Saturday, April 13, 2013

One Day You Will Just Be A Memory For Some People - Be The Best Memory You Can Be

The last few weeks have been somewhat of a blur. Spring arrived, amidst yet another snow storm and that snow storm seems to have affected our lives. The snow although literal has become figurative as well. Life has snowed down in a way that has been overwhelming and emotional. Feelings that I had forgotten have bubbled up inside of me causing memories to swell up and force me to change my reality of how I had been thinking or feeling.

The last six months have involved the need to accept where I am in my life and try to understand where my parents are in their lives. As I try to do this my beliefs hold strong but my emotions have definitely wavered and my thinking as to what is best has faltered. I and my siblings are watching our parents age. I know many people going through this same thing right now, but how hard to see those two strong, able, safe, secure people drifting, feeling lost and losing the security they had - the security that no matter what they had their minds and bodies and the respect of others and these things are failing them too. 

Dad doing what he loved - sailing
We are spread from one end of this country to another. British Columbia, Alberta and of course me, in New Brunswick. The problem for me, a problem I created myself, is that since I decided to live differently, leave the nine to five job, credit cards and daily rush of life, I am limited when a crisis occurs. In the past few weeks I have been faced with several dilemmas without many options except for offering support, a shoulder to cry on and appreciation that the phone companies are now only 5 cents a minute not a dollar. This allows me many minutes of listening, trying to offer help, ideas, some more forcefully than others and hoping that I am remaining kind and caring. This is a tough one. Especially since my brothers and I all have slightly different ideas of what is the right next move for our parents and then trying to decide if it matters what I think?

Almost two months ago my mom fell on the ice and popped her arm out of socket and shattered her shoulder bone. I wanted nothing more than to go help her and give her some assistance. I had always been able to do this in the past. Recently my dad had a fall which caused a serious infection and he has been in the hospital for a few weeks. We know that his quality of life has gone down, age is catching up, medical history coming back to haunt him and really his interest in going forward is questionable at best. Does this mean he is  ready to go into a home? Or just on a list? How much can mom still do for him? How much support can the community and its resources put into place? Is mom wrong for wanting to keep him home? Is it up to me to be a part of that decision? 

25 Year Anniversary - 25 Years Ago
Note: I am as old or older now than mom was then
For awhile I thought maybe it was. I was quite forceful and somewhat directive but now, I wonder. It has been over 50 years of a lifetime together. Their anniversary will be in July, maybe he is just hanging on until then. Maybe it would be more peaceful for them to stay together until then. Perhaps I am completely wrong, but is it up to me? I can only offer advice and support. The first week dad was in hospital I was feeling in my heart he would die, I cried, often, quietly, alone. My girls were so sad to know that they probably won't ever see Grandpa again. No, he is not who they remember, no he is not easy to get along with, but can't we just allow him the remaining dignity he has left? At least for awhile longer?

Dad at the Port Alberni
Farm Market selling his wares
As the days went on and the medicine started to work, we knew that this time, he would pull out of it and recover enough to return home. Supports are being put into place. I am so grateful to those who went to visit him, it isn't easy. I know we aren't alone that thousands if not millions of baby boomers are watching their war time born parents suffer and regress. Maybe it is easy for me to say since I am so far away, but as frustrating and disturbing as it can be, I think allowing them as much independence as possible and providing them with love and trying to not take things personally is the kindest thing we can do. 

I know that I was a stubborn little girl (my husband says I still am) but my parents loved me. They provided me with safety and support even when I made mistakes. They didn't bail out on me when the going got tough. When as an adult I faced a time of crisis my dad was there, guarding my door, staying with me, offering me physical protection. My mom did all she could to take care of me and my girls through post partum depression and then through trauma, she gave up everything to be with me day and night when I needed it. As much as I may think they are making some mistakes, they have thought the same about me. As often as I think they are nuts or what the hell are they doing, they have wondered the same about me. They offered their thoughts and advice and their unconditional love. I now need to do the same.

My main regret on my life style choice is that I probably won't see them again. I know I can't afford to fly and help them when in trouble and I likely won't be there to bury them either. Having said that, I thank them for their life time of love, guidance and understanding. I am now a parent, with girls who are growing up. Children who love me and want my support and help but also want me to let them make their mistakes and not judge them. Children who, as I get older they laugh at me a little bit more or make fun of my quirkiness a bit more often... just as I did to my parents. As part of my thoughts and reflections I have had to think about what my kids will "do with me" when I am old, how will they treat me? Speak to me? Care for me? Will they be kind? Will they speak badly of me in front of their children? Will they honour me? These thoughts have made me re-evaluate how I am thinking, speaking and feeling...

I know it is easy to pass judgement on others and how they deal with thing and although many of us may have different thoughts or opinions during this current time of sadness, difficulty, crisis, I love my family and only want happiness - for all of them.

Mom, Dad, I love you, I thank you, I wish you were healthy and happy but I know that you are going through a troubled time and I can't imagine all that is in your hearts right now. This week my dad turns 74 years old. For some that is not that old, for my dad it is. It is now after 10 AM there are things to do, there is yet another new skiff of snow on the ground, my coffee is finished and the tears are running down my cheeks. I can't do much for my parents, but I can give love them and listen and as hard as it is at times, I can keep my judgement to myself.
A tribute my daughter wrote to Grandpa when he went into hospital.
This picture was taken the day before we left BC almost 3 years ago.
"This is my grandpa, my best friend. I love him with all my heart, he is truly one of the best human beings I have ever known and truly loved. he's the most caring man, loving dad, brother, cousin, & child. I don't see him much anymore living in Nb, but he is only a couple provinces away , and even though I cant be by his side right now in the hospital. He will always be my best friend, no matter what happens to him. I love you so my grandpa ♥ & I'll always be there for you, you are always in my heart, I think about you everyday. And I really hope you're going to be okay, I know you will be though because you're the strongest man out there, and I know you can make it through anything. I love you ♥ "

No comments: