderly parents here. I had the shocking reminder today about how fortunate I am to have my parents with me well into my adult life.

    It’s just that many of the elder care issues are time consuming, expensive, complicated and often depressing.

  73. “altitude is a no no for him”

    Perhaps he can ask his doctor about Diamox. I will never again go skiing in CO without it, unless something better replaces it.

  74. ” I’ll still be able to travel as a widow”

    Or perhaps better yet, be able to travel as a grandma. My parents took all my sibs’ kids on at least one extended vacation, e.g., they took my brother’s kids to Disneyland. The fact that they did this multiple times is testament to how much they enjoyed those trips.

  75. Finn

    I look forward to grandma travel. Road Scholar has a large number of organized trips just for that – a reason for us to try the company out first. . It is certainly possible that I’ll take the older two to Disney in a couple of years if the middle one settles down a bit.

  76. My parents took our kids to Disney one year and the Grand Canyon another year. The trip was enjoyed by all. My kids were *really* impressed at the sight of my mother rappelling down a small cliff. She earned a lot of street cred that day. I need to ask them to take the kids on another trip this year. Last year was too hectic due to illness and some unplanned activities.

  77. “I don’t think I handled it particularly well”.
    @Scarlett – not everyone can be saint of the hour. I think on some level there is the expectation of a heroic, inspiring or stoic response but gnashing of teeth and yelling is fine too.

    @SWVA Mom – my neighbor is a divorced woman who lives by herself. Her parents and family live near by. From what I can tell she has a mix of people helping with the house. Some things she will do herself, somethings her Dad comes around for and for all the bigger home and garden maintenance she has a trusted crew of handymen. When she just moved she had called the handymen but forgot what day they were coming. They began to knock on her door but she wouldn’t let strange men in. It was comical for a few minutes with the workmen shouting from the outside that they were there to put up the lights.

  78. Meme – have you checked out Tauck Bridges? A division of Tauck specifically for multi-generation travel. We are already booked for Alaska next summer, but for 2017 are talking about doing a Tauck Bridges trip with my parents.

  79. Meme, I’m only a few years behind you but have no expectations for grandchildren any time soon. Still, I enjoy your stories and look to people like you in imagining how my life may turn out in my senior years.

    Speaking of life growing smaller, I came across this article about Granny Pods that can be set up in the children’s backyard. This sounds more appealing to me than moving into my kid’s house. The buildings look nice, but the article includes an unattractive but perhaps realistic photo of granny eating her gruel with her walker, magnifying glass, and other paraphernalia nearby. Oh, it’s tough to grow old.
    http://www.lifedaily.com/with-a-granny-pod-grandma-can-live-in-your-backyard/

  80. Lauren – Patience, which I don’t have a lot of anyway, seems to go out the window quickly when I’m with my mom. I struggle with that.

    SWVA – We have an earlier model of that ladder – second Finn’s recommendation.

    CoC – Love the granny pod, my kid would like one now! The hard part is the walk to the house and garage/car. The other problem is as they really age, like my mom, it is harder to incorporate them into your day to day routine and they become isolated. I like my mom’s community living from that perspective.

  81. BTW, I lived for several years with a disability that impaired my walking and other basic activities like combing my daughter’s hair and turning the key to start my car. I came away with a much greater appreciation of good health, but also with an understanding and fear of how similar limitations could affect my old age. I fervently hope I don’t turn into a cranky, miserable old lady. Although, my kids might say that I’m already too cranky and miserable sometimes …

  82. AustinMom,
    My widowed dad, who is in his mid-80’s but relatively healthy and completely with it, has asked several times to live with us. He lives in a retirement community nearby, but doesn’t like living with “old people,” as he puts it. There are too many walkers and little scooters scattered in the hallways outside the rooms. Many of his neighbors are more infirm than he, and most of them are women. They don’t get his jokes at dinner, or maybe they can’t hear them, or both. They don’t want to talk about world events or political issues or what he read in the Wall Street Journal that day.
    I have exactly the same concerns about isolation that you expressed. And because he did not live in this area until two years ago, he doesn’t have any friends of his own in the community, so it would be even worse for him. He still drives, but not when the roads are bad, which is the case much of the winter, so he would be stranded at our house those days. He spends nearly every weekend with us, and it IS hard to incorporate him even into that bit of our routine, and impossible to consider having him stay at our house on his own when we are out of town. I am planning a return to the workforce, and so he would be on his own much of the day, and I would be worried about him deciding to get up on a ladder to change a light bulb or going outside to rake the leaves out of the pool cover.
    For now, it works best for all of us if he lives in a community that provides meals, and company, and the ability to get to a gym or get his haircut or go to Mass without leaving the building. But it is tough on him. And forces me to think about how WE will handle this stage of our life. One solution is to build up the retirement funds so that we have more resources than he does and therefore more options for housing and household assistance.
    And then there is my MIL, who lives alone in another state in a three story house (in which the washer and dryer are in the basement) and was just diagnosed with dementia. But is still driving…

  83. Scarlett – I admire your strength and resilience in everything. I do have a rather embarrassing question – are you a new member? Your story sounds familiar, but I can’t place who you may have been if you are a continuing member with a new name…

    This post had me thinking all day. All (most) of you here know more about my previous year that some people IRL. Little things used to bug me… then all hell broke loose and I didn’t have time. I guess I can say I’m getting onto an even keel because little things are bugging me again. Just in time for the boat to rock again… at least I know I can get through pretty much anything. Rarely with grace or unscathed, but somehow alive at the end.

  84. I appreciate hearing everyone’s stories and hope all those dealing with tough situations will find whatever perspective, patience, strength, etc. they each need to get through it.

