Monday, August 11, 2008

Changing Roles

Lois Greiman

Michele’s nostalgic post made me remember the good old days. The days when the kids were small, when we used to pack them into their car seats and take them anywhere we wanted. To the grocery store, to the doctor, on vacation. Or even further back when they were just abbreviated people, tiny infants, completely reliant on me. I loved those days…those fragile fleeting moments when they didn’t yet belong to the world, when they were all mine. This is my daughter when she was just a wee one.

Well, times, they are a changin’. I was aware of those changes, of course, but the immensity of those transformations recently became clear to me.

A few years ago, my eldest adventurer began talking about Mt. Whitney. He’d get a dreamy look in his eye and tell me how it’s the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states and how he was going to climb it someday. I would respond as I used to when they would say things like, “When I grow up I want to fly to the moon.”

“Sure honey, you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it.”

But he’s not three anymore, so instead of becoming distracted by toads or shiny rocks, or spider webs, he started planning a trip. Eventually, he asked if I’d like to climb mountains with him, his sister, and her boyfriend Bob. Now, I’m not entirely stupid. I paused, I thought, then I said, “Sounds great. What a challenge. Hooya!"

Okay, I saw the potential problems, (oxygen deprivation being right up there with maternal death) but really, when your 24 year old son and your 19 year old daughter want to spend time with you you can hardly say, “ask me again in 10 years.” It’s now or never. Do or die.

So three weeks ago we packed up Bob’s van (the Green Demon) and headed west on our grand adventure. To make a long-winded story a little less breezy, the first two mountains we tackled were fine. Harney Peak in South Dakota was, quite literally, a walk in the park. Mt. Elbert in Colorado was more challenging, but I won’t soon forget singing Rocky Mountain High with my daughter as we hiked along above the world. It was grand.

Except for the projectile vomiting which started a few hours after returning to our vehicle. I began feeling sick at about 10 pm but I didn’t want to wake the kids. I mean….you know, they’re my kids and I'd spent five years of my life trying to get them to sleep. But eventually, the pain was out of control and I woke Travis with something like, “I’m sorry to bother you, dearling, but my body seems to be trying to launch of my internal organs through my esophogus." (Or it might sounded more like "aaggghhhhck!")

Still I didn’t have any plans to go to the hospital. I assumed I had something innocuous like the flu (or the bubonic plague) plus I didn’t know where we were…much less where there was a hospital, but the kids took control. They insisted that I get into the van and hang on. A half hour of teeth grinding agony later I was in the emergency room in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, sporting a kidney stone.

Word to the wise…if you have a choice, do not…I repeat NOT develop a kidney stone unless you're seriously bored. As it turned out, though, the experience wasn’t all bad. I got to lie down on a bed, which I hadn’t had for a week…I got drugs…and holy cow, had I known what a kick that was, I would have had a lot more fun in the 70’s. Annnnd I got some rest. Two days later, however, the doctors kicked me out and told me to go climb the rest of my mountains. So that’s what I did. I stumbled back into the Green Demon and headed for California. Turns out 14,500 feet is a lot of altitude, but we summited in about ten hours and descended in about half that time. (I was trekking longer than I usually stay awake.) After I reached the van that night, I literally crawled inside, covered my head and refused to emerge. The boys cooked supper and shoved a plate under the blanket to me. I ate lying down, pushed the plate back out like a convict, and promptly slept for ten hours.

But the thread of this story is this: I am no longer the caregiver in this family. And although it’s nice in some ways…kind of a weight off my shoulders…it scares me. In the years since my children were born I’ve become a caregiving addict. I need to be needed. And what now? The kids are already taller, brighter and better educated than I. What happens next? In two years will I be tottering around combing my ear hairs and mumbling about mutton chops and hairspray while the kids spoon feed me strained carrots?

Changes are scary. At least for me. Do they frighten you too? Which parts are the most terrifying and what do you plan to do about it?


