I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind,”
He said, “I’d love to, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you.
It’s been sure nice talking to you”
The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you comin’ home son
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then.
We’re gonna have a good time then.
My father and three of his siblings built a nursing home when their mother needed more care than they were able to give her. Instead of moving my grandmother to a strange location, they tore down the old homestead, bought the adjacent lots and built a certified nursing and convalescent home where the house had stood for over a hundred years.
Once built, my grandmother’s bedroom furniture was moved into the new home and set up much like it had been for seventy years. She suffered from hardening of the arteries or what might be diagnosed today as dementia. By giving her new living space a feeing of sameness, the transition from house to home was flawless. One or more of her adult children remained actively involved in the management of the facility and their visits each day added even more comfort to my grandmother’s remaining years.
Although mentally she was often in and out, most of the time she recognized me ~ or pretended to ~ whenever I visited. I have sweet memories of her because she was a kind woman with a softness that permeated the very air she breathed. My visits were never duty calls, but that is not the case with many who have senior relatives living out their days in assisted living facilities.
Each time I went to see my grandmother, I remember a long row of aging seniors in wheelchairs sitting, maybe for hours, waiting for someone to visit them. I saw the disappointment on their faces when they realized it was just me and not whomever they had hoped would walk through the front door. And there was something else, too. I felt pretty sure that they had done the same thing the day before, would do it again the next day and that their expectations would be dashed each time. The people they longed to see rarely showed up.
Some of my still active friends have confided in me that their self-involved grown children have little or no time left for them. As they are not ready to be put out to pasture, they are trying to understand why they don’t hold a more important place in their family. Had they not always put those same children first? They are justifiably bitter about being relegated to the end of a very long line.
“I sacrificed a huge part of my young life for them and for what? Now that they’re grown, they can’t be bothered to call me two or three times a week.”
“My daughter has three children of her own. I know how busy she is because I was there when she and her three sisters were growing up. I try not to feel hurt when she doesn’t call or come by, but it’s hard. I never neglected my mother, no matter how busy or tired I was. Maybe she was a better mother than I was.”
“I hardly ever see my son. I know he loves me but he’s busy. It would be nice to spend an hour or so with him without interruptions. I wish he’d throw away that damn smart phone.”
The Cat’s in the Cradle.
When I hear that song, I ask myself what did I teach my children by my own behavior? Should I have spent less time volunteering for the Red Cross, playing bridge or lunching with my friends? Would that have changed their perception of how adults are expected to behave?
The lyrics began as a poem by Chapin’s wife, Sandra, inspired by the awkward relationship between her first husband and his father. Harry said it was also about his own son and admitted, “Frankly, this song scares me to death.”
It scares us all. But what scares us most is the possibility that we will join that row of seniors living in a wheelchair and watching the door, waiting for someone we love to care enough to spend a little bit of time with us.
Editor’s Note: Cappy Hall Rearick is a humor columnist for the Lowcountry Sun in Charleston, South Carolina. She is the author of seven published books. Visit her at www.simplysoutherncappy.com. www.simplycappy.blogspot.com