life stories

the center of the universe is the brain

No Willingness to Change

“Steph, time to get up I guess,” Mother hollered from downstairs. I hadn’t told her that my sister was coming to take her to her doctor appointment this morning. I wasn’t confident that my sister would be there. Something was sure to happen to get in the way of my getting this desperately needed break from my mother’s needs.

When I came downstairs, she said, “Steph I was looking at your shopping list. I wasn’t trying to be nosy. You have cd player. No. Not for the front porch?” She had that wild horse look of high anxiety in her eye.

“No. You don’t have anything to play your cd’s on.” There was a wide-spread power outage here last fall that zapped all of her small electronics. She replaced all of them except the cd player.

“What about that one? Doesn’t that work?” She motioned toward the tv and I realized she was thinking dvd player. I didn’t try to argue with her or correct her and she raised her hands to her face. “Oh forget it!”


I didn’t feel the great sense of relief I’d hoped for when my sister got Mom into the car and drove away. A surge of anger came over me and I put it to work.

I took inventory of all of her food stuffs and paper/plastic goods and started organizing. It is worth noting that my mother lives alone. She has 30 rolls of toilet paper on hand and thinks she’s running low. I threw out most of the past-expiration-date food items. I was tempted to keep the bulging can of sauerkraut just to ask her if she thought she needed to keep it.

A box of tea fell on my head as I cleaned out a cabinet that used to hold toys and games. I cursed and threw it down the hall. My mother doesn’t even drink tea. I cringed as I uncovered can after can of oatmeal.


Fifteen 12 ounce bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips plus one 24 ounce bag
Seven unopened boxes of Keebler Club crackers
Six 14 ounce bags of light brown sugar
Three boxes of tea – 100 bags each

My mother can be excused for hoarding. She was a depression-era child. But there’s something else going on here. She clings. Now she is clinging to the way things used to be. If she can’t let go of that, she won’t be able to move on to something new.

And she might as well go into the cupboard with the

Forty-five rolls of plastic wrap
Thirty-eight rolls of aluminum foil
Thirty rolls of toilet paper


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2 thoughts on “No Willingness to Change

  1. I just read all of your postings and I laughed out loud a few times and wanted to cry several times. I went through so many of the same feelings with my mom and even the same situations! My mom was unbelievably impossible to please weeks before she died. No one did anything right for her. Only the couple of days before she passed did she show any unconditional love and was pleasant again. I wonder if it were due to her condition being out of control and she finally accepted that and could die without making the rest of us miserable. Every situation I am sure is different, but when we all finally accepted the fact that it was her life to choose what to do regarding life support, I think it was easier for her. Even with seven brothers and sisters, it was a struggle to have someone care for her or be there to help so I know it had to be very difficult for you and your sister.

    Great posts as I think so many people can relate to this situation—now more than ever as we all live all over the world and do not have our parents living with us as they did many years ago.

    I hope the best for you.
    P.S. I worked as a house mom (cooked the meals) at Jesse Lee Homes in the early eighties. I loved the job—but got in trouble once for using too many chocolate chips in the cookies. I just went out and bought the chocolate chips myself from then on.

    • smiller on said:

      Thank you for your kind support. It amazes me how many people are in this same situation and struggling. People just never used to live this long so it’s all new. And the misconceptions about “normal” aging are devistating.

      I would love to hear more about your experiences as a house mother. I’m thinking of starting a Facebook page for Alaska Children’s Services and hope we can gather friends who are spread across the country.

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