“My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.” Mark Twain
Once, at age five, my mother took me to the doctor’s office. In the Fifties, they prescribed penicillin as often as aspirin. With every sniffle or cough a nurse injected the new miracle medicine into my behind. Disposable needles weren’t available so, those things in the alcohol bath weren’t always sharp. To me, they looked like ice picks.
There was a time we sniffled too much, so Mother loaded my twin brother and me into the car under the pretense of going grocery shopping, and we headed to the doctor’s office. Upon arriving, we recognized the building and became quiet. Mother said she wanted to see the remodeled office, but we didn’t believe her. Terrified we cried and became hysterical.
Mother continued her ruse while trying to coax us out. Two tear-stained boys in the backseat now panicked and locked the doors — with the keys in the ignition. My embarrassed mother smiled at a passerby and acted nonchalant as she inspected her wiper blades. Once the lady passed, Mom spun toward me with a demonic expression. “This won’t end well,” I thought.
Then, Mother demanded, through gritted teeth, for me to unlock the door. Her fiery eyes burned my retinas as I sat on my hands. She must have recognized my indecision because she upped the stakes.
“Open up, or I’ll spank you.”
For a moment, I considered the possibility of permanent automobile residence. Then I remembered, I’d locked my cook outside of the car. Reluctantly, I lifted the ten-pound latch, and Mom snagged us. I don’t remember if I left the office with a band-aid on my sore hip.
These days I take my mother to the doctor, or should I say, doctors? I take her to the gerontologist, neurologist, rheumatologist, and psychologist. In the last few months, she’s had laboratory tests for blood work, two different barium swallow tests, CAT scan, PET scan, and two ultrasounds. All this, and she despises physicians.
When Mom was younger, she never hesitated to take me to the doctor, but she seldom went for herself. Once, our family MD told her the problem was “nerves” and “in her head.” Since then, she seldom returned for her own ailments.
Though Mother has dementia, she still remembers her distaste for medical visits. So, it’s always a challenge to get her to cooperate. She resists the way I did as a five-year-old. She says, “there’s nothing wrong with me, I don’t need a doctor.”
I reply, “Well, you have an office appointment because (fill in the reason).” She responds, “There’s nothing they’ll do for me. Doctors just want our money.”
Sometimes, Mother accepts her fate and submits. On other occasions, I must redirect her. Since her memory is momentary, I can wait a few minutes and start again. This time I tell her we are going out for lunch. Once in the doctor’s parking lot, I say, “We’re stopping here before lunch.” She grumbles but allows me to take her inside the office.
As we make our way to the front door, I consider how our roles have reversed. As a child, I learned to accept her authority and trusted her judgment. These many years later, I must decide on her health care matters. If she resists, I must insist.
Correct your son, and he will give you comfort…- Proverbs 29-17 NASB
Solomon wrote this proverb to remind parents they must discipline their children. For a comfortable home, there must be order. Mother took the time to teach and punish me, and I learned to respect her. I don’t resent it but appreciate it. So, I am now Mom’s caregiver and comfort in her old age, as Solomon predicted.
© 2018 Ronald Milburn