Helen Brenna said...

Wow, Lois! Your adventures crack me up. You'll have to dub this, "Lois's year of living dangerously!"

Glad you're healthy and the darned stone didn't ruin your climb up Mt. Whitney!!

I can't wait for my kids to become caretakers!! I think. Although I'll likely have a wee problem with letting go of the control.

lois greiman said...

It might just be my year of living 'stupidly.' :)

Debra Dixon said...

Lois-- What did you say? I couldn't get past the part where you voluntarily agreed to summit Whitney. (g)

Seriously, I think you're nuts but I have no illusions. If my son said, "Hey Mom, let's go climb a mountain." I'd pack my pack and go. That's too precious a gift.

I hope you took lots and lots of pics. My uncle just got back from Everest and did a FABULOUS 2 hour talk and slide show for us. It was brilliant. You'd be surprised how many people would love to hear you talk about an adventure like this.

What am I scared of? Being bored apparently because I take on far more than I could ever do. In someways I do wonder if my constantly "full" life is a way to avoid change. While somethings may change, so much does stay the same for me.

On the "home" front, I guess I worry what will happen when my only child is offered the inevitable promotion which will more than likely have him moving away from here. That's scary.

Playground Monitor said...

I can't imagine climbing a mountain. I was sucking serious wind just walking the two blocks from the cable car stop to the bottom of Lombard Street. Way to go, woman! And it was so nice to meet you in SF. That pretty little bottle you gave me is on the top of my desk where I can see it.

Some changes scare me; some don't. I guess the ones where I have to do the changing are the former. I'm happy to just keep on keeping on, but sometimes life rears its ugly head and you have no choice.


Christie Ridgway said...

After Surfer Guy had his recent spout of Back Trouble the change that scares me most relate to good health. We are in marvelous shape (with the exception of SG's back, which he's discovering how to manage) but I was worried for a while there that many dreams were now out of reach. No more long plane trips, that kind of thing.

Since he just returned from a trip to Central America that included every type of physical activity you can imagine, I think we're okay now. But boy, it makes me want to do all the fun stuff when I can! Like your climbing, Lois. WTG!

Michele Hauf said...

Lois, you are my hero! Or is that heroine?
You are living proof of what we women are capable. Raising three smart, cute kids. Adventuring. Mountain climbing. Horse-back riding. Writing. Being fabulous. Makes me wonder when you have time to just breathe. :-)

lois greiman said...

Deb, I'm glad you're with me on this. I can't seem to say no to them. I still too flattered that they want to spend time.

While in CA Bob found a phone number for sky diving. He was so excited and was sure I would want to be included. I told him,"No, absolutely not. No. No. And I mean it." But I didn't really mean it, and he's not even my child...but he and I have gotten so close since he's been dating Tara that if he wants to sky dive, dammit, I'll probably be there too.

Oh, and Deb, did your uncle summit Everest???!!

lois greiman said...

Christie, that's exactly what I'm talking about. There are so many things to be done, and we get in this groove where we think there is all kinds of time to do things, but we don't know that there is. And things DO change whether we want them to or not. So I feel like we should take advantage of every moment. But sometimes that's kind of detrimental to a career, I've noticed.

Oh, sorry about the lack of pics, my computer absolutely refused to post them. But we have cool ones so I'll try again some other time.

Sean and Anna said...

Lois- Supergirl has nothing on you. Wow! It sounds like an amazing adventure. I'm a sucker when it comes to family time. When I was a kid we did lots of camping and hiking but that was a direct result of the broken home thing (totally another story but not now). Now that I have kids of my own I find that it is extremely important to have quality time as a family. We are trying to raise the kids to be open with us and it is so much easier to do when you remain involved. Do I like hiking and camping now? Not as much... I'm partial to clean restrooms. But when the kids want to camp- I'm there. Next summer they want to camp across the country to visit grandparents. Okay cool. At least they haven't said they hate me yet:) My son wants to river raft and I suppose I'll do that too.
Change is scary but so much a part of my life. The changes I fear most involve my kids. I know they have to grow up but its scary for me. Hopefully I will do my job right and someday they will want to care for me:)

lois greiman said...


