The Man in the Middle writes our new blog series. Musings from a middle-aged man living with his aged Mother and the Family.
My wife says my mother is going to move in with us. It’s a question of when, not if, apparently. I am not so sure, because Mother, 94, hasn’t actually said she wants to live with us. But Wife’s intuition is never wrong so I plan to act on it.
‘This is what Donald Rumsfeld would call a known unknown,’ I say over a family dinner. ‘The upside is we have plenty of time to plan and get advice.’
‘Who’s Donald Rumsfeld?’ asks Daughter, 20.
Wife lowers her eyes to her plate and sighs. I am not sure which she despairs of more, my analogy or her daughter’s ignorance.
Undaunted, the next morning I create a Bookmark on my laptop called Mum and start the serious work of planning. First, I canvass friends.
‘Don’t do it,’ says one. ‘Living with my grandmother nearly ruined my teenage years. Think of the children.’
‘Think of your marriage,’ says another.
Move Mother offshore
Another eulogises about a tax scheme that would allow Mother to ‘move offshore’ allowing her to avoid all forms of tax and us any form of traditional family responsibility.
A word cloud of the feedback would consist of terms like unsettling, disruptive, difficult and dilemma. The most frequent word offered up is ‘Umm’. This is the word used by friends either dumbfounded by the scale of the dilemma or too polite to say what they honestly think. Either way, ‘umm’ is only a useful word when meditating.
A week of research makes some things clear. Mother has too much money to qualify for much help from the State and too little to afford private care for long. Moving in with us looks like her and our only realistic option.
A Family Board Meeting
I want to share my findings with the Family. After all, we should all participate in the decision. So, I call a Family Board Meeting. Usually, these are reserved for major issues like: ‘Where to go on Holiday?’ or: ‘Should we cancel Netflix?’
‘I want you all to buy into this,’ I say earnestly. ‘Nobody leaves the room feeling disenfranchised. All for one and one for all has always been the family motto.’
‘I’m abroad next year,’ says Daughter, a language undergrad about to go to Germany. ‘So, I’m not bothered, frankly. I love Grandma and morally, it’s the right thing to do. As long as she doesn’t get my bedroom, of course.’
‘What if I want to play Fortnite and she wants to watch an old movie on London Live?’ asks Son, immediately putting his finger on one of the pinch points in the plan – control of the TV.
‘She must have her own TV,’ says Wife. Everyone chills immediately.
Shouldn’t the cat have a vote?
‘I’m OK with it, then,’ says Son. ‘But shouldn’t the Cat have a vote? She prods him with her crutch. He may not be so relaxed when he finds out.’
Son is pro animal rights so I am not sure if he is winding me up, so I press on.
‘Great. That’s the principle sorted. Now, let me take you through the detail.’
‘Yawn! Board Meeting. Not Bored Meeting. You sort that stuff out with Mum. Come back to us if there’s something strategic to discuss like the holidays.’
The children leave to tell the Cat and to explain to him that while he didn’t get a vote his views were fully represented.
© The Man in the Middle
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