As I was flying home from Michigan earlier this week, I pulled out my iPad and jotted down my thoughts on visiting my elderly parents. I’m going to post it unedited because it’s more immediate and honest. I suspect that many of you can relate to living far away from family members.
I went home to visit my parents for a few days. They’re 91 and I try to go back to Michigan for a visit every chance I get.
Going “home” is always bittersweet for me; now more than ever as my parents are fading away and it makes me feel so distant from them. I know I should be more patient and affectionate, but instead I find myself doing just the opposite.
I think it’s a protective mechanism from the pain that I know is coming when they pass. Plus, I just hate to see them so frail. My mother, in particular has undergone a bit of a personality change that I find particularly distressing.
She’s obstinate about nearly everything (perhaps I’m looking in a mirror?) and I know it’s because she feels as if she has very little control over most of her life and a control freak like me can certainly relate to that kind of loss.
However, she seems to have accepted the inevitable and talks openly and honestly about not being around a whole lot longer. My dad rages against her decline by nagging her about her health and making sure she makes it to all of her doctor’s appointments. On the other hand, my mom fantasizes about throwing out all of her medications and seeing what happens.
Death is the end of all of our stories; I often wonder if we fear it more for ourselves or for those we leave behind. My dad has often said that if my mom dies first, he wants to follow her as quickly as possible and I have a feeling that is exactly what will happen. He can’t bear to be without her. They’ve been married for over 70 years. I don’t think he fears death as much as he fears life alone.
I can’t quite conceive of that kind of devotion, having never had children and having lived an independent and autonomous life, even though I’ve been married for over 20 years. My husband and I don’t share that kind of symbiosis, even though we live a fairly isolated life together in the mountains.
So, I could easily pull out the old standby excuse that I haven’t lived up to my parents example or expectations. Lots of us like to blame our parents for all of our shortcomings, but it’s so lame. My parents set a great example for us on many levels and they raised us like little birds that got shoved out of the nest before we were of legal drinking age.
I’ve stubbornly rejected their traditional lifestyle, while ignoring the fact that they raised us with the tools to do just that. I was never steered toward any particular lifestyle, other than independence and common sense and decency. The most that they expected from us, is that we think for ourselves and figure out how to pay our own bills. Everything else that I imagined that they wanted is self-imposed.
You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it’s all right. ~Maya Angelou