Being Dad to My Mom

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A lot of us, it seems, are dealing with aging parents. Pastor Mike Glenn shares why this role reversal is frustrating and frightening, fulfilling and emptying—all at the same time.

My mom and dad were married so long they became one word, “John and Barbara Glenn.” You didn’t see one without seeing the other. The two of them were a great team. Their gifts complemented each other. Dad was a great people person, and Mom was great at details. When Dad died three years ago, Mom struggled. I wasn’t surprised. I expected it. When she forgot to pay a bill or overlooked an appointment, I just wrote it off as grief.

I was the last one to admit there was something else wrong. Finally, after consultations with doctors, MRIs, and X-rays, I ended up moving Mom to an assisted living facility near where I live. To say I moved her is an understatement. I drug her to Nashville. I don’t think she’s forgiven me yet. She may never forgive me.

And I’ll just have to live with that. I’m discovering I’ll have to learn to live with a lot of things. I’m making decisions about her doctors and her care. I’m taking care of her finances and dealing with her property. I’m trying to do what I think she would want me to do, but sometimes I’m not so sure. Sometimes, I just do the best I can.

One thing that’s surprised me is how many of my friends are going through the same thing. When they hear I’ve moved my mom, they’ll walk up to me and quietly tell me what’s going on in their lives. A lot of us, it seems, are dealing with aging parents. The flipping of roles with our parents is frustrating and frightening, fulfilling and emptying—all at the same time.

There are no books that can help. Sure, there are plenty of resources out there about Alzheimer’s and aging, but there’s no book on my mom. Nope, Barbara B. Glenn is one of a kind. Most of the decisions come down to me. I make them the best I can, and I pray a lot.

After a lot of ups and downs through all of this, here’s where I’ve landed. When I was little and couldn’t take care of myself, I trusted my mom to do what was best for me. Now, the table has turned. She’s no longer able to take care of herself, and the only thing she wants is for me to do what’s best for her. No, she won’t always understand what I do just like I didn’t understand everything she did for me.

But I trusted her.

Now, she’s trusting me.

If at the end of it all, I can say I did the best I could to take care of my mom, I’ll be able to live with that. Like I said, I’m learning to live with a lot of things these days.

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