“Everyone’s gotta go sometime.” – Gmamma
As I look forward to Mother’s Day Sunday, when Geezer Stories: The Care and Feeding of Old People will officially launch, I look back to last year’s Mother’s Day post: The Last First. It was about surviving the “Year of Firsts” after your parent dies. That first Mother’s Day without your mother is a watershed. It marks the great divide between when you had a mother, when you were actively grieving the loss of your mother, and when the new normal is being a member of the motherless club. And your life is forever changed. Maybe there’s a new angel on your shoulder. Maybe your mother is just an ache in your heart. But you lift your chin and square your shoulders and keep moving forward.
So, it feels fitting that this Mother’s Day at 2 p.m., we will celebrate the little book I wrote about my parents, Gmamma and DooDaddy, whom you have come to know through this blog, my Facebook posts and now Geezer Stories, the book. It’s fitting, because, while my father looms large as the hero of our story, it’s my relationship with my mother that greatly informs the book and how I experience the world.
Alan Sims, aka Knoxville Urban Guy, recently wrote about Geezer Stories in his blog entitled “Knoxvillian Laura Mansfield Wrote the Book on Dealing With Aging Parents.” And, while nearly everything he wrote is accurate – except the part about DooDaddy getting shot at Watson’s – he was shot at, not actually shot, I feel somehow protective of the perception of my parents, as I see them through his eyes.
He marvels that my family is ok with my sharing the intimate details of our lives, but that’s not entirely true. My siblings and my father are supportive of my need to tell my story. My mother, however, was appalled at the very notion of Geezer Stories from the beginning. Not because of how she was portrayed, but because she was a very private person from a very private era, when people didn’t share very private things with ANYONE.
And that’s exactly why I had to write the book. Either you “get” it or you don’t. And that is ok.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably a fellow pilgrim on the journey of eldercare and you do get it. As Alan notes, it’s not a sentimental journey. In fact, he confesses to “wincing” at my honesty.
We who care for our elderly parents are on the front line of something that’s not pretty or delicate or nice, but it’s necessary. I can’t compare it to war, because I’ve never served in the armed forces, and I have too much respect for those who do. And yet, like soldiers, we caregivers share a bond that can’t be fully articulated. We recognize it immediately in each other’s eyes. We have our own war stories, aka geezer stories, and a shared sense of duty mixed with guilt. There’s a silent, shell-shocked camaraderie among us.
If you haven’t walked a mile in my UGG Boots yet, just wait. You will. Delayed parenting and increased life spans are causing a demographic shift in our society. It’s the perfect storm or, perhaps, it’s a caregiving tsunami.
So, come see DooDaddy and me at Union Avenue Books on Mother’s Day. Downtown. Doodaddy’s old stomping ground. Just around the corner from the ghost of Watson’s on Market Square. The job that kept him away from all the momentous and mundane events of my childhood, because he was working, working, working. His job was his identity. Then and now. And, that’s ok too.
Thanks to Flossie McNabb of Union Avenue Books for hosting this event and carrying my books. Thanks to Alan Sims and also John Shearer who covered the story for Shopper News. Thanks to Mike Parker, my publisher at WordCrafts Press, who brought my book to life. And thanks to my heart friends and fellow Taffy Generation caregivers – especially Emily Albers Patton, who coined the taffy term and has been with me every step of this journey and all the way back to second grade.