Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I find myself in a lot of pain, feeling sad and on the verge of bitterness. Today, I even found myself thinking of ways to make a permanent exit and let those I leave behind see what they have done to me and how deep my pain has gone.
Please excuse my rambling, it’s just that I don’t know when all this started or how and why it affected me so deeply.
This is my story.
I got married very young, right out of school, and was a mother before my first anniversary. My marriage was not a good one, yet I have been blessed with seven children whom I love deeply and who love me. My children became my lifeline and as long as I had a pair of little hands to hug me, I felt useful, needed and appreciated. And I reciprocated. While their friends had store-bought Purim costumes, my children had original, hand-sewn from a pattern costumes that I spent months before Purim making. My children had birthday parties their friends, now adults, still talk about. I was always there, even when their father missed PTA meetings, school projects and trips. I was always grateful that they included me in their milestones and turned to me for advice whenever it was needed. I was the envy of all my friends.
Then, one day, something happened.
I began to notice a distinct and subtle change in the way they spoke to me, and that they were turning to each other for advice as opposed to me. At first I thought I was imagining it, that it was simply their not living at home and that their spouses, understandably, took priority.
Yet as I near my 75th birthday, it has become clear that they see me as a doddering old woman. They have taken to criticizing what I say or didn’t say, overriding choices I made for myself and ridiculing my opinions.
A few months ago I finally let loose and told my son if he ever spoke to me like that again it would be the last time, not even thinking what I meant by that myself. It seems he shared this episode with his sisters and brothers and they now believe that I am “probably beginning to lose it.” I am appalled that they think I’m suffering the onset of dementia. I work full time, and I’m not dependent on any of them, baruch Hashem, if anything, the opposite is true. Whenever one of them needs a “loan” they know they don’t have to ask twice.
Mrs. Bluth, why are they treating me this way? My oldest son pressured me to write a will and divest myself of all my valuables. Why are they in such a rush to make me older than I am?
I am so heartbroken. I no longer look at my children the same way. I am tired of hurting and crying into my pillow at night. I yearn for the old, loving connection I had with my children, but I know it will never happen. They have become “the parents” and I “the child.” I hope you can help me through this and present me with a solution to my heartache.
“Al tashlichaynu l’eis ziknah.” This little understood pasuk has many meanings that are little understood when we are young. However, having past the age of ziknah (72) myself, I can certainly see some of the cryptic meanings.
The blush is off the rose, so to speak, bones begin to hurt, joints and nerves creak and ache and getting out of bed in the morning can take about 30 minutes on a good day. Reading your letter has made me aware that the recession due to age is not expressly delegated to one’s personal physical limitations. It can also translate into the way our adult children see us. The pain this may cause is palpable and I am truly sorry that you are experiencing this.
As long as the chicks are dependent, the hen rules the roost. But when the old bird is no longer needed… well, you get the picture. However, the children are not chicklets. We expend a great deal of blood, sweat and muscle raising them, providing for them, teaching them and preparing them for life and ultimate autonomy. We also expect them to return a measure of love, respect and appreciation for our efforts and our sacrifices on their behalf. For the most part, children do appreciate our efforts Sadly, though, there are a number of offspring who think they will be young forever and exempt from the concern and attendance to elderly parents who have given them their all. Like your offspring.
I can’t tell you not to hurt; I can’t imagine your heartache. But why hurt yourself in the bargain? Why validate their notions that you are not responsible for your own well-being? If you do something foolish, you will only re-enforce their belief that they are right to try to control more of your life than they have a right to. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and re-evaluate your will so that you can regain control of your finances.
But first, get yourself a full physical to discount any doubt about your sanity and/or ability to make decisions. With this in hand and a reversal of your will, I would venture you will see an amazing turnaround in their treatment of you.
Don’t lie down and let them step on you because they already have what they want. Enjoy the rest of your years on earth. Maybe then your children will see that there’s still a great deal more functioning gray matter in their mother’s head, possibly far more than what is working in their own devious minds. I am interested to know how you score on the medical evaluation, so that I can cheer you on. I deeply resent adult children who feel entitled to decide when the time is right for them to inherit what is not yet theirs.