Sometimes Things Aren’t As They Seem

Whether you are a young baby boomer or one of the oldest of our generation, there is something that strikes everyone the same way: our parents are slowly dying off. Wendy Reichental is only 49, but already has gone through it, and still sometimes finds it difficult to cope. We have published her thoughts on this in the past, and now give you the latest which she calls, Sometimes Things Aren’t As They Seem.

Wendy Reichental

I was sitting outside the other day, listening to the birds, enjoying my cup of coffee, when my mind wandered off to the time when my mom was recuperating from her hip fracture and staying with my husband and me. That was almost 5 years ago, but I remember those harrowing days with precision detail. I could not stand seeing my mother in pain or discomfort; I wanted to make it all go away.

Those were stressful days for my mom, who had to learn to use a cane and come to terms with her newfound limitations. I had to cope with feeling anxious all the time, and worrying that she could take another spill and break the hip again. Those first few weeks after she got discharged into my care from the rehabilitation hospital, we all seemed to be agitated and adjusting.

At times Mom refused to use her cane; I was there to reinforce using the cane and act as physiotherapist… but being strict with my own mother did not come easy for me. I can still remember that distinct look she would give me, when I nagged her to hold onto that masculine-looking metal cane the hospital sent her home with and not onto my arm. I can still hear the ping ping sound it made against our wooden floor.

One morning I awoke to the sound of the cane’s ping, ping, but it seemed to be coming from my mom’s bedroom… .which given that it was all carpeted, was indeed strange. But I definitely could hear banging around in there. I feared the worst, and thought she had fallen off the bed and was using her cane to cry for help!

I wasn’t thinking clearly, so I bolted out of my bedroom, and attempted to calmly knock on her door. I held my breath and slowly opened it and found my mom looking serene, quietly reading her magazines. Sunlight had filled the room with warmth and a much needed sense of optimism.

Wendy (right) with her mother.

While Mom looked relaxed, I needed to sit down. I asked her about the banging noise and in utter amusement she pointed to the tree outside her window and told me there is a deranged cardinal that insists on visiting her and with a determined force uses its beak to peck on her window. And sure enough, as I sat there feeling quite unhinged, I witnessed the cardinal’s intriguing performance. We both looked at each other and grinned, but mine was with an extra exhale of utter relief.

I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing about such things lately, and realizing that many situations are not what they seem. Take me, for example. On the outside apparently I appear to be holding it together, going to work, and resuming my routines. But on the inside, there’s a different documentary going on. Since my mom passed away almost a year ago, I am not the same person. And although I am a full-grown middle-aged adult, I have never felt more infantile. I miss my mom, and my dad, terribly! I find myself feeling unbelievably lost and grief stricken.

But life resumes, and we carry on, like I did this past weekend, with an ordinary trip to the grocery store. I was pushing my cart along, when a familiar ping ping grabbed my attention and tugged at my heartstrings. I followed the sound, and there in the aisle was a severely hunched-over elderly woman, walking with a metal cane. I purposely positioned my cart so I would come face to face with her, and for a brief moment as she was about to pass me, she lifted her head and our eyes met.

I’m sure I had a startled and dismayed expression. She might have surmised that I was offended and scared by her appearance. But she would have been sorely wrong. All I was thinking, was how much I miss my mom, and pine for her pinging.

13 Comments

  1. To say your essay hit me like a ton of bricks would be an huge understatement- perhaps hit by a freight train would be closer to the truth? I lost my Daddy 2 1/2 years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t miss him. My Mommy needs and should use a cane, but displays a shared stubborn streak with your Mama.
    What a beautiful tribute of love and reality for all of us to read and cherish. Thank you for sharing these special thoughts with us.

  2. Wendy, I am sure there are many among us that can relate. I lost my folks while in my 40’s and, even though we were a highly dysfunctional family, I miss them everyday. Now I look at my own full-grown children and wonder how long I will be able to remain with them. Mortality is a tough town but I think what is in your heart lasts forever.

  3. Wendy, not to get all spiritual on you, but your mom definitely knows how much you miss her, even if she cannot call you to tell you this (and even if she could, that would probably freak you out a lot). And while this seems impossible now, the grief will eventually pass, but the memories will remain.

  4. Wendy, what a beautifully poignant story. I know that ping, ping so well from hearing it from my own mom.

    I think that your mom and all moms don’t leave us; they’re right beside us with our memories of them.

  5. Hey Wendy,
    Feel for you. I had the misfortune of losing my mom when I was ten, so I didn’t have that mom/daughter relationship that you’re missing right now. You have many memories to keep her alive, but do so with a happy heart. No one lives forever and most often not as long as we want them to, so whenever you hear that ‘ping’, let the happy memories flow so they bring a smile; not a sad “I miss her” smile but a “what a great time we had together” smile. It will always lift your spirits whenever you think of her.

  6. Wendy has a true talent with words. She touches your heart while at the same time she reminds you of all the beautiful small details you may miss when someone is gone from your life. Her humorous anecdotes are also very entertaining reading material.

  7. Wendy has the true gift of being able to put her heart, as vulnerable as it may be, into words. Please read her words with extra care, as you will be a better person for it. And, please smile warmly at the next person you hear pinging – that could be someone’s mother, or father, who unfortunately may not have the gift of a child like Wendy.

  8. I’m really touched by the caring emotion of your thoughts. Your story reminds us that mothers are the foundation of our being.

  9. Last year my Mom had hip replacement surgery. I stayed with her for six weeks after and could relate to your experience. Her health, as well as her mind, has been declining startlingly fast ever since. Your blog touched my heart.

    After reading reports that our age group (I am 53) is statistically the most unhappy, I was inspired to start a blog, http://www.babyboomerbliss.net, and was doing some research to find out why this was the case. Taking care of aging parents and watching them die is at the top of the list. What you don’t realize when you’re younger is that you don’t lose your parents all at once – you lose them a little bit at a time.

  10. My dad died in 1990 at age 80 from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a lymphatic system cancer. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma is linked to pesticide exposure. My dad was a farmer. I miss him. I wish he could have been with us longer.

    My mom died in 2005. She spent eight years in a nursing home following a heart attack. She had diabetes.

    I miss them both, especially during this holiday season.

    Rita

    1. Dear Rita,

      Thank you for your wonderful comments on BoomerCafe.com. We would like to invite you to consider becoming a story contributor to our baby boomer story sharing project. Please check the story submission guidelines, and we hope to hear from you.

      David

  11. What a thoughtful read. I am so blessed that my parents (93 & 90) are still alive and living independently. I am nearing 62 and can’t imagine what it will be like to have them gone from my life.

    Mindy

  12. Wendy, thank you for such a touching story.

    Both my parents are gone, and my sibs and I have similar stories.

    In Mexico, where I live, they have a tradition of creating an altar for their dead relatives and on the Day of the Dead, the altar is festooned with pictures, candles, favorite foods and memorabilia. Songs are sung, and music is played to honor the lives of their long lost family members.

    I have a small altar for my parents in a glass case. You could think of it like a scrapbook. so I feel they are with me every day.

    Thanks again, Ria

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