My Life in Your Hands

“The speed limit here is 50, so you might want to pick up the pace a little.” What am I thinking, putting my life into the hands of a 16-year-old? Strapping myself into a metal bucket and putting him in control of hurtling it down the road without killing us? Telling him to drive faster? How is that sane? But he’s got his learner’s permit and needs his practice hours.

I have a new criterium for how people should plan their families, in case anyone should ask my advice. Remember, those adorable babies are going to grow into teens. How many kids should you have? How many ride-alongs with student drivers can your nerves handle? There’s your number.










At least my kids are both pretty conscientious and not reckless. The first time I rode with my son, I joked as I climbed into the passenger seat, “My life in your hands.”

“So, no pressure?” he responded.

Though the day-to-day responsibilities and constant tasks that come with little kids can seem unrelenting, in some ways it was easier for me, psychologically, being the one in charge of getting everything done and keeping us all alive. Of course my goal is to see my kids grow into responsible adults, but it’s hard turning over that control. Oh, yeah, maybe I have a few control issues. I have been known to re-bag my groceries before putting them in the back of my van.

As my kids got big enough to start helping, it wasn’t too hard for me to live with their methods and results for sweeping the kitchen floor, for example. So a few crumbs got missed. No biggy. But as they grew, so did their responsibilities, and some came with real stakes. Getting careless with a power mower is a lot more dangerous than getting careless with a broom.

My older kid is known to stay up in the middle of the night and cook things while the rest of us sleep. This can be wonderful, waking up to freshly baked goods. But I have to trust that the stove will get turned off and we won’t be burned in our beds. And now, in the car, I ride in the passenger seat sometimes, trying to push down thoughts about how if they mess this up we could all die.

For years, they’ve had to trust me not to leave the stove on, not to wreck us in the car, not to be careless in an important area and allow the worst to happen. I  know it’s natural for the balance to shift. Sometimes there’s a sudden and dramatic change. A parent has a stroke or an accident. Sometimes it happens more gradually.

It goes both ways.
It goes both ways.

It’s likely my kids will eventually have more responsibility for me than I have for them. I know it can’t be easy for my mom, entrusting her life into my hands. In every aspect she has to let go and hope she raised me right. She doesn’t have control over her money, what doctors she sees or even where she lives. Not that I don’t get her input on anything. But it’s up to me to make the ultimate decisions and try not to blow it. Her life in my hands. No pressure, right?

The World Opens Up Again

The good news – excellent news – is that my mom’s hearing is restored to its former level. Indeed, she only needed to have her ear canals cleaned, as they were completely clogged with wax.

The comic/tragic aspect of the experience had to do with me not being able to accompany her to the doctor’s appointment. I had so completely given myself permission not to feel guilty, not to worry that everything would go wrong without me there to keep it right. The aides who work with her are kind and good. They know her, she knows them. She’d be fine with any one of them helping her.

The nurse who made the ENT appointment had assured me she’d explain to my mom why we decided to get her the first possible appointment instead of waiting until I could go along. And she probably did, but my mom couldn’t really hear at the time. I couldn’t call to explain it to Mom, for obvious reason.

A different nurse was on duty the morning of Mom’s appointment. That day, I arrived at work, took my cell phone out of my purse to put it in my pocket (ringer off) and realized I had a voicemail from the nursing home, left while I was in transit ten minutes earlier. We’re not really supposed to use our cell phones at work, but I was able to listen to the message surreptitiously. The key part was “Your mom’s appointment is in a few minutes and she won’t get on the van to go. She keeps saying we have to wait for you to get here.” Oh crap. Crappity crap crap.

Of course, by the time I listened to the message, it was too late. Either she was on the van already or it had left without her. I called and left a voice mail at the nurse’s station asking for someone to contact me at my work number. Thirty long minutes later the nurse called me back and told me they’d convinced Mom to go.

In the afternoon, between my work shifts, I called again to ask what the doctor said. The nurse read me the notes they had, mentioning hearing loss in both ears blah blah medical jargon blah blah, adjusted hearing aide medical jargon.

