Present Tense

More on letting go…

It’s nearly Christmas and for the first time in probably 15 years, I’ll be spending it with my family.  More specifically, with my 93 year-old parents.

While I’m looking forward to it, part of me dreads it.  My mom is getting foggier and my dad is finally starting to slow down.  The way to face your own mortality is to witness your parents’ aging process.

Spending time with them makes me grateful and uncomfortable; it’s a jumble of emotions.  Tenderness, irritation, impatience, grace, humor, clarity, guilt, love, regret.  Merry Christmas, eh?

I think that most of us are conflicted about our families, particularly if you left home and hometown, when you were young.  When we return to the nest, we return and revert to our family ‘roles’.  But, as our parents age, that doesn’t work any longer.  We take on new roles as caretakers, helpers and decision makers.  And that’s hard.

My parents still live on their own, in their house on 5 acres.  In the past couple of years, we’ve bought them a generator to get through the various storms that plague the Midwest.  We’ve encouraged them to think about downsizing into a retirement/assisted living facility.  This means that every time we visit, we’re sent home with a lot of ‘stuff’; some of it ours, much of it theirs that they can’t bear to throw away.

We all collect so much over the years; not just physical, but emotional, including a lot of scar tissue.  There comes a time to let it go.  To wish it well and send it on its way.  The last year has taught me much about letting go.

We moved and I said goodbye to a home and a place that I loved.  We’re in a whole new environment a couple of time zones away from the old life.  New people, new climate, new lifestyle, new city, new values, new problems.

We said goodbye to my beautiful and very much loved dog, Chili.  One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  I’m still aching over that loss.

So, I have empathy for my elderly parents.  They are letting go of 93 years of memories, things, comfort, security.  Very hard for them and for us as their children.

Sometimes things are ripped from us, when we least expect it and sometimes it’s a long, painful, introspective process.  Either way, we eventually lose everything that we love and hold close.  The human condition.  Our biggest fear and our constant companion.  It is truth.

And so, I look forward to Christmas with the family and will remain in close contact with my sense of humor in dealing with this phase of life.  That’s something my parents, particularly my mom, instilled in me; in all of us.

I’ll also dig deep into my limited well of patience and understanding.  I’m somewhat deficient in those qualities and the past 6 months has unfortunately drained me even more.

But, I’m grateful. To be back in my home state, close to my parents, with a new life and home and puppy, while retaining some of the former life that has been so hard to release.

Be well.  Remember to be kind.  Surround yourselves with who and what you love during this holiday season.

December 22, 2013 - Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Jane, thanks for sharing. I have those same thoughts. My parents (82) are in Syracuse and I’m in Denver — hard not to be with them the older I get. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    Comment by Carolyn | December 22, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Carolyn … Greetings from Syracuse! I used to think 82 was old; now it’s like the new 62 … By the way, there is no snow in the ‘cuse, washed away by rain and it could be in the 50s again today. Don’t you love Jane’s blogs? I was lucky to be Jane’s morning co-host in Columbus many years ago … Tell your parents Merry Christmas from me! And to you too!!

      Comment by Big Mike | December 22, 2013 | Reply

  2. Thanks for the reminder, Jane. I, too, left home – no, FLED home – right after high school. Home was not horrible, but I was chomping at the bit to start my own adventure. The same went for my 2 younger sisters.
    My parents, now in their 80’s, still live in my hometown. My sisters and I live in different states. As Christmas rolls around each year, I am reminded of how difficult that must have been for my folks. My own grown sons moved away for awhile. Now married and families of their own, they live within 10 minutes of us. I feel incredibly blessed. But I can only imagine the anguish my parents must have felt, at least in the beginning, of us moving away.
    I feel a mixed bag of emotions and thoughts, even when I simply call home. I know they are slowing down. Their once strong voices are weakened, their doctor visits more regular, and their stories are repeating more and more.
    It all inspires me to love them more, listen to them more, and visit them more. No matter how painful it may be, I always feel better when I just pick up the phone.
    This is my chance. Thank you for the reminder to take it.
    Merry Christmas and have a spectacular 2014,
    Erica T

    Comment by Erica | December 22, 2013 | Reply

    • Erica:
      Thanks for the note. You inspire me.

