Too Old to Parent?
Parenting: The Sequel
Mother of 13 -- and Still Not Off Duty continued...
For each chemotherapy treatment, Annie made the drive from her
home in Augusta, Ga., to Atlanta and stayed with Mary Ellen a week at a time.
One of her other daughters, Margaret, accompanied her on the majority of these
trips. But it was Annie who set the schedule and tone of the day, keeping
everybody moving like clockwork, assigning tasks and duties.
Mary Ellen's illness hit Annie hard, and she rearranged her
entire life to care for her. Still, she will say little about how much she has
contributed. "I'm not cleaning up Mary Ellen's vomit to be a hero," she
Dealing With the Stress
Psychotherapist Marianne Hunt, who works with seniors in her
Los Angeles practice, says, "It's critical to acknowledge the illness and
not to minimize the incredible amount of stress, on a practical and emotional
level, for both the parent and the adult child. The parent must also walk a
fine line to honor the child's way of coping."
"But don't be afraid to ask for help," she says.
"Make sure you get enough support."
When Sophie Pipkin was further wiped out by the six months of
tetracycline treatment, she needed meals, laundry, transportation, snacks at
odd hours, and help to accomplish even the smallest of tasks. Since, she has
slowly regained some of her energy.
Getting on With Life
Grace says that when Sophie was beginning to recover enough to
consider the future, it became evident that she would not be able to return to
the demanding schedule and long hours of law practice. Instead, she started
keeping a journal at Grace's suggestion and began to find the energy to write
for a short time in the mornings. A few of her literary essays have won awards,
and she is now beginning to work seriously as a writer, as her health
"We talk about writing a lot," Grace, a fiction writer
herself, says. "We share ideas and books. Sophie goes to any readings that
are during her few hours of energy. Twice, our work has been anthologized in
the same volumes, and because she couldn't stretch her energy enough to perform
at readings, I read her work.
"There are still those moments without hope -- but never
self-pity," says Grace. To cope, Grace writes her fiction and focuses on
her three grandchildren. In turn, the grandchildren adore their Aunt Sophie,
who creates art projects for them. Grace adds that Sophie has never demanded so
much of her attention that she could not find some time for herself.
"There are times when she meets former classmates and their
babies, moments when the Harvard alumni magazine arrives and she reads about
the professional successes of her classmates -- when she's certain she will
never fight her way out of this," Grace says. "We listen, we tell her,
yes, she's gotten a lousy deal, and then we try to be upbeat, to make lemonade
out of her lemons and then to sweeten it. Sometimes we feel choked by the