Parenting My Parents
Just when I got my daughters raised and out on their own, I found myself entering a parenting twilight zone – Parenting my Parents.
Like many people my age (I turn 54 next week), I am blessed by living near my parents. I’ll be honest, some days it feels more like a curse than a blessing. It’s a double-edged sword, but one I gladly pick up and carry every day.
I have cousins and friends who would gladly be taking care of their parents if they were still alive. I see their posts on Facebook saying how they wish they could just talk to their mom or hug their dad one last time. Those posts tug at my heart strings and remind me how fortunate I am to not only still have my parents living, but to live in the same small town with them.
I generally see my parents four or five times during the week and I see them every Sunday. Sometimes the visits are short (or almost non-existent) if they are napping or not feeling well. The normal routine is this – I show up just before Jeopardy comes on and usually leave after Wheel of Fortune. Does that sound as lame to you as it does to me as I am writing this? Well, it’s not. Sometimes we don’t even pay attention to the tv because we are visiting or I’m changing a light bulb they can’t reach or doing some other little chore they have saved for me.
Actually, it’s nice.
Nearly every week I go to Lovington (about 20 miles away) to the pharmacy and pick up their prescriptions and maybe swing by the grocery store if they need something, and usually I cook dinner and eat with them one night during the week.
The hardest part of parenting my parents is when one of them is not feeling well and they try to act like it’s no big deal. Sometimes it is really hard to get them to go to the doctor when I think they should, and then sometimes they will go to the doctor for (what seems to me) the smallest of things. Anyway, this really gets difficult when you practically have to force them to go to the doctor. More than once we have ended up in the emergency room because they put off going to the doctor until it was pretty serious. There was one time I just showed up out at the ranch, loaded up my dad and took him to the hospital and he “coded” in the ER waiting room. Man I’ve never seen people move so fast! It was stupid scary, but he’s still with us today and I am so grateful.
That wasn’t fun. What else isn’t fun is when the “well” one insists on going too because then it means I have to deal with taking two 85-year old’s to the emergency room. I can’t very well leave one of them all alone in the waiting room, but the hospital really only wants one person back there with the patient. So sue me – we are rebels – and I go with them both to see the doctor. I mainly do this because I need to hear what the doctor says. It’s kind of sweet when the “well” one insists on going. However, the last couple of times the “well” one has realized that they just can’t make the trip (all the walking and sitting in uncomfortable chairs, etc.). That is kind of sad, but it’s just part of it I guess.
The next hardest part is when they tell me (who am I kidding – my Mom is the one telling me) that I am being bossy. I know I’m being bossy damn it – but somebody has to be! That’s part of parenting, isn’t it?
It’s funny (not really) how the roles have switched. I often ask my mom what she has eaten that day (sometimes she just doesn’t eat), and sometimes when my dad tells me not to do some little chore because he will get it later, I just do it anyway because yes the trash has to be put out on the curb Tuesday night because the garbage truck comes by Wednesday morning before my parents would get it out there.
Here’s the good part – no, here’s the great part: I’ve probably heard more stories from them in the past three years they have lived in town than I had heard my whole life before. I mean – I’m talking about stories I have never heard before.
Anybody who knows my dad very well will tell you he doesn’t mind telling you a story he’s told you before because (in his words) “I want to hear it again”.
One night after supper, he told me everything he remembered about the day his dad died when he was just five years old. I had never heard that story before, and if I hadn’t been able to spend all of this time with them I might not have ever heard it.
Just last night my mom told me the story of when her Uncle Jack and his family came to visit when she was a teenager. My Grandma Frier was playing the piano and singing and Uncle Jack grabbed my mom and said, “Let’s dance”. Mom said she was having a little trouble “following” Uncle Jack’s lead when he just pulled her close and then they really “cut a rug” (her words), and he told her, “Well you can dance, you just like being held close!” Nothing creepy about it – just funny. I’d never heard that story either.
So, here’s the moral of my story – if you are fortunate enough to still have your parents, you need to hug them a little closer the next time you see them, hug your kids a little tighter when you can too. Tomorrow isn’t a done deal, so take care of the ones you love today!