Relationship Advice

Alphabet Soup

man with watch

I don't know how to deal with my mother. She is 70. Old age and smoking since she was a teenager have taken a toll. People get old and get sick. Their kids should take care of them. Understood and accepted.

But with my mom, I don't know how. She lies to my wife and me, keeping things from us. It's always been that way. Years ago, she fell and broke her leg. She called my cousin for help, telling him not to call us. He called us.

My mom was angry because she didn't want us to get out in stormy weather and because I had to work the next day. A few years later, she had a breast cancer scare. She tells us about it, but lies about her appointment time. I take off from work to be there for the results and she's already gone. Later she admits she tricked us. (The results were negative.)

We now live three hours away, so the days of the quick trip to momma's house are gone. We have a network of friends and family who watch after mom and keep us informed. Mom tries to control this. It's like if A knows, don't tell B I am sick. C and D can know, but don't tell E through K. L through S can know, but nobody else.

But people talk. They tell us. She is furious.

This morning we get a call, from my cousin, that mom has been in bed for two days. The doctor diagnoses a stomach virus, and again, we are not supposed to know. So now my saintly wife is going there for a couple of days to care for her.

Mom refuses to sell the house and move. What is the answer here?

Travis


Travis, people go through a reverse aging process if they live long enough. Think of the havoc a 12-pound infant can cause its caretakers. An elderly adult can create similar problems. But unlike an infant, adults have the legal right to make decisions for themselves, and your mom isn't close to needing constant care.

Until she is mentally unsound or physically incapable, you have no more right to meddle in her life than she has to meddle in yours. With medical information, you have absolutely no right to know what she is unwilling to share.

Of course she does not want to lose her house. One day you may be a senior citizen and someone will try to take away your driving privileges, even though you are perfectly able to drive. Tell us you are going to willingly give up your life and your independence to someone else's designs.

That's your mother's situation. This is her life. It is in her hands. Don't put yourselves through hoopla for no gain.

Instead, get the whole alphabet of friends and family, from A to Z, on the same page. Agree on what can and cannot be done in different situations. It's like developing an emergency plan in case there is a fire. Who gets called, what gets done, who can volunteer money or time? Revise your plan yearly.

If you want a different reaction from your mother, change the reaction you give her. When she has a health condition that is not severe, don't rush to her and don't let her know that you know.

In all this, remember your mom is an adult citizen. She has rights. You don't agree with how she lives, but she has the right to live her life as she sees fit.

Wayne & Tamara