Most of our lives we’ve looked to our parents for advice and answers to questions. Now we’re the ones having to come up with the solutions.
It happened gradually. I think it started around the time my parents hit their 70s. The phone started ringing every day. Don’t get me wrong. I love talking to my parents. I think I loved it a lot better when it was just simple conversations and not them wanting me to tell them what they should do. But serious illnesses hit them both and being an only child it was me they turned to. I really wouldn’t have it any other way. I just wished I was a lot wiser.
It really shifts your mind in the family role you have played all your life. Instead of them taking me to the doctor, waiting in the hallway for my appendix to come out, or waiting on the doctor to put a cast on my leg, or waiting on me to have that next grandchild, it’s me taking them. It’s me helping them to decide what to do. Life really does come around full circle. There’s no doubt about it when you have older parents.
Parenting a Parent
It’s a lot of responsibility to advise your parents. I don’t take it lightly. Even with a degree in social gerontology, I have to do my homework regularly to see what path to take. It’s hard just realizing that they’re in their 80s. It used to seem so old. It used to seem like I was a long, long way from being “older.” It now seems like it’s just around the corner.
My identity, my thoughts on who I really am, are wrapped up in my parents. Who will I be when they are gone? It reminds me when my youngest child was coming of age. It was a shock to realize that I wouldn’t be Travy’s go to person. That was a very hard role to relinquish. He was coming into his own. I wonder if my parents are waiting for me to “come into my own”? I hope they’re not holding their breaths! But who will I be when they are gone? I’m sure I’ll feel just as lost, maybe much more lost than when my youngest left home.
The older your parents get, the more you realize you really should have been a doctor!
I spend a lot of time looking on the internet for my parents. It usually has something to do with a health issue, but that’s not where it ends. It seems that phone books are a thing of the past. When they need a dentist or the tractor fixed, I’m the yellow pages. When they need to know what to take for dizziness, I’m the researcher. I truly owe them so much more than anything I’ve ever done, but it does make me pause to think. Will my kids have to do this stuff for me?
I have learned to roll with the punches.
At first, I kind of went kicking and screaming into this new life role. It really wasn’t worth the fuss. It is what it is. The most surprising thing is the gratitude. They are constantly telling me “thank you.” They don’t need to. They paid their dues over and over again for anything I might do for them. I’m going to hang on to this role or any role that involves my parents for as long as I can.