Friday, 5 July 2013

The crossover

It's fairly well documented that you get to a point in your life when the responsibility and capability shifts from your aging parents' shoulders onto yours. You expect to have to help them as they become more infirm.

My parents - compared to my father in law, anyway - have been pretty good at planning ahead for their dotage. They moved into a smaller house, didn't get another dog when the one I grew up with died, and generally were winding down.

Until, I think they must have decided that they were too young to die. So suddenly they started swinging wildly in the other direction. They got an enormous, bouncy dog. Mum's 70th birthday was originally scheduled to begin with champagne cocktails at 10am, until we pointed out that none of her kids could actually travel to her house to begin drinking that early without getting up at 6am. Fair enough.

What does have me chewing my fingernails is my Mum's relentless hyperactivity. It's like dealing with an energetic toddler, who knows no reason. My Dad finds it quite wearing too, when she tears off into the distance without having a clue where she's going, but wants to get there first, wherever it is. He's got a dodgy hip and can't go that fast, but she still zooms off, leaving him and everyone else trailing in her wake.

Mum wanted to go fabric shopping in the city, so Dad, her, the Boy and me went to the market district. It is in one of the dodgiest bits of town. Mum, having initially claimed she knew where she was going, announced that she didn't really know, but thought the shop was up a random, dark alley. I tried to persuade her that this was unlikely, and was not a good bit of town to explore. She insisted on going on her own.

In the meantime, while I stood with Dad, a scar-faced passerby asked us directions to the local off-licence. Dad, in a jolly fashion, said he didn't know because we were all from Hicksville, and had scary scar man ever been there? I tried not to hiss "shut uuuup, Dad," like I was 15.

Mum appeared back from her tour of Dickensian alleyways; I made her come with me into a newsagent  and I bought a magazine while she actually, literally leapt around the Boy's pushchair making the floor thud with the impact and emitting stupid noises. I asked for directions to her fabric shop.

And then we left the newsagent, and my Mum got bored following the directions after approximately 30 seconds. She veered off to the left for no apparent reason, speeding on by herself, and then spotted the most sinister looking pub in the world; a brick box with no windows. So the best thing, obviously, to do would be to flirtatiously ask the man chainsmoking outside, who had even more scars than the man we met earlier, for directions. Funnily enough, he didn't know where the fabric shop was.

We eventually got there when I stuck to the directions we'd been given.

It's like this all the time; I walked her onto her train earlier today and she practically sprinted off up the station concourse while I struggled with luggage, and then insisted that all the clocks in the station were wrong and her watch wasn't slow.

In a way, it's a good phase as she's very independent. It's also maddening, as both of them seem to have become incredibly unworldly, although I think that's partly from spending three decades staying in a small, remote town. I distinctly remember my Mum telling me to avoid dodgy looking drunks when I was little. Dad used to lecture me about data protection, but now will cheerfully put all his personal details on forms, just because he's asked to, and then wonders why he's plagued by junk phone calls.

But part of the thing about the aging parent situation is that, although you become more responsible, they still think they know best. And, unlike a toddler, it's much more difficult to argue that you're right - because they remember changing your nappy...


  1. "they still think they know best" - yes, exactly that! My in-laws are exactly in that mode now. They are making poor judgement calls, but still have the gall this morning to tell us "don't have any accidents" in a week after my FIL has had two falls, one for doing something very stupid! Ai ai ai!

    The hyperactivity of your mother though - reminds me a bit of my mother's inattention these last few years, and the way she started talking to strangers (perhaps after my father's death). Very frustrating.

  2. Suddenly I feel lucky my in-laws don't trust *anything* on the web and have us in charge. And generally aren't very adventurous. I rather pull crinkled paper from the printer than face down scarface!