As you all know by now, The Ur Legend Series was inspired by our daughter Katherine’s life and death. Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. The relationships become complicated as individuals mature and change. They change even, and maybe especially, when the child is given a second chance at life and the parents a second chance to become, well, parents. We will be posting about the topic this week. But having just returned from Florida to spend Christmas with my 92-year-old Mom, I thought it fitting to share some random thoughts.
92, Phew! Linda and I have been fortunate, in a way. Neither of our dads succumbed to long and lingering illnesses. My father passed away after a short bout with pancreatic cancer and Linda’s dad had a brain bleed and was gone within hours. (BTW, why do people now say ‘passed’ instead of ‘passed away;’ all I can think of when I hear ‘passed’ is gas.)
Linda’s mom battled Alzheimer’s, but she was in Cali with Linda’s dad and a full time aide, and we were living in Colorado at the time. Unlike many people, we were not forced to deal with her situation on a weekly basis. Having been a ‘caretaker’ (aka, nurse) for both my daughter and for Linda on several occasions, I can understand, and have witnessed, the toll that constant care takes. Kids who are there for their parents on a continuing basis deserve medals, or at least combat ribbons for the theater of war known as old age.
Parents, also, must deal with separation from their kids when they decide to strike out on their own. And children must deal with parents as their abilities begin to decline and, of course, with the ultimate separation of death. But what to do during those ‘not so golden years?’ Parents often become more stubborn as they age. Advice is rejected, sometimes unpleasantly. Maybe vehemently. What to do when they become like kids but can’t be spanked? This is a problem even when the parent is still in command of their faculties (BTW, ‘their’ is now accepted in place of the more awkward his/her handoff from sentence to sentence; I’ve always used ‘their.’)
I believe the thing to remember is that being ‘in command of their faculties’ doesn’t mean that their mental states don’t change. Once when Linda and I met with our attorney to update our wills we talked about ‘aging.’ Our attorney had seen more of this than we had and offered her perspective. As people age they seem to become less interested in, even averse to, dealing with detail. It’s in this area that we can be helpful in offering assistance with legal and financial matters. I’ve noticed that I, even, put off tasks sometimes that I would have completed immediately a few years back.
My mom, who had been an ardent pool-goer to water aerobics classes, began to blow them off. Too cold out, I’m sore from the last class, etc. Now her stability is failing. She may have to go into Assisted Living. On our visit we gently encouraged her to come out with us and ride around for 9 holes of golf. She was gung-ho then begged off since it was too windy, although she relished the idea of some ‘fresh air.’ So we took her instead to a wildlife refuge nearby and got her to walk for 20 minutes. At first she had trouble with her breath, but by the end she said she wanted to climb a set of stairs rather than take the easier ‘ramp.’
In my case, gentle persuasion, offering alternatives and never condescending, while being totally honest with my mom has paid off. She knows she may have to go into Assisted Living one day. This is often the real mess in which kids find themselves. Her attitude: “I’ll do what you think is right. A lot of parents give their kids a hard time but I won’t do that and will trust your decision.”
That’s the goal. I know there is no cookie cutter solution and we’d like to hear about other experiences, both better and worse. To all who have aging parents, and those who don’t yet or have had: HAPPY NEW YEAR!