My life has changed in a dramatic way over the last few months. Besides having the opportunity to be a Bluegrass Mom blogger which of course is really fun, I’ve also gotten to take on the super fun task of chauffeuring my parents on a regular basis.
I already spent a lot of time in my car being a Realtor and being a mom of two socially and athletically active children. Mary Rollins (14) dances 6 days a week with the Lexington Ballet. Will (12) plays golf, lacrosse, and baseball. I average somewhere around 50 miles a day in the – usually without even leaving New Circle Road.
In late Fall, my dad (turning 86 this month), who formerly worked as an attorney and retired ten years ago to become my mom’s chauffeur – she stopped driving about eight years ago -- lost his job as a driver. That is, his doctor and children decided driving really wasn’t the best choice for him or the streets of Lexington anymore. I have to brag on my parents here because I’ve heard horror stories from many friends about this decision. My dad made a very graceful choice to give up the keys. Of course, it could have been the parked trailer that mysteriously backed into my dad’s moving car that helped seal the deal – but thank the lord it was only a defenseless trailer and not a human!
We (and in this “we” I include myself, my husband and children, my sister who still lives in Lexington and my parents) are all adjusting slowly to this transition in their lives. We’ve discovered some great resources out there for people who need to make the switch from driving to riding. We found a wonderful organization called ITN (www.itnbluegrass.org) -- a not-for profit that provides dignified transportation for seniors. My mother who isn’t always the easiest person to please thinks it’s grand – although she much prefers for my sister or me to drive her around. My parents also have a lovely next-door neighbor and numerous friends who have also provided lifts to the grocery and various club meetings. I think there’s a special place in heaven reserved for those people.
I confess that I lose patience frequently with Mom (especially) and Dad. They have a tendency to never be ready to leave at the appointed departure time and their idea of an important errand doesn’t gel with mine. A recent example: we HAVE to go to Lowe’s today to get a part for your father to fix my Ironright that I’ve been waiting for him to repair for ELEVEN years. (note: my mother has an Ironright – you’re thinking that you don’t even know what that is aren’t you? It’s a giant ironing machine with huge rollers that you sit at while you work -- sort of your own in-home laundry service. And yes, I was the only one of my friends whose mothers had an Ironright growing up. Hmmm…what were you planning to iron with that? My mom did use to iron the sheets and pillowcases and my dad’s shirts but surely at 82 that’s not how she is planning to spend her remaining years.) We did stop at Lowe’s, got the part and were only 15 minutes late for their doctor’s appointments. .
I’m trying to enjoy and laugh at my new carpooling duties whenever possible. My dad asked me recently if I could give him a ride to a dinner and I told him I could but I needed to drop him off 45 minutes early because I had to pick up one of the other ballet girls and drop them both off for class and then I was meeting a client. I liked the idea of him being in my “carpool” but he opted to call my sister. I have also undertaken a practice of justifiable dishonesty. Since my parents are always late for everything, I lie about what time we need to leave the house to make their appointment. I think they’re on to me though. Oddly, if my husband drives them somewhere they’re always ready right on time. He says it’s because they know he’ll leave without them.
Every so often, I’m also overcome by the need to remind my mother that she could call me when she doesn’t just need a ride somewhere or an errand run. That a “hi, how’s your day” call without an “if you’re by K-mart could you get me some eye drops and an undershirt” would go a long way for making me feel like I have value for more than being your chauffeur. Once in awhile, I’d love a conversation that wasn’t about a problem or a great sale on milk at the grocery store. If she could, my mother would go to a different grocery every day of the week.
Being a part of this transition with older parents and still trying to raise dependent children is challenging but all in all we’re making it work. Most of my children’s friends have young, hip grandparents. But I remind my children, they should feel lucky that while their grandparents aren’t hip, at least they don’t have broken hips. They don’t think I’m funny and they’re probably right. What my daughter thinks is even less funny is that her grandmother has offered to give her driving lessons when she turns 16.
What I also know, funny or not, is that I am just peanut butter in the middle of the sandwich generation. Really. it's a lot like having four children instead of two. But, chances are their dad and I could be giving up our driving independence at the same time that my children are raising their children and I hope that we are taking good notes on how we want that experience to be for them and for us. I'm hopeful, too, that I am achieving the right balance of saying "yes" to what I can do and "no" to what I cannot. I hope the peanut butter is spread in the right proportion on both pieces of bread.
And, I hope when we're old that we live close enough to the grocery that we can walk.