I read this piece on May 6, 2015 at Mommologues: Musings on Motherhood, a benefit event at the Howell Opera House for LA CASA, the local domestic violence shelter/organization. To roars of laughter - this post is not as depressing as the title indicates, honest!
I got a text message from my oldest son. Actually, I get a lot of text messages from both my sons – ages 18 and 22 - because that is how you communicate with the youth of today, and they (the children and the text messages) are often hilarious (intentionally or not)…but this particular one made me laugh. And it also made me think.
"Just saw a commercial for "a place for mom" and while I'm of course willing to call them and find a nice home for you to degrade in, I would much rather prefer you go out with a bang like a skydiving accident or you buy a hang glider and fly into a volcano or something :) just so you know. But no pressure if you just want to grow old and play bingo."
I of course replied that I was so happy he was thinking of me. And in addition to the laugh, it prompted a bit of a brain spasm – how DID I want to “go out?”
You read about how you should have all these end-of-life conversations with your loved ones. Long term care insurance, living wills, assisted living facilities toured and all picked out…and the conversation with your children about what you think you want, what they think they can provide. Because it’s good to know if they are going to draw the line at changing your diapers, or if it will be much earlier in the so-called “degrading” process and they are going to refuse to join you at 11 AM for the Denny’s senior lunch special.
I am crossing A Place for Mom off the list – no offense and I’ve heard they are lovely places, but among other things I am disturbed by the lack of A Place for Dad - what about Dad, is there A Place for Dad, and is it across the street or something? This naturally led to - “Isn’t it funny that the kids assume he isn’t in the picture..."
And although I am sure this is not quite what all those experts had in mind, I asked both of the children – what, exactly, do you envision me doing in my old age? Will you take care of me in my decreptitude and how?
Because proper mothering requires embarrassing your kids and putting them on the spot every now and then, right?
The oldest replied:
“If you don’t go out with a bang I imagine you having a small shack on an island somewhere with a garden and you just read books outside on your lawn or beach while your chickens roam around the estate.”
I WANT THAT. Especially the small island shack that is, somehow, an estate. But the whole idea sounds perfect. Sun, beach, chickens, my ereader with 50 Shades of Grey, Senior Moment Edition (where Christian hoists a blindfolded Anastasia to the ceiling of the Red Room and then wanders off and forgets her) in super-sized typeface.
If I don’t go out with a bang, that is, which is clearly his preference. Then he continues, because this is my wordy child:
“And you are there and in the end everything is white, like when Frodo wakes up in the Gondor at the end of Lord of the Rings.”
Nerd children are the best, aren’t they?
“Super bright, a gentle breeze, all white curtains and sheets…and then one day you’ll just die but it will be the most peaceful thing ever and you’ll be so at one with your existence you won’t need any help as you degrade.”
“So it’s that or the volcano.”
Youngest son initially replied “I don’t know what you’re asking.”
This is NOT my wordy child. So, as I often do with this one, I waited. A few hours later: “But I like Vonn’s Lord of the Rings scenario.”
NERD CHILDREN. I am 2-for-2 in that department.
I waited some more. Three days later… yeah this is the kid – when they find my decomposing body in the basement because I tripped over a cat on my way to get a another bottle of wine - who will be quoted in the paper “Yeah, I guess it’s been a while since we heard from her.” Anyway, I get this:
“Well I see you chillin’ in Italy with a ton of cats just hangin’ around with a nice little courtyard (dad may or may not be around idk) and you'd die from having a large cat sleeping on your chest causing your lungs to collapse in your sleep. Or something.”
Disturbingly specific. Note to self: no more large cats as pets. But notice that Dad has finally made it into a scenario here, although quite tentatively.
“I'd gladly come to Italy to help you out for a while if I can.”
Well, yeah. Italy.
“I think it'd be cool to just take you and all your old friends and stuff you in your own personal old people house with butlers and maids and what not. Ask Vonn for the money for this project though.”
You know, what’s not to like here? Sitting in a sunny Italian courtyard, sipping a nice Chianti, cat in my lap – stuffed in an old people house funded by the older brother.
It’s interesting that actually, in Italy, an assisted living facility is considered a residence of last resort. Single senior citizens in Italy have been known to advertise themselves as “up for adoption” – and they get adopted by families, presumably in exchange for grandmotherly tasks. Knitting, a little gardening, reading 50 Shades of Gray, Assisted Living edition (where Christian Gray ties a blindfolded Anastasia to her wheelchair, hoists her to the ceiling of the dining room…and wanders off to find some tapioca and forgets about her).
Actually, the hang gliding into a volcano is sounding like a pretty exciting option… and Vesuvius is just down the road.