Not quite nine years ago, at the age of 57 and as I looked at my elderly parents, it finally hit me that I was getting ‘up in years.’ It was at that time in 2002 that I began writing…or journaling as some may call it. This is an excerpt from the first piece I wrote.
It is said that our lives come full circle. We begin our life as an infant needing diapers and caregivers. As we get older, we learn to take care of ourselves and start exerting our independence. We have children of our own who begin their own life cycle. Our children grow up, move on, and we have our independence again and can live a full life. Ultimately, we come to the point where we near death. If we are fortunate, death will arrive quickly. If we are not so fortunate, we end up in diapers again and with a caregiver…most often our spouse, if we are fortunate enough to still be married, or our children.
I think the hardest part about being a parent is asking my children for help. I have no trouble asking SonNo2 for financial advice because he has a good head on his shoulders and gives good advice. But in other respects, I want to be independent and self-sufficient…to be able to do things for myself. I do not want to be a burden on my children. When I am unhappy or depressed, I try my best not to let them see me fall apart…there are things I just cannot share with them…and I don’t want to add to their worries. I have two wonderful daughters-in-law, and I want to be as good a mother-in-law to them as I can. I want to be a good example of a strong woman for my granddaughters.
At age 57 and alone, I am just now realizing that I can’t do everything by myself. I don’t always have the physical strength or agility that has kept me going until now…though that is something I will continue to work on maintaining. I now find that I sometimes have a medical condition or event, which temporarily puts restrictions on me. So I have to bite the bullet and ask for help…usually from the kids.
On the other hand, at age 57 I am also experiencing the frustration of the child who has parents who want to maintain their own independence, who don’t want to be a burden, who don’t ask for help in a timely manner…enter my own parents, now 82 and 76 years old. They are physically becoming very frail and emotionally becoming overwhelmed by their frailty and loss of independence. They stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their own pain and limitations, therefore, making it difficult for us to be on top of their needs. All of this, in the long run, ends up causing more work for us than if they asked for assistance from the beginning. But I understand now why they do what they do…or don’t do.
How in the world do we handle this? I am fighting both fronts, and I am at a loss.
A lot has happened in the years since I wrote that piece. My father has passed away, I have five more grandchildren and am semi-retired. I’ve taken on more responsibility regarding my mother, who is now 85, on 12 medications, and will rarely ever participate in any social activities.
I try to be as open as possible with my sons about what’s going on in my life and to let them know how I am handling it all. I want them to know what I am actively doing to help myself. I only hope that I can continue along this path for another 20 or 30 years.
After all, I do have my Bucket List…or as some people prefer to call it, the Don’t Regret List.