      Comment by janelondon | December 23, 2013 | Reply

  3. Merry Christmas, my lovely, virtual, friend. I hope you find peace and joy, with a little puppy kaos thrown in for good measure.

    Comment by shellybelly12 | December 22, 2013 | Reply

  4. Thank you Jane. This was very beautiful, yet extremely painful for me to read. Given all your well versed points, I thank you for your perspective. I hope that I can remember these points as I try to heal this season from some of my own personal pains. Merry Christmas.

    Comment by Shellie Berninzoni | December 22, 2013 | Reply

    • Shellie,
      Thanks for the note. Best of luck; holidays can be difficult…or joyous. I guess we hold the key.

      Comment by janelondon | December 23, 2013 | Reply

  5. My 73 year old father had back surgery then a week later had to have emergency surgery to repair a new fracture. It was after the second one when we were in recovery that I looked at him and realized he was an “old man.” It also pained me because after the first week of taking care of him my partner and I were not emotionally in a position to take him back into our home to take care of him. My sister has now been tasked with it and is also not handling it well. We don’t know of if the difficulty of the surgery or the fact that he has now realized he is “old” has made him difficult. I have always thought about this moment when my parents would require care because I have always known I am not the best care giver.

    Comment by Carol | December 22, 2013 | Reply

    • Carol,
      So hard when you finally see that they’re elderly. I always looked to my parents for support and advice and it’s so hard to realize that those days are past. It’s difficult for all of us. Take care.

      Comment by janelondon | December 23, 2013 | Reply

  6. Jane, I am now an old lady who had to deal with living in Denver as my Arkansas parents and grandmothers declined in health. Those long trips home are never easy, but on Tuesday I will set my Christmas table for my own children and grandchildren with my grandparent’s wedding china. I can only hope to remember the good times and the Christmas meals shared at that table and on that china those 50 to 70 odd years ago.
    So, take reluctantly the items offered from your mom and dad, for each and every item may bring a tug of the heart strings, but you won’t regret lugging them to your home. Your nieces and nephews may appreciate them later!
    We have experienced both sudden and declining relative loss, and none of them are
    easy. Hugs to you. I am glad you have siblings who can assist in sharing the decision making.

    Comment by Betty | December 22, 2013 | Reply

    • Betty,
      Thanks for the note and the advice. I do appreciate it.
      All the best,

      Comment by janelondon | December 23, 2013 | Reply

  7. Wow, Jane! thank you for sharing your emotions about your aging parents and the holidays. You hit home for me. My Mom is 85 and lives 130 miles south of Arvada in Pueblo.
    I tried, in vain, to get her to agree to move to Denver metro to an assisted living facility so I could see her more often. She’ll have nothing to do with that, she only wants to live in her own home. How did you and your family convince your folks to downsize?
    Meet Christmas to you, Prince Charming and the puppies!

    Comment by Marietta | December 23, 2013 | Reply

  8. Thank you for this beautiful blog post and for this wonderful reminder around the holidays. My parents are in their 80’s and are doing quite well. They now live near us in Denver, many miles away from our hometown in Alexandria, VA. I told my husband that I was thankful to have my parents here and healthy, but that on Christmas eve he may need to remind me of that because I, too, can lack some patience with them. He told me that he would remind me and that he knows it can be tough. This coming from a man whose father passed away 2 weeks ago and his sister 5 months ago. 2013 has indeed been rough for him. His mother died 10 years ago just a few weeks after Christmas as well. I often ask him for his perspective because I haven’t dealt with this kind of loss in my life yet. He told me that grieving is a process and it comes in waves. Last night, we listened to a song called “Far away” and he got very emotional. He, too, lacked patience with his aging parents from time to time. But, last night he wanted to tell his dad that we finally got that gas stove we’ve been talking about buying for years and that’s what made him break down. He said it’s the simple things we want to share with our loved ones that we can no longer share because they are so far away. I will enjoy those simple moments with my parents and other loved ones this holiday season and feel so blessed. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    Comment by Paulina | December 23, 2013 | Reply

  9. I was just thinking about you and wondering if you lived in Denver or Mi. I listen to your Dom and Jane show almost daily. I too am from MI originally. My Mom passed away a couple of yrs ago but Dads still hanging in there at 81. He still lives in the north and loves it.

    Comment by Renee Gahm | December 23, 2013 | Reply

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