Break a Leg: changing roles as parents age

Family Matters

The phrase “break a leg” is often reserved for actors going on stage, (I’ve said it to my girls as they’ve got ready to act), and in Harbor Springs it’s mostly a condition of skiing at one of the mountains with the name “Boyne” in them. Sadly, for this column, the breaking of a leg was accompanied by a hip; my mother fell and broke her hip. I know breaking a hip is a worry for all elderly people but that’s not my mom. I get my Peter Pan syndrome from her. She’s the youngest old person I’ve ever known, (each birthday she’s 39 and holding), and still cracks jokes about men and relationships like a 25-year-old sipping a beer at the Downtowner; but she hasn’t had a beer in over 25 years.

I had a lot of guilt over moving away fearing that something like this would happen. She protects me from her “events” not telling me about a hospital visit via ambulance only letting it slip out in conversation on the phone. The positive is that I’m only six hours away on a bad day. I went up the weekend of the surgery, (both hip and leg), and I’ll be up another weekend which was a planned vacation but now takes on another meaning, helping set up her apartment for her eventual return. I’ll be moving furniture around to accommodate a 17-inch-wide walker which I think means 20 inches of space for her to wander through. I feel as if she’ll need the walker more so outside of the apartment as she’ll be able to use the walls to get around. She lives with others her age where they get to sit in the hall and tell stories, make puzzles, and of course gossip like all older people do, right?

My job in Petoskey is as a Patient Relations Representative working in Corporate Compliance at McLaren Northern Michigan, and yes, it’s as exciting as it sounds. My job in short is to handle all complaints from patients and assist in corrective action. Again thrilling right? Where am I going with this you may ask; I work 40 hours a week in a hospital trying to create an environment of courtesy and patient communication; this weekend I’ll be at the hospital with my mom, watching, listening, evaluating her care. On the positive side if I didn’t work in a hospital, I would have been insistent that they just let her rest and stop pushing her to walk. But because I do work just down the hall from Acute Rehab, I know that getting up, moving, and complaining is all part of the healing process. I joked with her that she got to see my first steps and now it’s my turn to see her take hers. I’m not going to lie, it’s painful to see and tears did fill my eyes, partly out of feeling helpless and part due to the guilt of moving to troll land.

In life we are born into a family or at minimum to a mom. She is there to raise us, to see our first steps, wipe our butts and noses, (hopefully with different tissue), watches us grow, make mistakes, (many in my case), and through it all loves us for just being born; how great is that? Keep taking those baby steps mom; you’ve got a lot more living to do.