It’s an interesting, and sometimes wrenching, transition.
When you become the “parent” to your parents…
Anyone with an interest in reading this blog is old enough to know that one of the surest things in life is change. When I was 16 years old I was quite sure high school would never end. It did. In my early 20s I started to wonder if I would ever find the husband I was looking for and have the family I desperately wanted. Found him. Married him 32 years ago. We have two daughters and six grandchildren.
I grew up with great parents in a secure and loving home. We were not “well off” but we had what we needed. My parents worked hard to provide for us. When I was a little girl riding my bike and playing in the dirt, I never considered that life would ever be any different.
I could always count on my Mom and Dad to be there for me. They were there to be strong and nurturing, loving and supportive. My rocks….always.
In 1995 my father passed away from kidney cancer. He was only 66 years old. This was the beginning of change in our lives.
Mom did quite well for several years. Some of the grandchildren lived with her off and on so she wasn’t alone a lot. Eventually though, the kids moved on and she began getting depressed. She wouldn’t get out and about much and I was worried about her being alone. My husband and I convinced her to move in with us.
She lived with us for ten years. During that time we saw her go through many changes. The first few years she did a lot of cooking, her own laundry, and pretty much whatever she wanted to do. She drove her own car to town when she wanted to go. It was an enjoyable time that I miss very much.
A few years later she started forgetting to turn the heat down when she was cooking. Or would walk away and forget she had something on the stove. We were afraid of her catching the kitchen on fire. So she had to be restricted to using the microwave only. Imagine restricting your own mother from anything! Not fun at all.
As time went on she became less stable on her feet. She progressed from a cane to a walker to a power chair. She could no longer get up by herself to go to the restroom. She would call me from her cell phone and wake me at all hours to help her up. Sometimes she didn’t remember why she called. Many times she fell when she did try to get up by herself.
The tide was turning quickly. I was now the caregiver, the safety police and become the parent to my parent! It seems this is the natural cycle of life. But when you are in the middle of these changes it feels anything but natural.
Almost daily as I speak with customers here at SpinLife I hear the same kind of stories. There are many daughters and sons finding themselves in a new and scary place. What is best for Mom or Dad? Is she going to be mad at me if I get her this walker? What will he think if I tell him he shouldn’t do that? Can we take care of them at home? Do we need help? And who can I go to for advice?
When I was a child, there was more than one time that my Mom or Dad grabbed me by the shoulder to stop me from walking out into the road without looking. They gave me cool baths when I ran a high fever. They made me study and learn how to take care of myself. Not fun at the time but necessary and valuable lessons. They did what they had to do to keep me safe, healthy and feeling loved.
That is what we all have to do as the cycle of life continues, and we become the “parent.” Do what you must even when it is difficult. Only you can decide what that “must” is and it won’t be easy. You may cry some tears when she doesn’t know your name. Leaving her in a facility because you can no longer keep her safe yourself rips your heart out. Sometimes love is hard.
My husband and I live two houses away from our oldest daughter and her family. We walked down there for dinner last week. When it was time for us to go home, she and her husband walked us home! Like we couldn’t find our way home two doors down! We aren’t even 60 yet! They walked up our sloped driveway with us to make sure we were on flat ground in the garage. My CHILD was making sure we were safe. It has begun. And I feel loved.