A few weeks ago my mom made a very difficult decision. She has been struggling with macular degeneration for quite some time, receiving treatments every six weeks in a desperate effort to slow the disease, without a whole lot of success. Earlier this year, she wasn't able to pass the State of Ohio's eye exam to renew her driver's license, and she waited a while, then tried again. Much to my dismay, she eventually was able to gain a renewal.
Mom is past 80, but a very independent and very active person. She could not imagine being without the ability to get up and go whenever she pleased. Even though she hasn't driven on the highways for years, and never ventured too far from home when driving, she wanted to be free to drive around town to go to church, or to the grocery store, or to a friend's house.
Since Dad died a year and a half ago, mom has had to do things she never worried about before. She had to learn how to write checks and pay bills, balance the checkbook, do the banking, and learn how to budget finances. She went through major surgery this summer without dad by her side. She took a couple vacations with her grown children instead of with her spouse. She purchased a grave headstone for the both of them and has begun saving for her own funeral expenses. Life started becoming one new transition after another. It hasn't been easy, but she has adjusted so much better than any of us could have imagined.
Then came the big bump in the road: holding onto those car keys. The dread of every grown son or daughter whose parent should no longer be driving. None of us were prepared to have a major confrontation with mom. But we began to see the little tell-tale signs that she needed to give up driving. We all tried in our own way to persuade her to think about it. We assured her we would all be there for her and help her with her errands, appointments, etc. No amount of talking about it worked.
I did everything I possibly could to drive her around. Every day I checked to see if she needed anything, letting her know I was going to "be in her neighborhood anyway" whether I was or not. Most of the time it worked. But every once in a while when I called she wasn't home, and she would be out running an errand on her own. Mom hated to ask for help from anyone, even though she is the first person to help someone else.
Then one Sunday a couple weeks ago, mom called me. She had driven herself the couple miles to her church, and on the way home she didn't see a car she should have seen, and nearly had an accident. It was so stressful for her to even get home that she made the decision right then and there. She called my brother-in-law to come get her car as he had agreed to sell it for her. She hasn't driven since.
I'm proud of my mom for making this really difficult decision, even though I wish it had been months earlier. It's got to be really hard. It's one more loss in her life, and I'm sure it must seem to her like she is losing her independence. I'm so grateful that she didn't have to have an accident and hurt herself or someone else before she made the right choice.
What's really hard for me is not that I'm driving mom around more but my own acceptance that this is one more indication that she is aging. When we are young we just assume our parents will always be there for us. I never imagined being where I am now in my life, with the tables turning and now I'm the one watching her closely to see that she has her condo key, to make sure she doesn't leave her purse in the grocery cart, holding her arm as we walk so she doesn't stumble on cracks in the sidewalk.
I thank God for every day I have left in this life with my mom. She has seen me through a lot and now it's my turn to be there for her.
Here's mom with her eighth and newest great-grandchild, born this year
"Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children." Proverbs 17:6