    Meme – I may have missed some of the pieces but I’ve had the impression recently (over the past several months or so) that your involvement in your children’s/grandchildren’s lives has significantly increased, and I have thought about how lovely that must be for you, and for them. Not that those relationships can “replace” that with your DH, or that trips with the kids are a perfect substitute for ones with him. But I have been happy that you have the kids and grandkids in your life.

    Austin – I’m happy to hear your partner and one of your DDs are planning tomorrow’s meal! I hope if you lavish thanks and go on at some length about what a relief it was for you to have them take something like that off your plate, they will see how much their help means to you, and will continue their efforts.

  85. I have exactly the same concerns about isolation that you expressed.

    I think technology can help with a lot of that. Certainly self driving cars should allow us to be more mobile than the elderly of today. In addition, with an iPad you have access to nearly every book ever written, every song, TV show, movie, etc. vs. being 80 in 1995 where your options were the library books you could get when the elder services van took you to the library and whatever happened to be on TV. In addition, online communities like this one should be even more robust and interactive in 20 or 30 years.

  86. Scarlett, my mother had the same problem with being much smarter and better-educated than the other people at the assisted living place. She did eventually locate another woman who could appreciate Latin puns and snarky references Bayard Taylor. Ultimately, though, Mom’s dementia took care of the problem of being too smart. Sigh.

  87. I know that I won’t fit into the social structure of a retirement community, so I plan to live in this townhouse until I decide to or need to move to be near one of my kids. The best laid plans…. The working plan is for me sometime in my early 80s (local grandkids all grown, current cats passed away) to get a small but well located apartment in the DC area by a Metro stop in a walkable neighborhood – Cleveland Park or Old Town or Bethesda for example – it depends on where DD2 (govt worker) buys her forever home after she leaves the starter condo. Give up the car, go down to the shelter to pick up another rescue cat, take my shopping cart out everyday, and participate in many online communities. If I am too infirm for an apartment and pet ownership, I guess I’ll find the least awful retirement community while I am able to make the decision. Good internet and kitchen facilities are a must.

  88. Yes, I will purchase a ladder soon – or ask for one for Christmas. Just trying to save a little money since the stepstool works for most tasks and property taxes are due next week. Because I got a private mortgage from my parents, I have to plan for big expenses like that while I work on rebuilding my cash cushion. Whose idea was it to make real estate tax payments due 3 weeks before Christmas?

  89. “I think technology can help with a lot of that. Certainly self driving cars should allow us to be more mobile than the elderly of today. In addition, with an iPad you have access to nearly every book ever written, every song, TV show, movie, etc. vs. being 80 in 1995 where your options were the library books you could get when the elder services van took you to the library and whatever happened to be on TV. In addition, online communities like this one should be even more robust and interactive in 20 or 30 years.”

    I like your optimism, and I see how this could be true, especially for my mom who is the type to take advantage of that & also the most social of our parents. I think living in an independent living type retirement community sounds fun – kind of like living in the dorms again, but without having to share a bathroom. I always got a kick out of visiting my grandma & gossiping with her & her friends. But maybe I am just delusional. Her last year was certainly much different as she declined rapidly in health and had to move to the assisted living and nursing care sections.

  90. The assisted living/nursing home is a new concept for us as previous generations were all cared for at home. It is different now, when family lives in different cities or countries. Our parents generation understands this but as they age, they wish that they had the supportive family structure their parents had. A big difference I see is that my parents generation is living longer and for the most part are healthy. They don’t want to take themselves to a community living situation just yet.

  91. My wife and I have started using a google app that keeps a to do list that people can add or subtract from. I find it easier since I can see what i am supposed to do in writing. I know this is problem solving and that may not be what you want just now.

  92. Rhode – FYI, Scarlett is a long time poster who just returned to us. Her old handle lets us know that she had “no girls”

  93. Thank you Anon. That poster was who I thought of immediately when I read Scarlett’s posts.

    Scarlett – welcome back and I hope you continue to be well. My apologies for not knowing you…

  94. Realistically, most people in our pre-retirement lives also don’t catch intellectual jokes and references, don’t want to discuss world events in any depth, don’t enter into whatever odd but deep interests we may have. That was what made the internet so amazing when it came into our lives.

  95. RMS,
    Exactly. My dad would be happy if they got his English puns. He wouldn’t attempt the Latin ones. He saves those for his grandsons

    Rhett,
    I don’t know much about driverless cars, but I doubt you could put an 8 year old or a senior with iffy vision and reflexes in the drivers seat. At some point, driving a car safely maybe beyond the skills of an elderly person, even with computer assistance.

  96. Scarlett, my dad was in a similar situation to yours. We finally had him move to an “assisted living community” when he couldn’t remember whether he’d taken his medication or not.

    Once there, he initially liked it a lot. He enjoyed the company of others, and especially liked having his meals prepared for him– he’d gotten to the point that he would skip meals, often because it wasn’t worth the effort for him, and sometimes because he forgot if he’d eaten.

    But after a while, he realized that he was losing the friends he’d made when he first moved in, to death or dementia, and it became difficult for him to make the same emotional investment in making new friends there.

  97. HM, one of the things I like about where my kids go to school is that I’ve met a lot of parents who understand some of my jokes and allusions.

  98. I don’t know much about driverless cars, but I doubt you could put an 8 year old or a senior with iffy vision and reflexes in the drivers seat

    Language that the federal government is revisiting specifies that in states where the public can get access to the cars, a licensed driver should be behind the wheel.

    Google sees that as unnecessary. It has argued that once cars can drive as safely as humans, it would be better to remove the steering wheel and pedals so that people don’t mess up the ride.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/apnewsbreak-upbeat-feds-revising-driving-car-position-35385770

  99. RMS, the new House Hunters is about a couple trying to move from San Mateo to HMB. It is a new episode, so prices should be current. It is airing now on the east coast (10pm)

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