Aging and parenting create an interesting combination. It is an heirloom recipe that I must dig from past history and review from time to time until I can do it from memory.
I’m grappling with the ingredients again since my daughter’s illness.* From the negative side it would be titled, “My Life in Redundancy“. A more positive take would be titled, “What a Good Job We Have Done!”
I always want to look at the bright side first, because that’s where I want to end up in full circle. So I will begin with my gratitude.
The next generations are exactly what I would wish for. In time of crisis they circle the wagons. My son-in-law is a dream of a man who is clearheaded and loving to all. He has managed my daughter’s recovery by being ever-present and positive. He was a constant companion and comfort to her in the worst days and spared time to keep everyone informed while still being protective.
The siblings gathered in support, physically when possible and by phone when responsibilities and distance precluded their presence with their sister. The children showed up, caring and helpful even in their anxiety. Friends were on tap, sitting by the bedside when needed, organizing food, using social media to fill in the cracks of communication and lending emotional support.
My daughter and her husband have physician friends who shed light on medical mysteries and translated all information as well as standing guard over treatment and issuing commands (cloaked in consideration and respect) when necessary.
What more could I want for my children? In fact, the greatest comfort is in knowing that I can lay down the responsibility of decisions, actions and physical care without concern.
If it were that easy.
My greatest angst is the “in my face” thought of feeling unnecessary. Not unwanted but no longer vital to the situation. When I couple that with the realization that I cannot claim the same physical and emotional stamina that once carried me through crises, then I understand my present struggle to accept myself and the change in my self-image.
So many things in life slide along, don’t they. I do less, perhaps, but I have my reasons. I don’t acknowledge they my lack of interest might be based on a reduction of energy. I easily forget that I used to operate on no food and little sleep when necessary. I did what I had to do.
And what I can do and what I have to do has changed. Now I know that these changes are age-related. I can’t deny it. My greatest gift to my family in times of emergency may be to keep myself from collapsing and adding to the problem.
I’m still grateful. I’m not decrepit. I’m healthy. I’m active. I’m capable.
I’ve lost some confidence in abilities that I have taken for granted all of my life. I’ve never been great in the first three minutes of crisis, but now I realize how reassuring it was to have others helping with or making the decisions. At the hospital I couldn’t stand indefinitely by my daughter’s bedside…not just because there were too many people, but because I needed to rest. Even such a small thing as providing food would have seemed immense to me. I was relieved that my friends needn’t bring food, (the younger generation provided that, too) because it would have required mental and physical energy organize.
While wrestling with the changes in myself, I have thought a lot about my father. He lived near me as he aged. I didn’t give him a lot of thought in times of stress. I would ask him to pray. I knew he was in the background; sometimes in the room, sometimes sitting by the phone. He was there if, and when, I needed him.
Remembering him helps me to understand my role. It helps me to hold on to my value as a parent. He was and is a comfort to me. I am and will always be a loving support to my children. As I age, I will recede further into the background until I become a sense instead of a presence.
As usual, love, support and acceptance are the crucial ingredients.
(*I warned you about all of my lessons, didn’t I?)
I am fortunate, as I am often reminded by many of my friends and relatives that my only child my son and his lovely wife live with me, My home is too big for just me and this is a good solution to what needs to be done with it. This home also saw my father come and live with us for four years between when he was 91 and 95 and that was the time when I determined that I should never be of such a burden to my son as my father was to me and him. I accept that I have little control over how things pan out but I am changing a lot of my behavioural patterns to come to the stage where I can accept whatever happens with equanimity and with minimum trouble for any body else. If any thing were to happen to Ranjan or Manjiree, I think that I am now ready to handle that also with equanimity and perhaps even efficiency. Beyond that, I just live life one day at a time.
Yes, that’s all there is to do, isn’t it? And enjoy each day we have and the blessings in it.
Who was it that said getting old isn’t for sissies? Blessings on your head, Mom. I’m glad you are there for all of us, regardless of where “there” is.
No sissies among us here! (Or there, probably:)