How we manage the stress of 125 miles of distance by planning ahead

On most days between Mom and me, there are about 125 miles of distance. This means under the best conditions, no snow/ice, traffic accidents or construction – we can be together in a little over 2 hours.

Sometimes a little distance is a good thing.  When Mom hits the road to come up for a visit, she calls me and I can make sure her bed is freshly made! Mom is independent and has her own active life.  In fact, while I am writing this, I am leaving for her retirement party. She doesn’t want to retire, she never marked off the days. She loves being connected to the “every day” at work.  The drama of her fellow workmates (she has worked at the same place for 30 years). It is not a bad place, they are wonderful and it is a great company, but hey, it’s work and we all know what that is like.

Working past 70
Her office mates love her.  She calls them “my kids.” I am sure she makes them a little crazy sometimes. They have trained her on phone systems, cell phones, and computer systems.  Even though she may get exasperated, she figures it all out and it keeps her engaged and alert.  All this I have found to be very good for her future curiosity and willingness to try new things, not be so fearful. As a widow and spending time alone at home, I have been very grateful to know that they look out for her.

Last year, Mom had elbow surgery. This photo is ghastly to look at, but it was planned in advance and a great success.

125 miles

Scar from elbow surgery

At that time, I was able to gather some cell phone numbers and email addresses of those in her company interested in her wellbeing.  We were able to plan a “chain of notifications” so it wouldn’t burden me (or them) while keeping them in the loop.  (This came in very handy later on!)

Anyone reading this blog, do yourself a favor- gather the contacts important to “your Mom.”  People that you may not have contact information for on your phone. I have her key neighbors and work friends, her boss and a few other folks that I have saved as a “Group” on my phone.  I know these people a little bit and some of them I know very well, but most of them I had no contact information.  Mom had it, but I needed it. Who was going to let the dogs out while Mom was still coming around from anesthesia? I could shoot off a text to her neighbor and the dogs were let out and sometimes even fed!  Her neighbors and friends were happy to help and Mom was relieved to know things were taken care of and I was able to focus on her.

It’s that easy
How many times have you said to someone, “Let me know if you need anything?” Follow it up with “Here is my cell number, I can bring food or _________.”  It lets the person (me in this case), know what it is you can do to help out.  I didn’t know who worked from home on Mom’s street, but now I do.  And Mom helps them when she can and loves returning the favor.

Each morning about the same time, I would call Mom at work.  Now retired, I continue to call her at home.  Most of the time, it is a check-in call.  She tells me about appointments she may have or some office drama that we chuckled about.  It isn’t a big deal to do and it keeps my own anxiety in check to know she is starting her day “per usual.”

Most of our relationship revolves around the “per usual.” One of the reasons this blog is called “Lunch with Mom” is because we have very casual conversations about many ordinary things. I believe that because we have such relaxed interactions things are natural and honest.  She doesn’t feel pressure to hide anything from me and I don’t have to pry things out of her.  Then when the chips are down, we can think our way through it and not panic causing collateral damage like snapping or getting snarky to one another or to others trying to help..

Managing the stress
Planning and practicing our plan, ie. having a neighbor know how to get into a locked house without breaking a window to let out the dogs is a worry we don’t have anymore.  Getting a little organized and understanding Mom’s “support staff” really settles our soul.

Kelly Cotiaux

About Kelly Cotiaux

Why are these people getting old? Kelly has noticed her friends and family kids are growing older, going to college, moving out. Health problems that only “Seniors” have and AARP invites a topic of conversation at Bagel Central. Then there is “Mom.” The adventures of navigating life with a Senior Mom that lives 2 hours away. Sometimes all you can do is laugh.