Category Archives: caregiving

Bettyville is a great place to visit

Me and my Alice. I think she and Betty would have been fast friends.

I first heard of the memoir Bettyville by George Hodgman on NPR. I was immediately drawn in and couldn’t wait to read this memoir about a grown son who returns home to care for his elderly mother. The author leaves his metropolitan gay life in New York to revisit the small byways of rural Missouri. Then of course life got in the way and I never managed to pick up Bettyville. My own mother Alice was dying and I was just trying to hold on. A few months later while purusing the new books at our local library I saw Bettyville and I knew the time was right to take this journey. My mother died only a few weeks before and somehow I knew this book would help me heal. And I was right.

It became difficult to read Bettyville in public. I would find myself sobbing at my children’s swimming lessons or laughing out loud at my favorite coffe shop. This book spoke to me like no other memoir has before. I was transported to a world of tenderness, humor, heartbreak and most of all honesty. Reflecting honestly on one’s past and one’s family is not for the faint of heart. Hodgman does this with such grace. He does not run away from his parent’s faults (or his own for that matter), yet he doesn’t exploit them like a cheap headline on the cover of In Touch Weekly. Everything he writes comes from a place of love and respect for his parents.

I could relate to so many aspects of caring for an elderly parent. That give and take, as a person tries desparately to hold on to any small control over their life. In 2008, my mom and dad came to live with my family while in their 80’s. After several falls and near fatal accidents, I knew that my parents could no longer live on their own with the closest family 70 miles away. I felt like I had just started to make my own life seperate from my parents. I had finally got up the courage to move away from the comforts of my hometown and I didn’t think I was ready to deal with living with them again. But, are we ever really ready to deal with our parents growing old?

This visit to Bettyville has helped me to come to grips with my own regrets and focus on the cherished meomories of my Alice. Hodgeman through his magic of words makes us face the fact that we have all made mistakes and he helps us find the beauty in that fact.


Embarking on a new path

Like the dirty laundry and cat box, I have been neglecting my blog. I know at least two people are wondering why I haven’t been writing.

My parents are still living with us and the immense reality of everything that entails is slowly sinking in. They really need someone to help them everyday with medicine, doctor appointments, grooming, fixing meals…the list goes on.  And most importantly they need someone to help get their finances in order. I really haven’t been able to help them with many of these issues. Besides driving to doctor appointments, the pharmacy and making dinner for them.

It is an endless cycle of feeling guilty for not being able to do more for them (also not wanting to do more) and then feeling resentful that I have been put in this position without real planning and resources.  I’m probably the least prepared to do this out of my family. I’m the youngest with a small child, the one trying to get my career off the ground.  It is so hard to get used to my mom always asking when I will be home or telling me she is lonely if we spend the day away.

This year I’m embarking on a new path. I’m returning to graduate school. I will be studying Public Affairs at Indiana University Northwest. I want to concentrate on food policy. I’m also going to be volunteering for a local urban farming learning center hopefully doing grant writing. I’m so excited to find something I want to do as a career. Giddy like a school girl wanting to go buy my notebooks a month before school starts.

My son will be in a full day kindergarten. I’m so excited for him. We live in walking distance to his school. It really will be an exciting year.

As far as my parents go we are just wading through the paperwork and details of social services. I do think that if they were in their own place close to us they could get more attendants to come in to help and if they had two bedrooms my mom could actually get some sleep at night.

Of course my dad may have to go into the nursing home (which will be at least 3 to 6 months of financial logistics to get that done) but I just don’t think my mom is ready to make that decision. She doesn’t think he will make it in a home. And I don’t know if she will make it taking care of him all the time.