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Digital Subscriptions > Psychologies > November 2019 > Tough love

Tough love

Caring for an elderly parent can be difficult, especially if there are unresolved issues from the past. Judith Laing* tries to find a way through the emotional minefield

Packing my belongings to leave work, a colleague asks me if I am heading straight home. When I explain that I am off to visit my 90-year-old mother, she tells me how lucky I am. ‘You must cherish every moment – when she dies, you will miss her so much,’ she says.

I am a supply teacher and this nice woman has been my assistant for the morning. I smile as if in agreement. If I tell her how much I loathe my mother, she will think me heartless – and I may have to work with her again.

Back in time

Dread fills me as I drive to my mother’s flat. When I open the door, I become a prickling, monosyllabic teenager again – different from the positive, happy person I have been all day. I put the meals I have cooked for her in the fridge, bundle up her laundry to take home and do chores. She is not pleased to see me and is indifferent to my help. She sulks. This is better than a tirade of criticism, so I keep my head down and tell myself that today will not be so bad. When the doorbell rings, I am pleased. I am expecting the caller – a new cleaner.

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