A State of Grace – Chapter 4

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“Grace” will blog weekly about her experiences of loving, supporting and relating to her mother. This is a true story.
You can share Grace’s journey every Wednesday.
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Last week I wrote about the net that the family has created to support my mother to live in her own home. I am responsible for several strands, one being that of chauffeur. It used to be that I resented when she called me to take her to the doctor. That’s a 60km round trip to take her 400m.

My suggestion that she take a taxi didn’t work. She’d say that she couldn’t order a taxi for that short distance. She had me cast in the role of chauffeur. My work schedule is flexible. I have a certain number of hours to do each week but it’s up to me when I do them. It’s completely understandable that I would be the designated driver.

How, then, to fulfil this role without resentment or inefficient use of time? Initially I tried to swing by her house when I was in town to see if she needed anything. That meant that every time I went to town I felt a responsibility to call in and check. Of course I didn’t always have time. Next I tried picking her up while I did my messages but she ended up spending a lot of time waiting for me as I tore around town, popping in and out of buildings. Setting up a regular time for my mother to call daily had worked, so I decided to organise a regular time to be her chauffeur.

We settled on once a month. Weekly grocery shopping is my niece’s domain, I don’t dare interrupt that. It’s their time. I was aware that Mum’s world had shrunk; she was confined to her suburb. I wanted to give her the opportunity to see other parts of the city. The idea behind my trips was for her to do the things across town that she might feel were an imposition for my niece. I remind her a few days ahead that our monthly chauffeuring is coming up. I want her to think about the things she might want to do. There are the regular things: groceries, fruit and vegetables. We drive across town to South Library to have a cup of coffee and choose some books. I drop her at the door, park, then walk back to join her. I suggest books she might enjoy and carry the growing pile as she pushes her walking frame around the shelves. We drop into the craft shop. She buys thread for her projects; I resist looking because this is her time, not mine. I cast myself in the role of chauffeur: opening doors, dropping her outside shops, running in to do quick messages, carrying her bags. Sometimes we just drive to sit and watch the sea. It’s her choice. I’m just the driver.

Since we’ve had this arrangement, of her own volition, Mum has started to take taxis to appointments. She’s found out that they don’t mind if the trip is short. That she can phone and get someone to take her a short distance allows her to be in her own home. Even strangers are part of the net.

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