Being a parent requires wisdom, patience, and
commitment. All of which come naturally for
most of us. However nobody prepares you for
such a big responsibility. Add the fact that most
of us are too young to understand the gravity of
the task at hand. And yet somehow we survive.
Whereas being the "parent" of a parent just may
be the most challenging of tasks. Hence much
of my generation continues to struggle with the
care and maintenance of their older parents. A
life-changing process thats not just challenging
but humbling for all involved. And possibly the
greatest growth experience we will ever have.
Been there, done that
As we near the end of life everything comes
full circle. When our kids are young its much
ado about their doo doo. Thus as the parent
of four children I spent years buying cases
of Pampers and formula. Now our weekly
grocery list includes Depends and Insure. As
parents of tots, we wheeled them around in
strollers. Cautiously watching them wobble
about the house. Today as children of elderly
parents we do the same. Knowing all too well
that one bad fall could be the end. And trust
me, there is nothing cute about loading up a
urine soaked wheel chair into your car trunk.
The older one gets, the smaller their sphere
of influence. At one hundred and one Frank's
dad is if nothing else a rarity. The majority
of what he once knew is but a memory. His
wife is gone. His closest friends dead. The
house he built is shuttered. Now his "home"
is a single room (by choice). It's decor a mix
of a hospital bed, power lift recliner, wheel
chair, potty seat, walker, and television. Like
a newborn at the start of life, survival relies
on the kindness of others. Sans the support
of a network of paid staff, family, and a few
friends he couldn't have made it this far.
Still a winner
All of that said, don't assume that he still isn't
in control. Post a lifetime of calling the shots,
Frank Senior knows that we will happily do
anything he wants. The difference being that
his requests for aid have grown all the simpler.
Rather than a big T-Bone steak dinner with all
the trimmings, he's happy with a pancake and
poached egg at the local greasy spoon. Instead
of taking a trip he's glad to roll into the casino
for a game of video poker. All while he holds
court. Chatting with those old enough to still
remember who he was. And are kind enough
to treat him with the respect he so deserves.
What's old is new
On the surface parenthood is a thankless task.
The longer one rears their kids the more they
worry about the outcome. Ultimately most of
our offspring find their way. And gratefully
assume responsibility when its necessary.
Long ago Dad encouraged us to enjoy life.
Suggesting "the golden years aren't golden."
A point that post navigating this process with
three out of four parents we must beg to differ.
Ultimately caring for one's elderly parent is
a gift of intimacy, connection, trust, and love.
And what could be more "golden" than that?
Not only a pleasure it's well worth the effort.