Well over a decade ago, when I was in my twenties, my husband's
grandmother, whom I'll call Joanne, could no longer take care of herself. Her husband of many years had died, and
all she had was her daughter, my husband's mother, who moved Joanne into her home, making provisions for her advent.
Joanne couldn't climb stairs, so they converted the dining room into a bedroom, and Joanne cried and whined because
she wanted to go home.
She needed constant supervision. My husband's parents worked, and his brother watched Joanne during the day. One
afternoon, he went out for a pack of smokes, and Joanne decided to make a bowl of soup and ignited every burner
in the house, causing the smoke alarm to go off, which made her hysterical. My husband's brother returned, and
found the poor woman cowering and in tears. He turned off the burners and put her to bed.
Some days she didn't know who she was. She thought my husband's mother was this nice lady who let her stay at her
house, and cooked her meals and took her on drives.
One afternoon, she wandered off, and a neighbor saw her meandering down the boulevard. He returned her home.
My husband's mother couldn't deal with it any longer, so she decided to put Joanne in a nursing home, making my
husband and another sibling livid.
"How can Mom do this?" my husband spat. "I don't know what's wrong with that woman? When she and
dad got married, they lived with grandma and grandpa for a few years, and this is how she shows her appreciation."
My husband is very loyal and devoted to his family.
He has regaled me with anecdotes about his childhood... warm, sunny Friday afternoon fishing expeditions with his
grandparents...trips to the grocery store and being the recipient of candy bars, and potato chips...learning how
to play card games, and staying at grandma and grand-dad's when he received a sibling...and how grandma's oatmeal/raisin
cookies could be marketed.
Joanne had given my husband good memories. And he adored her, and found it inconceivable that his mother would
"fob off her responsibilities" on someone else.
My husband's attitude is that parents took care of their children when they were incapable of fending for themselves,
and when time reverses the situation, children should do likewise.
I agree, but sometimes circumstances can preclude adult children of aging parents from making that choice-- time
cards to punch, family commitments to meet, making it so that people cannot give nonstop attention to a dependent
And lastly, some people are ill equipped to properly fend for a geriatric parent.
I'm sure putting a parent in a nursing home is a tough, tear-inducing choice. But it is an enormous act of love.