A friend of mine said there is a direct correlation between the time we began putting our kids in daycare and when they starting putting us in nursing homes. Ack! Clean restrooms aren't THAT important. Have fun on your cross country trip.

Debra Dixon said...

Lois-- My uncle went as far as base camp, but never planned to summit. He's not completely crazy and mounting a summit attempt is about 100K. But if you DON'T summit it's affordable and amazing. They hiked until they were just about dead. The guide really pushed the pace and they trained for it (my uncle's in fabulous shape) but nothing really prepares you for such rapid altitude change.

lois greiman said...

The boys are still out Wyoming right now, climbing everything they can find. A few days ago they hiked 14 miles in, set up camp, then began hiking up Gannett. But along the way they met a guy who had climbed Everest and he told them not to go up...too stormy, too late in the day etc. So they actually turned around. I was so impressed with their maturity. Apparently having knowledge of Everest made him credible.

Estella said...

My kids are already caretakers, of course the youngest is 38. They make sure Mom has what she needs as she goes thru life.

Karen Foley said...

Lois, I'm in complete awe of you! Seriously, if my kids asked me to climb Whitney with them, I'd be like, "" I don't think I could even go with them and keep the campfires burning while they hiked, because I'd worry so much when they weren't back in three hours. Thankfully, it's pretty much guaranteed that my girls will never ask me to climb a mountain with them. There's a reason we encouraged them to pursue music and math over sports, LOL!

But I really admire what you did, and it sounds like you and the kids have some great memories to take away with you. Huge hugs on the kidney stone, as I understand they are excrutiating.

lois greiman said...

Estella, you are a lucky lady. Good job.

lois greiman said...

Karen, my little daughter is a pianist and a violinist, and not really into hard labor, but she was really game. In fact, somewhere near the top of Elbert (it might have been the altitude talking) she suggested that we climb the Alps together. Okay, actually she said "An Alp. A short one. Something we can see from our five star hotel." A practical girl.

Cait London said...

Have you ever had mountain sickness? It takes a while for you to realize why you're nauseated and off balance. When I first started reading your post, I thought here it comes. :) We did a lot of mountain driving, and thoroughly enjoyed the scenery/experience, except for that one episode of mountain sickness. Egad.

Liza said...

Sounds like you had an amazing time with your kids. I've had kidney stones before and hope they never return. Of course, I don't know that I would have been ready to climb a mountain after passing a kidney stone.

Betina Krahn said...

Lois, I am so proud of you. . . and a little envious. In my heart I'm a mountain-climber and whitewater rafter and parasail-er. . . but in my body, I'm a pudgy writer who has to force herself to walk, swim and treadmill just to keep from reaching Jaba the Hut proportions!

What a neat thing to do with your kids and what great source material for your stories!!

Okay, give: how has all this adventure impacted your writing?

Betina Krahn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Betina Krahn said...

Lois, I am so proud of you. . . and a little envious. In my heart I'm a mountain-climber and whitewater rafter and parasail-er. . . but in my body, I'm a pudgy writer who has to force herself to walk, swim and treadmill just to keep from reaching Jaba the Hut proportions!

What a neat thing to do with your kids and what great source material for your stories!!

Okay, give: how has all this adventure impacted your writing?

Susan Kay Law said...

Lois, half of me admires you. Half thinks you're nuts.

I have to say, at RWA, you sure didn't look like you'd just been in the hospital in great pain.

I like adventures. But I walked up the first leg of Kilimanjaro, which was enough to convince me I did NOT want to attempt the climb, ever. If that hadn't done it, the way the people looked coming DOWN would have done it.

I like sleeping way too much to do that.