Sometimes change sneaks up on you when you least expect it. Although I have always known in the back of my head that one day the roles my parents and I play in each others’ lives would switch places, I had no idea when, where or how this would happen. None of us knows. This role reversal could come gradually as you slowly start to take over little things for them to help them out a little, or it may come suddenly by way of a catastrophic health crisis like a stroke or a serous or terminal illness diagnosis. In any case, the child becoming the parent as the parent becomes the child is a very real stage of life. I plan to share my experience with this journey here, and you have a ring-side seat!
I have been wanting to write about this for several months now, but this little thing called life keeps interfering with my best laid plans. There has been a lot of transition over the past year, and every time I thought I was ready to sit down and put what was happening inside and around me into words, some other event or incident would pop up and consume my time and attention. So, this will come in stages, as I have the time and emotional strength to put it down.
For now, let me introduce you to my parents. Dad is a warm and loving man who is highly regarded by all who know him. Ever since I can remember, all my friends called him “Dad.” They still do. He is “Dad” to anyone who needs a fatherly influence in their life, ready with wisdom, insight, a prayer, a hug and a kick in the seat if the situation calls for it. He is a veteran, having served in both the Army and Air Force. He served as a medic at an evacuation hospital in Vietnam and later joined the Air Force, where he served until the late seventies. It was during his time in the Air Force that he got his start in radio while he was stationed in Greenland. He was hooked. Radio become a lifelong endeavor for him, and he still runs a couple of internet radio stations. He loves high school sports broadcasting and has built a team of on-air personalities so that now he engineers the shows and enjoys the games. He is in relatively good health, in spite of a few heart issues that are being well-managed, a knee replacement and a couple of back surgeries behind him (pun not intended).
Mom is the love of his life. She was fifteen when they met (he was nineteen), and they dated throughout her last three years of high school. A significant part of their courtship was by mail as he was completing boot camp and additional training in other states. They married a week after she graduated, and two weeks later he was in Vietnam. Fast forward to today, and they have been married 49 years now and still smooch and carry on like newlyweds. Their love for one another is deep and genuine – the kind of lifelong friendship/romance that doesn’t come along every day.
Mom is sweet, funny and deeply protective of her family. She is where I get my love for language (reading and writing) and my sass. She is a woman of great discernment and has an endless love for studying and discussing God’s Word. She likes beer with her pizza, her soup in a mug and feels that dessert does not get any finer than Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.
Mom has had some health issues that have resulted in her having to be placed in a long-term care facility. This has been one of the most difficult and gut-wrenching decisions we have had to make as a family, as she is still young and has a lot of life left in her. After her fourth stroke and subsequent fall where she fractured a rib and broke two fingers, her in-home care became more than what we could manage safely. It was in her best interest to be some place where she could receive the 24-hour care she needs. We are still adjusting to this, and so is she. She has good days and not-so-good days – happy days when her mood is light and sassy and sad days when she cries and wants to come home. It is heart-breaking, because we want her home, but the constant care she needs landed Dad in the hospital with his heart and my own health was being affected as well. One of the toughest realizations we had to come to was that in order for us to be our best for her, we had to make sure she was getting proper care in a safe environment, even if that is not at home.
So today I find myself working part-time from home so I can continue to have a hand in overseeing her care, which at the moment comes in the form of managing her Medicaid case and other such things so Dad can focus on spending as time with her as possible. I am the newly-elected President of the Family Council for the facility where Mom now lives, which so far has turned out to be great place over all. We have a good working relationship with the administration and staff, and I look forward to the Family Council being a place for support and encouragement as we all find our way down this path of role reversal and changing seasons.
Sometimes the quirky or unexpected little things I encounter on this journey make me laugh out loud; sometimes they put me in tears. Parenting your parents is no easy task, and it has to be done gently and with respect, not overstepping boundaries or making them feel like you are taking something away from them. This is a learning process for all of us. But I am determined to embrace this season of life and draw from it every precious memory I can while I can.
More to come …