I Guess Ya Had to Be There

Note from the Eldercare Underground:  Sibling Scorecard Edition

My brother lives in Colorado with his wife, so consequently he’s not involved in the day-to-day stuff with our mother’s care in the nursing home like I am. 

Prior to Mom’s moving there, I was also the one who made sure her bills were paid before penalties were levied, and I was (and continue to be) the one who schlepped her to all of her doctor’s appointments—including ER visits on my birthday and wedding anniversary and five hour marathon sessions at the retinal ophthalmologist.

Do I sound just a teensy bit resentful about the division of labor here?  Well, if I do….to quote Olympic gold medal swimmer Ryan Lochte, “Jeah!”

But through all of this, at least I knew my mother was somewhat aware of what I was doing for her, and also somewhat aware of what my brother wasn’t doing.

Until today.

I’d asked my brother a couple of months ago to please send some photos of his new granddaughter, my nephew’s little girl, to our mother.  Mom doesn’t remember who’s who in the family but she had anticipated that baby’s birth because she had given up hope my nephew would ever get married and have kids.  Well, he didn’t get married, but he and his girlfriend did have Baby H.—and she’s adorable.

Mom loved to look at the early photos of Baby H. so much I thought it would be nice to have more.  And it would be a way to keep her connected to what was going on in the family, if only briefly.

So, no big deal.  Just some copies of photos I’m sure they had, being the proud grandparents. 

Weeks went by.  No photos.  Then about a month ago a package arrived at the nursing home with a bunch of “Country” magazines from my brother, along with a note that said my sister-in-law would be sending photos soon.

As of Tuesday, there still were no photos.  (I had sent a terse email to them requesting the photos, please, and got a reply from SIL saying she was working on it, but her computer printer had run out of ink.)

Come on, how hard can it be?  No other responsibilities but the two of them.  No grandkids nearby to tend to—her daughter’s kids and my nephew’s new baby are all in California.  Surely they would send the photos in time for Mom’s birthday last week….but, no. 

Meanwhile, I’m down here in the trenches.

So today when I went to see my mother, I found her lying down for a nap.  As I put away the laundry I’d done at home for her, she told me my brother had been there to see her today and had brought her a bunch of magazines.  Hmm….There were no magazines, other than the ones he’d sent earlier.   

I looked in her dresser drawer and found some new photos of the baby.

In her mind, she’d conflated the two things, the magazines and the photos, and threw in a visit from him to boot.

So now, not only do I see to her day-to-day care, but my brother gets points for showing up even when he didn’t

Ya just can’t win.

14 thoughts on “I Guess Ya Had to Be There

  1. I am that renegade sibling that lives far away from the family action surrounding our 85-year-old father on the West Coast. They’re the ones that have done all the heavy lifting during his health scares in recent years. My sister is 7 years older than me and my brother, 5. If there’s ever been any rivalry it’s been between the two of them for they’ve both always been very pampering toward their kid sister. My only responsibilities is to show up on Father’s Day and Xmas and remember to send out funny cards on everyone’s b-day. They’re two pretty cool cats.


  2. I see that all the time at the rest home..one resident talks about her son like he was the second coming..mean while her daughter is up there almost every day, does everything for her, and gets ragged on by the mother if she misses a day and has to listen to her mother put her down and brag on the son..I want to bip her.


  3. So glad you included that pithy Lochte quote. I hope I can remember it. 🙂

    If you were the one far away and your brother was the doer, it would probably be the sister-in-law doing the day to day stuff, but he’d get all the credit. You aren’t going to win. Of course, I know you’re not trying to WIN, just to be acknowledged. This is a Merrily quote: Fat chance.

    If it helps, I think you deserve a halo.


  4. you know, I’ve gotten a lot of (unnecessary) pity in my life for being an only child, but you know, I like it! 🙂

    I hear this sort of thing over and over again, one child shouldering all the weight for care of a parent. You’re a good woman!!!


  5. Ha! I benefited the other way when my dear old Dad succumbed to dementia. My brother lived in the same city and visited him several times a week. I managed about once a month, but for about three weeks after my visits my brother always got told, ‘Oh! Good of you to come at last. Andrew visits me all the time,’ (me being Andrew when I am not on my “Don QuiScottie” quests). I think my visits being out of the ordinary made more of a lasting impression on him than my brother’s dutiful regularity. And then Dad began greeting my arrival with, ‘Oh. Great to see you again so soon.’ 🙂


  6. That’s really funny! Thanks for commenting. A lot of the time, my mother will comment “You’re here early” or “You’re here late” when she has no idea what time of day it is. I’ll get there at 4:00 in the afternoon and she thinks she’s just gotten up.


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