Artist's Lane

Sleeping single in a double bed


The phone rang. Our children invited us to go to Arizona with them. It would be a quick trip, four days, lots of fun, great food, fix my Sweet Al’s hearing aids, celebrate my grandson’s birthday and get a pedicure.

Our daughter had me at pedicure. I said, “Yes, we’ll go.”

“We’ll pick you and Daddy up at 7 a.m. Thursday morning.”

At 3 a.m. Thursday morning, my Sweet Al woke up excited. He got ready to go, dressed with his coat and shoes on. Woke me up at 3:30. “You’re going to be late. Get up.”

“Al, it’s only 3:30 in the morning. Wake me at 6.”

At 4 a.m., “We’re late. Here’s your coffee.”

“Al, thank you, but I don’t want coffee right now. Let me sleep. We’re not late. You drink the coffee.”

I didn’t know for the next three nights I’d be deprived of sleep.

I managed to stay in bed until 5:30, through many wake-up calls. By 7, we were in the truck, suitcases packed, exchanged excited morning pleasantries with our children and were off on an adventure.

The next night, Al woke at 2 a.m. when he got lost. He called out to me when he couldn’t get out of the closet.

“Al, go to your left.”

Left took him deeper into the closet. I woke up long enough to help him to the bathroom door.

He let me sleep until he got hung up in the covers and got crossways in the bed.

The next night, partially dark, I could see Al digging in my suitcase and tossing my clothes every which way. He couldn’t find what he was looking for.

“Al, that’s my suitcase. Yours is next to mine.”

Four nights without sleep. I always wondered why my mother wouldn’t make the trip from Las Cruces to Pagosa when I offered to drive down and bring her back. It felt like she didn’t feel safe with me. She refused to come. I didn’t understand; now I do.

Traveling brings on new challenges when people grow older. I sat my children down at the breakfast table in the hotel. “We haven’t had this conversation before, but I need to go over some things. Not mad, not pointing fingers, not anything, but you’ve got to be aware that your dad and I are moving into another stage of growing old. You do many things for us, but we need to tell you where we are today.”

I went over a list, everything could be done by a phone call, a nightlight or a trip to Home Depot. My own mother wouldn’t tell me why she wouldn’t stay with me and I couldn’t understand her. I hadn’t been there before so it was important to tell our children our growing limitations. “I don’t want to be a burden, but we need a handicap room, close to the elevator if possible, which you always try to do, but is necessary.”

On a trip to Costco to adjust Sweet Al’s hearing aids, I met Ben. He said to me, “Your children are so respectful of you. You can tell they love you as to how they help you. I wait on the elderly all the time. I see how children treat their parents. Like they are burdens. They are so impatient with them.”

I told Al, “It’s important we go with our kids when they ask us, but when we travel if I lose another night’s sleep, you’re going to be sleeping single in a double bed. I’m getting my own room.”

Final brushstroke: We didn’t want to get old, but it’s happening. If we’re going to build relationships with our children, without the burden factor, they’ve got to be aware of where we are today. Five of us enjoyed a pedicure and walked out with brightly colored toenails and happy feet. All is good. We’re looking forward to the next trip.

Reader comments 

“Hi Betty, I hope you and Al are doing well. We get the Pagosa Sun and I read your article, Will They Cry For Me After I’m Gone? Mentioning my mom and the relationship she had with the grandkids was so kind and sweet of you. You are right. Mom loved us very much and the grandkids and made it a priority to build relationships and it was her legacy. She modeled what it’s like to have long-lasting relationships that hold up in the good times and in the storms of life.

“I often think of her and miss her very much! But as you know, we will one day be in heaven together worshiping the Lord! Thank you for sharing your gift of writing. Blessings, Dan Hyde, Central Services Director.” 

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