Nov 9, 2009

Another life transition, giving up on driving

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


Deborah Ann said...

That's got to be hard, handing over the keys and giving up your freedom. What a blessing she has to have you to look out for her!

Pat said...

I have experienced what you speak of. My Mom was 85 when she passed, and refused to give up her car keys. I would say for the last 5 years of her life she really wasn't capable of driving, even though the DMV renewed her license against my wishes. The last year she was so weak and sick she never drove any more, but I fully understand how losing the keys meant the end of freedom for her. The end of independence was very sad, for both of us because we knew very well what was to follow.
Your mothr is very lovely, and very wise. You are blessed.

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

Your mom sure has shown amazing strength of mind to make that decision. It is an extremely difficult thing to do.

I think your ruse of telling your mom you were "going to be in the neighborhood anyway" was very sweet and loving.

Anonymous said...

{{{hugs}}} I know these transitions are so difficult, both for the parent and for the child.

Jess said...

Oh Jacque,

I thought it was challenging to become a new mother... so much responsibility and such demands.
Little did I realize that one day I would "mother" my Mom.

May God's Love continue to be your mainstay. May you cherish and treasure even this new phase.
Love to both of you!

Brenda said...

Oh my . . . growing old is so hard. There are so many losses. I am sure that is the most difficult part in life. I guess it is God loosening our fingers from holding on tightly to life and opening our eyes more to the joys we will experience in heaven. I want to love on older people as much as possible. We are up next. I love the photo of your mom and her great grand.

Jacquelyn said...

Deborah Ann, I know. I'm exactly 20 years younger than mom. My time may come way sooner than I could imagine, to give up that freedom. It has to be really hard...

Pat, mom has always said "when the time comes to qut driving, I'll do it gracefully"...but then she did struggle and fight it until that close call. I definitely am blessed that she didn't fight it after that.

Penni, I knew she was getting "close" to the decision when she started saying things like, "it has to be my decision, no one can make it for me" I just kept praying hard! LOL!

Shirley, I know you've been through some of these transitions as well. We were never promised life would be easy, were we? But that God would help us...and I definitely believe He was in this thing!

Jess, what is so hard to realize is that here we come, right behind our parents. Am I learning anything? I think since my dad died I've been able to treasure moments with mom all the just emphasized how fragile life on this earth is, and how fast it goes!

Brenda, I love how you said it's God's way of loosening our grip on this life and preparing us for the next. I truly believe that!

Rebecca said...

What a blessing that she came to that conclusion (finally) on her own! What a beautiful woman, too.

I spent yesterday with my parents (Dad had cataract removal). They were insistent that Mother could drive them home. So I followed them out of parking lot. She pulled out in front of a school bus - no wreck and I didn't hear the conversation in their car, if any. But I saw what I saw......

Jacquelyn said...

Oh dear, Rebecca. (sorry, I just saw your comment)

We need so much grace in dealing with these transisitions, don't we?

I will say a prayer for you now, that you will be full of His grace as you face the days ahead with your aging parents. There were surely several reasons that God needed to command us to honor our parents!

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and love it. I have started blogging about my life as a "sandwicher". The driving is definitely an issue. My 80 year old mother says she can drive, but then never wants to. She doesn't seem to mind being driven around like "miss daisy". Wouldn't we all like to be dropped off at the door!
Blessings to you.
E. Brown

Jacquelyn said...

so nice to meet you, sandwich lady! that's a really cute name! My mom is 81 tomorrow actually...though my kids are both grown and have wives, kids, and mortgages! I still consider myself sandwiched though, because I have two of my grands here at least 3 days a week, and we still do help both our kids and our parents...Anxious to get to know you better, and thanks so much for "finding" me!