I was raised by a strong Black woman, who provided me with a very comfortable place to call home. Our home was the type of place that friends visited and didn’t want to go home. She had really made it into a nice haven from the world. I took pride in saying that our house was ready for Architectural Digest to come in and do a photo spread at anytime. When it came to meals; I look back and think “boy was I spoiled.” If she wasn’t preparing her own brand of five-star cuisine, we were dining out where someone else was coming a close second to mom’s veal parm or ‘monster’ burgers.
All in all, I have to say that Mom gave me a pretty nice start to my life. Now, as I see her beginning to get up into those semi-golden years, I have to start thinking about what my responsibility is to give a her a pretty nice end to her’s. No. I’m not expecting her to kick over any minute, but I do realize that in the near future, she will begin to require a certain level of assistance with her everyday life.
The real question is: what exactly is my responsibility? I’m well into my forties, and have a couple of adult children myself, and I always tell them that when I get older and start to run around with aluminum foil hats on my head – so the government can’t read my thoughts, and aliens can’t find me – don’t hesitate to find a decent nursing home (or sufficiently padded room) for me to chill out in until my time arrives. Even though they look at it as throwing Dad away, I look at it as not being a burden & letting them have their lives. I’ve certainly had mine. So, with that mindset, I have to answer the question of what to do when my mother’s faculties begin to diminish. Do I find a nice clean facility with professionals that will provide her quality care? Or, am I responsible for hands-on day to day care myself? Do I owe a debt of a clean & warm environment? Do I owe back some of those top-notch meals that I dined on daily?
As with many things, I look to history for some valuable lessons and guidance. My mother herself has been trying to take care of my aging grandmother for some time now. During many conversations, I’ve heard the strain in her voice as she’s tried to do what she thought was the ‘right thing’ – giving up her own life to care for her mother. I’ve also heard the exhilaration & relief in her voice as she’s told me that she has found a nice retirement home for my grand. During these talks, I never work up the nerve (or insanity) to dare ask her what I should do when her turn comes. I guess I never ask because I fear that it will force her to either face an hypocrisy (if she doesn’t want to see the inside of a nursing home herself), or it will force a strong Black woman to submit to an uneasy fate.
As each day, week, month & year passes; I grow more and more aware of the decision that I will eventually have to make (and probably, so will you). Is it giving back to the one who gave me so much only if I do so in my own home? Or is paying for her care by qualified caregivers just as good or right?