Monday, November 15, 2004

The Old Folks @ Home

I am back from a road trip to my family home. Mother’s birthday was last Friday and I wanted to spend it with her. She turned 86. My stepfather is a year younger. Neither is fully independent anymore. They have wonderful helpers - preparing meals, cleaning house, running errands, and making sure meds are taken on time. But even when they are having “good” days visits back home are increasingly stressful for me.

It is hard to accept what is now passing for normal around the house. I so wish mother’s hearing would improve, her balance was steady and that she would feel comfortable again in any room with an air temperature less than 80 degrees. My stepfather has memory problems, takes two hours to eat a simple meal, and is long past being able to dress himself. Both have become uncharacteristically short tempered. Even the home where I grew up has changed. Instead of being familiar and benign it now seems cluttered with things to trip over, fire hazards, and dangerous stairs coming and going. It is hard to look forward to visiting, even knowing how much it means to them. They have lived long and well. But it is not hard to see the direction things are drifting.

I did not grow up in a household with old folks. Seeing my grandparents and great aunts and uncles always took a road trip and was a pleasant event, soon over. Then they disappeared, one by one. I know they must have gone through similar processes I am seeing now. But I was not there to watch it. Maybe previous generations had an advantage by growing up in households with both the very young and very old. But what they may have learned about life and how to deal with and accept the natural course of things is not normal for me. I don’t want the folks back home fading away. I want things back to how they were. I want to fix stuff, make things better, and turn back that damn calendar. I want to save the day just like when I was eight playing in the backyard.

Then I return to my senses. Plans must be drawn, accommodations agreed upon, and decisions made. It may be a long bumpy ride. I need to get some pillows.

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