I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries, lately, obviously. Mom and I have some clearly articulated boundaries, about which I feel pretty strongly. For example, I want her to speak for herself for as long as she can. I want her to make her own decisions for as long as she can. It’s a mark of my respect for her, but it’s also a safeguard for me, so that I don’t have to take responsibility for her before it’s time.
I’m hyper responsible by nature. If you give me something to manage, I’m going to manage it or die trying. She’s a rebel, and doesn’t want to be told what to do. So it’s good that I’m not responsible for her, because I don’t think I’d enjoy my failure rate.
I’m on the outskirts of the decisions she makes. If we’re in the emergency room, I hear what the doctor says and participate in the discussion. She tells them “my daughter knows my wishes.” (This is an awful bit of responsibility, BTW.) But I’m not in the room with her with her regular doctor, and I let her decide certain things.
Like, I buy the majority of our groceries because it’s more convenient for me to shop on my own, and she doesn’t want to stand long enough to shop places like Costco or the place I go to get produce. But we go to the grocery store once a week and I try to keep my mouth closed about what she buys. I try to cook things with vegetables and a lower degree of processed foods, but she eats at least two meals a day in which my input is nil. And she asks to go to the place where she gets cigarettes every now and again. I’ve told her I prefer not to buy her cigarettes, though I have made exceptions to that. I don’t pay for them with my money, but I would prefer not to be part of the transaction. I’ve told her I would strongly prefer that she not smoke in the house or in my car, but I have not told her she cannot smoke.
And so she’s eliminated most fruits and vegetables from her diet, because they wouldn’t let her have them when she was hospitalized for diverticulitis. I’ve read up on diverticulitis and I think this is a misunderstanding, because what I read said that current practice is to increase fiber consumption to battle diverticulitis (and yes, of course, I’ve told her so). I think they briefly, while she was hospitalized, put her on a liquid diet to resolve an infection 16 months ago, and they limited the amount of fiber at a particular stage, but they didn’t intend for her to eat that way indefinitely, which is what she’s done. She’s been to the gastroenterologist and he told her things like don’t eat nuts, which she’s doing. Except that what I read says that advice is out of date.
She eats a lot of highly processed foods, now (especially chips, crackers, and packaged cookies) and is gaining weight and uncomfortable and unhappy. But when I’ve said anything about higher protein, lower carb, more whole food options, she said that it was on the no no list. (Respectfully, I do not desire to discuss best practices for diverticulitis with people other than her doctor. My policy is to let her make her own decisions while she’s competent to do so, so hearing about x or y approach isn’t going to help me. Also, my point is broader— it’s that we’re in the boat together, but I can see the storm coming.)
During the same hospitalization, they offered supportive home oxygen and physical therapy to her, both of which she declined. I was a strong but unsuccessful advocate for physical therapy. In my opinion, partly because she’s gaining weight and partly because she’s chosen to continue to smoke (she doesn’t smoke a lot, but she has done it since she was a teenager), she finds herself struggling to catch her breath.
I feel like if she could eat differently, do some physical therapy, and stop smoking, the next stretch of our time together would be more enjoyable for both of us. She’s actively uncomfortable with her stomach almost all the time, these days (not diverticulitis, necessarily), she feels like her legs are weak and she’s struggling to catch her breath. These all may be disease related, or aging related, but I feel like if she’d choose more healthfully, we might not be looking at regular oxygen and either a wheelchair or a walker as soon as I fear we’ll find ourselves there. She mentioned keeping a food diary, to see what’s causing her discomfort, and I’ve encouraged her to do that, but she quit after one meal. She said “no one is going to read it but me anyway.” I wanted to tell her that the point is that it gives her the power to track the patterns and make the adjustments, but it’s not like she doesn’t know that. She tells me it’s getting harder for her to leave the house, harder for her to do her hair the way she likes it done, harder for her to do the laundry. I don’t want her life to be harder. I’m not looking forward to either of our lives shrinking in the way I think they’re likely to, soon.
And then I look at myself. Also overweight and not exercising the ways that I should or consistently eating a lower processed foods/lower sugar diet. Not going to the doctor because I’m afraid that we’ll end up talking about pre-hypertension or pre-diabetes. And I struggle to see whether my lifestyle is setting me up to be anywhere different, at her age.