defining “honor thy mother”

My blogging has been light in substance the last few weeks. I’ve had some stuff happening. On Monday, October 13th, my mother had two stents and a balloon angioplasty placed in her heart. She was released from the hospital two days later and was staying with friends (in Arkansas). She didn’t get better. She got worse. Today, she will be admitted to a rehab facility for a maximum of 21 days. After that, we’ll see. If she’s better, she will go home to her own house and continue to live in Arkansas. If she’s not, well . . . That’s another post.

Let’s go back. In a nutshell.

My mother went to a high school reunion and reconnected with a friend. He and his wife live in Arkansas. They stay in contact after the reunion. Skip ahead. My mother asks my dad to move to Arkansas after she retires. He doesn’t want to go. He doesn’t want to leave his family. (My two sisters and I, along with our families live in Central Florida. My parents moved here in 1966, when I was two.) Skip ahead. Over a year passes and my dad still says no. Skip ahead. A few months more and my dad still says no. Skip ahead. My mother visits her friend and his wife in Arkansas. She comes home. She says, “I bought a house in Arkansas and I want a divorce.” Skip ahead. In May of 2008, the divorce is final and she moves to Arkansas. Skip ahead. It’s September 23rd. My home phone rings, caller id shows my mom. I’m on my way out the door to work the Whale so I let it go to voice mail. My cell rings, and I’ve got my hands full so I let it go to voice mail. I check caller id in the car and it shows it’s my mother’s number again. I get to the Whale, unpack my car and my cell rings. It’s my dad.

My mother’s friend had called my dad, using my her cell phone. He called to tell my dad that my mother needed a triple bypass and a valve replacement. Would my dad consider coming to Arkansas to take care of her after the surgery? My father, the most gracious man I know, says he can’t do that.

I call my mother. I get the details of her condition and the surgery. I spend DAYS deciding what to do. How do I “honor my mother” and at the same time, not take on the consequences of her actions? How do I “honor my mother” while still making sure that SHE is responsible for her choices? In the end, a friend lost her mother and somehow, at the exact right time, emailed me with some powerful insight. My husband’s input? He wanted me to have no regrets.

I called my mother.

Me: “Mom, forget convenience, forget money. How can I help? What do you need me to do for you? Do you want me to come to Arkansas for the surgery?”

Mom: “Well . . . ”

Me: “When do you want me to come?”

Mom: “Well I’ll be asleep for two or three days after the surgery.”

Me: “Do you want me to be there before you go under?”

Mom: “But then you would just be sitting there for days while I slept.”

Me: “I’ll bring a book.”

We discuss care options for after the surgery. I’ve already Googled the hospital in Little Rock. They have a rehab center. I tell her I feel like the rehab center is the best place for her post-op recovery. She replies, “A NURSING HOME?” “No, mom, it’s a rehab center. Just to help you recover. It’s a short term facility. You wouldn’t be allowed to stay there.” A few days later, her doctor confirms my explanation and agrees that would be the best place for her after surgery.

Skip ahead. Friday, September 26th. The surgery, scheduled for Monday, September 29th, is canceled. Records have to transfer from her Florida doctors to her Arkansas doctors. She has pulmonary hypertension and nobody knows why. More tests. Everything is on hold. She will call me when she knows something.

Skip ahead. It’s Monday, October 13th, a little after 8:00 a.m. She’s calling to tell me that she will not be having open heart surgery. The doctors have decided to do stents instead. At 10:00 a.m. She’s in the waiting room at the hospital in Little Rock. I tell her I love her and I will pray for her at that time. Because I do. And I will. Skip ahead. Her friend calls me using her phone to tell me the procedure went well. She is released from the hospital on Wednesday and goes to stay with her friend and his wife. Skip ahead. Thursday night I call my mother. Her voice is breathy. She is winded. She says she feels terrible. Severe edema. Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. She’s shuffling when she walks and is on oxygen 24/7. I ask her when she sees her doctor again. Tomorrow (Friday). I take a risk. I ask her to ask her doctor if she could go into the rehab facility. Skip ahead. Her friend calls me Friday afternoon to tell me that she will go into the rehab center on Monday.

That’s today.

I won’t be going to Arkansas. But I will call her every day. Here are my boundaries:

Honoring my mother does NOT mean I need to personally take care of her. I just need to make sure she is taken care of, while accepting the decisions she makes about her own care.

Honoring my mother does NOT mean I need to make sure she is not alone. She moved to Arkansas. Alone.

Honoring my mother does NOT mean I need to make sure she is happy. Her expectations of me will escalate.

Honoring my mother does NOT mean putting her before my children and my husband. By moving to Arkansas, she has put me in a position where I have to choose. I must choose my family.

to be continued . . .

6 thoughts on “defining “honor thy mother”

  1. That took a lot of thought and prayer. I’m not sure I could have been so clear-thinking, keeping my emotions from clouding my judgement. I hope she heals quickly now.

  2. My entire family lives in Michigan. My husbands family lives just a few miles from mine, in Michigan. We chose to move away and we are the ones who travel to see the family. We have to come to them for everything.

    The choice to move away from family means that family sometimes can’t come to you. It is choice that very few people think of when they completely change their lives and move away.

    We learned this when my husband was going through a liver transplant. We were all alone in Florida. But we kept the family informed and up to date and never far out of the loop. It was the best all of us could do and it worked out well.

    You are doing the best you can in a very difficult situation.

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