For many years now I’ve watched friends deal with their elderly parents’ health problems, caring for them through cancer and other illnesses or just refusal to eat well and take their medicine.
The times I’ve said “My turn will come” must number dozens by now.
Incredibly, it hasn’t come yet.
Dad turned 96 on Sunday, and Mom was 89 on Monday. They’re still living on their own.
Dad passed his driver's test again just before his birthday, so he’s good for another year of driving them to church, the grocery store, medical appointments, and nearby restaurants.
They won’t even allow us to hire a housecleaner. We did for a while, but she didn’t meet Mom’s standards, and when she gave notice on account of a schedule conflict, Mom and Dad wouldn’t consider hiring another.
Dad vacuums and does the dishes (while the dishwasher sits idle). Mom cooks, dusts, does the laundry, and writes the checks. Their place — a 1,500-square-foot, single-level condo — is immaculate.
Their only adjustments that I’ve noticed are two: They eat out more, bringing home leftovers for the next day. Mom’s persuaded Dad to wear more knit shirts to cut down on ironing.
I don’t ask how they manage everything, because what’s the use of worrying that they shouldn’t be doing something they want to do? Indeed, my sister Nancy says that the housework is what keeps them going.
It’s not that they’ve had no health problems. Mom’s had plenty. She lost six inches to osteoporosis and a few years ago had two painful spinal fractures that put her in bed for two months. (That’s when we hired the housecleaner.) Physical therapy helped, but she still lives with a lot of pain from both osteoporosis and arthritis. She’s also had heart bypass surgery and wears a pacemaker.
Dad’s in better shape, taking medicine only for a tremor, but he’s less steady on his feet than even a few months ago. It’s touching to watch him look after Mom, arranging her pills in a pill organizer, making sure she takes them, holding her elbow as she walks.
As I see what friends do for their parents, I sometimes feel neglectful. But on every visit to Mom and Dad, I ask what chore I can do and am told nothing, they just like my being there.
I have to chuckle about that response when they leave me sitting alone and go into the spare bedroom to watch TV. They like to keep up their viewing routines. I’ll join them in the spare bedroom, and they’ll retreat to their bedroom early in the evening so that I can have the sleeper sofa. I’ve thought of saying, don’t leave, I’m here to spend time with you, but then I figure they don’t necessarily mean in the same room when they say they like to have me there.
On Sunday, we celebrated their combined 185 years by going out to eat and to a revue of musical hit songs. I left early Monday morning wondering whether it would be the last birthdays when we’ll be able to go out. Our turn has to come.
After calling Hillary Clinton “either a liar or grossly incompetent” in a speech Monday, Donald Trump added, “Personally, it’s probably both.”
Did anyone else think that with the use of “personally,” he called himself “either a liar or grossly incompetent”?
Filed under: Inspiring and/or interesting people