Mothering my Children AND my Mom by Marci Rapp (Chanukah Semifinalist #6)
I had been married for around 15 years, blessed with 4 children, a nice house, a good job, when suddenly I found myself having to take care of my aging, crippled mother. She came to live with us, along with my mother-in-law, who had already been living with us for many years.
My 85-year-old mother had been volunteering when she tripped over a telephone wire and fell and broke her thigh bone. This left her hospitalized for 10 months, crippled, and unable to take care of herself. She couldn’t financially handle the necessary new one-level rental accommodations, and ended up moving in with us, despite the fact that she had insisted she never would.
When she was hospitalized, I traveled to be with her every day for 10 months all day, in the Canadian winter. How exhausting. And I still had kids at home to take care of. During that time, also, our youngest son, who had recently been hit by a car and suffered head trauma, was preparing for his bar mitzvah. I had to quit work to deal with everything at once.
I also had to face the challenge of educating myself about handicap accessibility and the medical and legal issues related to my mother’s injury.
When my mom first came to live with us, we struggled to get her up the front stairs, into the main-floor powder room so she could have privacy. She could not be left alone and she had to be transported to doctors and other places. As time unfolded, I found myself embroiled in the necessary 5-year lawsuit related to her injury, as she couldn’t deal with that either.
How did I cope? When I had to run to the hospital for the 10 months – B”H my husband stepped in and shopped and cooked dinner and took care of the kids.
When my mother was released from the hospital and moved in with us, we renovated our house to accommodate her disability: we put in a ramp, an accessible washroom, and a main floor bedroom/sitting room.
I also became an expert in supervising her diabetes. My mother was called a “brittle diabetic” and sometimes went into a Diabetic Coma. We had to summon Hatzalah Toronto a few times, and as a result of these experiences with my mom my husband eventually became a Hatzalah Responder.
I also became an expert in filing and administering a lawsuit – as we had to sue the volunteer organization for financial compensation for my mother’s expenses and pain and suffering – as they were negligent regarding placement of the telephone wire.
To help my mother on a day-to-day basis, we hired a live-in caregiver, which my mother paid for. That reduced my responsibilities, and it also gave me assistance in the home with things such as cleaning and food preparation. My mother participated whenever she could i.e. activities she could do while sitting down such as peeling vegetables, making eggrolls, cabbage rolls, pickles, etc. YUM!!!
Having my mother at home with us made it easy to properly perform the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim (visiting the sick) without leaving our front door! It also gave our children the opportunity to see the mitzvah of caring for aging parents first-hand. My kids would all come home and visit with Bubby for a while before going to play or do their homework.
During this time, I answered an ad to be interviewed about the Sandwich Generation. I was selected and we were filmed for 9 months for a documentary called “The Family Dance – Tales from the Sandwich Generation.” One of our sons was quoted on the documentary saying: “Welcome to the Rapp family Old Aged Home.”
My mother hoped to attend my son’s wedding in Israel. In the end, though, she died a few months before the wedding, at home, in my arms, on a Shabbat morning, with my daughter beside us.
I felt really good about taking care of my mother as the other choices were not so suitable for her. I know she was happy with us and having a caregiver eased the burden of taking care of her myself, since I had work and childcare responsibilities as well.
When I made Aliya (ahead of my husband), again I was “sandwiched” between caring for my daughter and mother-in-law.
Now, in Israel, my daughter has b”H finished high school, and sadly my mother-in-law passed away this last summer so we are today empty nesters…
So many different stages of life. It certainly makes life interesting and meaningful.