My Parents House is a discussion workshop that I included recently to my declutter business. My goal is to support, understand, share ideas and experiences, to help our parents live and relax into old age. It is often said that you can’t replant an old tree; well, I think it is possible and sometimes there is no choice. We need to be gentle and bring some of the old soil along and yes, there is a wonderful possibility that it will work. We should not underestimate the elder and their capabilities to learn and continue. Instead we should help them to let go of things that do not serve them and restart into a simple and beautiful new life.
Of course I am thinking about my own parents here. My father died a few years back and my mother is starting to struggle with age related issues. She is in her eighties and partnered up with a nice man her age. Running her household, a large flower- as well as a vegetable garden is making her happy, but at the same time her body is aching from the work.
She should let me help her find a gardener and a cleaning lady, just to reduce her workload. She refuses to take my financial support and rather keeps struggling until the day comes and she can’t do it any longer. Then we all have to act fast and I am not sure if that can be called a gentle replanting…
In the meantime, no one talks about it. My mother holds on to the idea that it will all continue as it is and that she will have a sudden death at home. My sister has stopped communicating with me a long time ago, and while I have lived on another continent, thousands of miles away, she has made sure that she has the full authority to act alone on my mothers behalf. Her intents are not the same as mine. My mother is not innocent on this decision and not necessarily the mother she wants to be, but she is acting in fear of being not taken care of, which is really understandable. The determination to exclude me, split the family even further and came with whole load of other problems. Now that I am moving back home I am confronted with a broken family.
I guess there are many broken families and this makes it even harder to move on. In our case there are very many unspoken problems and a big lack of honesty and even bigger egos. My mother has violent outbreaks of anger and used to hit us. I know that my older sister had a lot more of this when she was little. My mother said that my sister was a very difficult child, not like me- not a nice thing to say, nor is it an excuse. At some point my sister was taken away to a therapy place, not exactly sure what for and why; nobody really talks about it and it was before I was born, but apparently it was very painful for my sister. After I was born my sister always disliked me, maybe she felt that I had it easier- who knows, she has never told me. Everybody is in denial. Could be that I had it more trouble-free, but my mother has physically hurt me as well and put great fear in me. Till this day she makes it out to be just an anger attack and that she did not mean it. I believe her and I do understand that she had a painful time growing up, with an abusive father that was numbing his problems with alcohol. She had no mother, only five older siblings and all this during the war, with a great amount of fear herself and a hungry belly and not much of anything else. Therefor I have not much to complain about, because luckily everything worked out for me and others are off much worse. On the same page I had to make sure that this does not repeat into my life…
My sister married her first love and moved out very early and had children. It turned into four kids from three different men. All these years were a disaster, and her first husband tried to have sex with me. He started to touch me in places I did not want to be touched, when I was just twelve years old. Again, this was not handled at all. I was told by my sister that it was my own fault. My father, mother and sister just ignored it. The drama in the family continues when one of my nieces finds out that her father is not her biological father. Just another story that was hoped to be ignored forever. I received the blame for unraveling the secret, but it was not me. After that I was blamed for telling my niece who her father is, after she asked me. By then she was 20 years old, shocked- learning that she was an unwanted baby that was tried to be aborted. You know, when you have family secrets and they are not spoken about, they are still there and felt on a different level. No matter how painful they are, the pain stays and grows if not addressed and the worst: You are not suppose to talk about it. Shortly after this my father past away, the whole family fell apart. Physical and sexual abuse, a niece born out of wedlock, are still kept as a secret. Even so we know what is going on within the family, it is made out to be that it is nobody else’s business and if I would not bring it up, it would be long forgotten and healed. Truth is, if the family would stop pretending that we are the perfect family and deal with it, it would heal! Depression and suicide run in my sisters first husband’s family and are ignored. We tend to take a disease that is not tangible not as serious, and mental pain is often seen as a weakness.
You should always try as a parent to never let this happen to your family; it takes a lot of clarity, honesty, awareness, strength and a good heart. This much said, it is clear how difficult it may be to change for the better and make that last move.
I can’t fix this for my mother. She is convinced that she has done nothing wrong. The fact alone to blame others, not excepting responsibility and not actively working on fixing the problem, will never restore this family. My mother and sister are basing the future on ignorance. Ignorance is never an answer in the long run – not for my mother, my family, myself nor for anyone else. Her hope for a peaceful death and no changes is wishful, but may come differently. Who knows? Knowing all this, do not wait until it is too late to think about what you want when you are older and do not wait to work through family issues until you are on your death bed.
In the perfect situation, it should be a family act of participation to help the parent move on. Besides finding the right living set up and making it to a new home, the family should pull on the same string to make it happen, without being pushy or harsh- because change sometimes needs a bit time to be digested. Grandchildren and great grandchildren should be involved and learn that getting old and dying is part of life. Your parents home should be respectfully emptied and not rushed through. Take only what is loved and needed. Sell or give away what could get a second chance. Up-cycle, recycle and throw away what needs to go.
Last, do not forget your mother or fathers passions and hobbies and teach them something new! A wonderful example is one of my neighbors, who moved to be closer to her daughter. The whole family was involved to help her settle into her new, beautiful, but simple home and go through her belongings in the old house. She learned how to use the cooking sites on the internet and cooks fabulous meals and is now actively involved helping in the kitchen, in a refugee camp. The journey is the destination!
After years of hard work and for the longest time not even understanding what to and why I was reacting in a certain way, my own picture is finally coming together. I am always determined to figure things outs with my children and husband. If I catch myself being false or ignorant, all kinds of alarm bells are going off in my head and I am extra careful to do the right thing and to not fall into the foot steps of my parents. I have forgiven my mother, but will never let her hurt me again. My door is always open for my sister and I feel her frustration. I am sad that I did not have that perfect family and I often imagine how different it could have been, but it is what it is and it could be a lot worse. I am trying to give my children the best possible life and I know now, how challenging motherhood can be. I moved out from home when I was 19 years old and I did not start my own family until I was much older. I always had an interest in relationships that were very different from my family at home. Maybe that is the reason why I married a foreigner and moved often and far away. Now I can return home, replanting myself with quite a few new blossoms!
Even so, I come with a personal story, just like everybody else, I believe that all of us can contribute to my workshops when it is time to reorganize your parents house and life, or your own! The topic of getting older and still enjoying a life that is right for you should not be left unplanned!
I have reached an age where if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to – Albert Einstein