Calamity Management

I’ve entered into a new phase of caregiving with my sweet 94-year-old mama. I’m calling it calamity management. Her memory is faltering more and more these days, so I’m trying to remember what I’m forgetting she forgot. Or something like that.

Just the other day I was prowling through her apartment, looking at every little thing to see what might be falling through the cracks. And there it was – her hearing aid dryer. The little dry brick inside needs to be changed every 2 months and it’s been 9. Oops.

The good news is that her hearing aids seem to be working fine – and now I have added that task to my schedule of things to tend.

I caught that one but missed the injectable diabetes medicine sitting on the bathroom counter. Of course, I knowthat it’s supposed to be refrigerated, but in all the times I saw it there, it just didn’t register. Now we’re in touch with the pharmacy to replace the $300 medicine. Sigh.

The refrigerator has become another recipient of my watchful care. Every week I throw out slimy salads and banish her collection of cookies to the freezer. (My brother and sister-in-law bring them home to feed their grandkids and other visiting relatives). It would be awful if she ate something toxic because I forgot to throw it out.

Each time I visit, I water the thirsty patio plants and check supply levels for laundry detergent, toilet paper and the mints Mom likes to give to the folks at her apartment complex. She used to know what she was running out of, but now it only becomes clear when it’s an emergency.

I dispense her meds and make sure the prescriptions are refilled on time.

After my Dad’s death 27 years ago, Mom stepped up with courage and determination. She took care of her old house with its huge yard and gardens. She managed the money, got the car fixed and figured out the thousands of small things Dad used to handle in their long marriage.

He did his best to prepare her as he was dying of pancreatic cancer, but who among us knows every little thing we do in the course of daily life? Now it’s my turn to answer that question in caring for her.

Last night as I was getting ready to head home, I sat down and had a chat with Mom. I told her that I wanted to make sure that she was cared for in every way….and that I knew that missing some things was inevitable. “I want to make it perfect and I know I can’t.”

She responded in her usual kind way. “Nobody’s perfect. And I want you to know grateful I am for everything you do for me, Barbara.”

Have I mentioned that she expresses her gratitude in those very words four to five times during each visit?

In this new phase of caregiving, I vow to befriend calamity, patiently respond to Mom’s repetitive questions, breathe through her confusion and forgive myself for everything I’m going to miss.

About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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6 Responses to Calamity Management

  1. Julie Davis Carran says:

    Stunning, Barbara. Thank you. Love, Julie

    Julie Davis Carran cell: 914-522-3793


  2. Crystal Cullerton-Sen says:

    Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing and reminding is that things drop and there is no perfection. “Befriending calamity” – what a kind way to let go and live without guilt and find humor!

  3. Ross McAfee (US) says:


  4. Thanks for this, darlin’ – I can relate! You’re doing great.

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