“Do they know why she lost so much hearing so quickly, though?”

“Well, I read you everything it said.”

“Did they find any wax or fluid or anything?”

“It doesn’t say. But you can call their office directly.”

So I did. I talked to a nurse there who repeated hearing loss in both ears blah blah medical jargon…

“Do they know why her hearing declined so dramatically all of a sudden?”

“She already had hearing loss. She was wearing a hearing aid when she came in.”

“Yes, but she went from the hearing aid helping her live her life and have conversations to almost no hearing at all even with it in.”

“She could get a second hearing aid.”

“Okay. I’ll look into that. Um, did you all by chance clean any wax out of her ears or anything?”

“Oh yes. Her ear canals are narrow and they were completely filled with wax.”

“They dug so deep I was afraid they’d puncture my brain,” my mom told me later.

When I visited her the next day, she heard me knock on the door. We had a face-to-face conversation rather than a mouth-to-ear one. She’d watched a TV show and understood it. She told me about the morning’s activity. She was back to being an active member of her world. This afternoon, I called her on the phone and heard about their ice cream social, with accounts of all the funny things people said. And she doesn’t believe she needs a second hearing aid for now.

Excellent news.



Poppy Fell Over!

I’m not the only sandwich generation mom on my block. On one side of us is an apartment building. On the other side lives a couple in their early forties, plus their 4-year-old son and the man’s elderly father, who uses a wheelchair.

The 4-year-old loves to come over any time he sees anyone from my family out in the yard. He and my 14-year-old son have had a couple of adorable sword fights with harmless play swords. The “fights” consist of the little one swinging away, while my big guy blocks his blows for several minutes until he decides to end it by letting one land and conceding defeat. The neighbor boy also loves to follow my husband around while he’s doing yard work and attempts to help him. When my husband finishes one task, the kid will ask “What are we working on next?”

This morning, I decided to go all domestic and make blueberry pancakes for the fam, since I had a pint of fresh blueberries in the fridge. As I was flipping the last one from the electric skillet, I heard a knock on the door. I still needed to unplug the skillet and attend to a couple of other details, so I hollered for someone else to answer the door please. My daughter went.

As soon as she opened the door, I heard the 4-year-old’s voice saying “We need help! Poppy fell over.” That got my attention.

I ran to the door and saw him standing there, barefoot and still in his PJs. I said, “Tell me what happened.”

“Poppy fell over and he’s laying on the deck and he can’t get up, and my mom’s hurt, too,” he told me. That really got my attention. I couldn’t imagine what might have happened that his mom and his grandfather would both be hurt. Or, I should say, I could imagine too many different things. I checked my pocket to make sure my cell phone was there, grabbed his hand and said, “Show me.”

The poor kid had run across the gravel part of their drive barefoot, but I carried him over the that stretch on the way back. They have a deck on the back of their house, with a ramp leading up to it. They also have a large privacy fence, and it prevented me from seeing anything until we got through the gate and came around to the back yard. Relieved doesn’t cover what I felt when I saw his mom standing on the deck, looking…okay. His grandfather, however, was lying there next to his wheelchair.

My neighbor (the mom) quickly told me what happened. Her husband was gone. Her father-in-law had been out on the deck and decided to try to get back inside by himself, rather than calling her for help. But there’s a threshold between the deck and the inside floor. When his wheelchair hit the threshold, it tipped over and he fell out. She said she took off at a run as soon as she realized he fell, and something pulled in her leg. Thus her son telling me she was hurt, too. Her father-in-law did not hit his head, and he could move all of his limbs. Nothing appeared broken. Mostly, she needed another adult to help her lift him back up into the wheelchair. With the two of us, we managed it, one under each armpit.

We got him back into the house, and her settled with some ice on her leg before I went home. She was calling her father-in-law’s doctor as I left to see if there were any symptoms she should look out for that would indicate a more serious injury than we could see. I checked on them later in the day, and they all appeared to be doing okay.

I suppose it takes a village not only to raise our children, but to care for the older generation, too.