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The #Midwessay: Sarah Cords, You Can’t Go Home Again

modern Wisconsin dairy farm with cows

Just lately it is even harder to stay in my house, my geographical middle. This is because my siblings and I are sharing caregiving duties for our elderly mother, trying to help her stay in her own house, which is a twenty-minute drive northwest from my suburban house. Her house sits across the driveway from the farmhouse where I grew up; my oldest brother still lives and farms there. It is her “retirement” house, where she and Dad moved after selling my brother the farm.

And what I do when I get there? In addition to never knowing just how Mom is going to be, part of my job there is helping her prepare meals. Good. Fine. I’ve got no problem helping Mom cook. But we also have to make meals for my farmer brother, who comes up to her house for dinner at noon (and often eats supper there later at night). My mother has been cooking for my brother now for sixty-two years. Arguably what we are doing is not helping my mom make her food, but helping her perpetuate the fiction that she is still cooking for herself and my brother. She regularly gets angry with my other siblings and I for “interfering” in her kitchen and with their meals, even though she is no longer physically or mentally able to coordinate the meal planning.

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