A non-music industry experience… By, Wendy Day
My Mom is officially old. She is 82 years old and in failing health. No one prepared me for this. As I speak with her (she’s still sharp), I see the vibrancy, humor, and life in her eyes. But as she moves around, I see that same energy has failed her with her body. Let’s face it, humans weren’t all meant to live 80+ years. Technology and advances in medicine have surpassed physiology.
In the past few years, my Mom has become sick and been rushed to the hospital numerous times with one serious ailment or another. It’s a chain reaction and a sign that her body is breaking down. But the frustration is that her mind still feels to her like it did in her 20s, so she can’t do as much as she used to. But she still tries because she’s scrappy like that.
This mindset leads to falls, back problems, broken bones, and other assorted ailments but it also leads to the mental degradation of her realizing she can’t do it all herself anymore and must give up her independence bit by bit. This is harder for her than the broken bones.
In October, Superstorm Sandy devastated her house (which I spent three months rebuilding and am STILL fighting the flood insurance company to just do the basics, not to mention what’s fair and right) and took away her car. Without transportation, my Mom became totally dependent on me (800 miles away), my sister (400 miles away), and the kindness of neighbors just to exist. It’s the hardest adjustment I’ve ever seen my independent Mom make. It’s also meant that I spend a week out of every month with her.
I’ve watched my Mom change over the years, and while I see glimmers of who she once was pop up occasionally, for the most part I see an old woman, hunched over, struggling with the basics of everyday life. My boyfriend lost his Mom in January, which reminded me how lucky I am to still have mine, but at what price for her.
This Summer, my sister and I made the hardest decision of our lives. We realized my Mom could no longer go it alone and asked her to either come live with one of us, or move into Assisted Living. She chose her own independence of Assisted Living after months of arguments, tears, and frustration (us, not her!). Last week, we moved my Mom into what resembles a college dormitory for the gray haired set about 35 minutes from her home. They have weekly trips, a movie theater, arts and crafts, games, etc. She can be with people her own age, remain independent with professional care takers right outside the door of her room, and take advantage of any of the extras we are paying 5 grand a month for. Growing old ain’t cheap.
I tell you all of this because as our hip hop nation ages, we have new worries and new responsibilities. Our kids are growing into adults and having their own kids (were we this young and naive at one time?) and our parents who raised us are aging and passing on right in front of our faces. We can’t control time.
My Mom is adjusting and doing well, but at her age EVERYTHING is a big deal, from the actual move to the fire drill she just had to endure. They moved the tables in the dining room which altered her view (she’s been there a week) and THAT was a big deal. My life is changing, and transitioning with my Mom into Assisted Living is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. She seems relatively happy but she misses her home, her car, her friends and neighbors, and the life she had when she could move around a little faster and easier. I’ve spent a lot of time with my Mom over the years, regret nothing, and I’ve gone above and beyond for her as she has always done for me. It’s been the hardest shit I’ve ever done and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. She’s worth it. But nothing prepared me for this.