Teeter-Totter Parenting

By Dianne Lye

Guest columnist

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”

These were mom’s favorite words during rough times. Those words resonate in my mind. Our job of parenting has begun to teeter-totter between my older brother and I — and my mom, Gayle Marcus.

She traveled to Silverdale from Indiana after my divorce more than 25 years ago, once again inspiring the lemonade theory as she was dealing with her own grief. My dad’s death was three months prior. She was teaching me through her actions, “Continue on, put one foot in front of the other.”

There are challenges switching the parenting role with mom in Indiana and her daughter “squeezing lemons” out here in the Pacific Northwest. I still put one foot in front of the other and travel to Indy when she is recuperating from surgeries.

It’s the love of family that motivates me to make the twice yearly flights out to Chicago, and bus trips to get to her. Besides restocking groceries, small chores, and getting her to appointments, I may type out procedures to help her accomplish small tasks on her computer, for when I am gone.

At 90, mom still uses her computer occasionally. Even with the arthritic curvature of her fingers, she can still type at a good clip! I introduced her to a computer at age 70. My aim: allow us to communicate daily. After stating she was “too old to learn computers,” I took her to a computer class to learn about Internet. I considered it her “training wheels” on riding down the Internet Highway. She attended more classes in Indiana. She’s traced back 10 generations of our family.

Mom always shared childhood and holiday stories. I learned so much about our relatives and ancestors from these stories. I asked her to record this history of her life. She has since written that requested book titled, “From the Corners of my Mind.” It’s a treasure, with copies only circulated to a few. She dedicated it to me and passed the pen for me to tell my stories now.

A parent takes their child to a doctor for help, I took her for injections in her eyes for macular degeneration, praying for improved vision. I’m told the injections are only so they won’t get any worse. It’s a parental heartache when there’s nothing they can do to help their child. Same goes for your parent.

Parenting a parent is like looking into the front door peephole to see what lies ahead for oneself — as those golden years are cast to the wind.

I thank God my older brother, Denny Marcus, lives near Mom. He’s instrumental in helping her. I sit in amazement watching him assist mom with some of her decisions to be made. He doesn’t direct her; but instead, lays out her choices. Together, the problem gets solved.

The most feasible way for me to help mom is financially — a medic alert for her neck, new comfortable shoes, extra groceries. Whatever she needs, I try to supply it — like a parent would. I thank God I can do that.

During August, she ended up in the hospital with pneumonia, returning home shortly before I was to leave. I boarded the plane. One hour after I’m home, a call comes in – mom’s back in the hospital. Daily calls to check in with her begin, until she is home again.

Mom’s going on 91 in 2018. Three kids, eight grandkids, and 15 great-grandkids later, she is going strong. After tragically losing my own daughter, Nicole, in October 2013, I couldn’t bring myself to call mom for three days. My older brother delivered the news. After the funeral I needed to be with her, to help me get through this. At the age of 64, I now needed a parent again.

She teaches me in her own caring way, to carry on, put one foot in front of the other. It’s not something you “get through.” Perhaps my lesson to learn at that time was… to find a new normal. She let me sob when I needed to sob. We talked of the wonderful things Nicole did as a child. She was silent as I yelled and screamed at God “Why take my daughter?!”

She would tearfully look at me sharing my pain as a parent does with their child…as if explaining: “We don’t know why. It’s just what we must accept and go forth.”

So this teeter-totter of parenting was once again back in her court.

Perhaps one of her last lessons she is teaching me, besides the lemonade theory, is how, as a now, broken-hearted parent, I need to learn to navigate through life after the loss of my dear daughter and “keep on keeping on.”

Diane Lyle and her mother Gayle and her daughter Nicole.

Diane Lyle and her mother Gayle and her daughter Nicole.