There is one particular very selfish motive to parents teaching their children to respect them that I am just starting to learn…it’s when they get old and can’t and shouldn’t be doing anything (like driving) that the children are frozen into not knowing how or when or what to do when their parents are hiding their struggle. The selfish part being that they can live how they want a lot longer then they probably should and have conscientious children that will help them along the way. We all know it’s happening (except the parents) but no one wants to confront it. I know I don’t want to be a parent to my parents. Of course I want to help them and do everything I can but I don’t even know how (or ever wanted) to be a parent to any child, much less two people that always parented me. Plus it’s too close to where I will be in a few years and I don’t have the children to take care of me so I would rather live in blissful denial of what might happen to my brain. I am just glad I am happy with a sandwich for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
I really don’t believe that parents can see their decline as real once their brain starts to get muddled so what they are not aware of doesn’t even enter their thought process. So when you try to bring those difficult questions up, you want to respect and trust them when they say they are ok. But I know it’s not ok. I know it is going to happen soon. Just this week I took my dad to Lowes to buy a microwave. When it came time to check out my dad says ‘I hope you brought your checkbook’ which made me really laugh because that is what I say to Dennis when we go out somewhere to buy anything. Yes, dad I have my wallet, you didn’t bring yours? No, I forgot.
Then there is the confusion with how to use a new microwave. I call as I am driving home from work. ‘Did they install the microwave today?’ Yes, says my dad, but I don’t know if it’s ready. Do you mean they didn’t finish installing it? No, I don’t know if it is ready, can you come over? My first reaction is, I need to go home, I’ve been gone since 6 am, have a 45 minute drive home with 3 big dogs in the car, it’s 6pm…Can I come over tomorrow? Yes he says, tomorrow is fine.
Thankfully my drive is 45 minutes because the selfish parents instilled in me tremendous sensitivity and a guilty conscious and supreme worry (that there is cardboard in the microwave and they may try to use it and it will start a fire and burn them and the house down and it will be all my fault for not going over there!).
So I drive to their house and go inside and they are both standing in the kitchen looking around, not doing anything really. I think they were hungry. They really don’t have anything to eat that is dinner-like but what can be microwaved. They have stopped using the oven and the stove for most things.
I’ve lived my whole life being happy with a peanut butter sandwich for dinner if nothing else is available. My mom cooked elaborate meals for dinner ever since she was a housewife so for them dinner is a ritual that involves hot food and items that are eaten at dinner, not a lunchtime meal.
So I show my dad how to use the microwave and make them dinner. They are happy, he is thankful. I hug and kiss them both and tell them I love them. Meanwhile the unruly dogs in my truck spill a giant water bottle and it pours all over my treasured camera on the floor.
My insides just getting crushed a little more (because of my parents helplessness, not the camera, I have wanted to get a new camera for a long time!).
If anyone knows dogs, I hope they have known some elderly labrador retrievers. The sweetest age for a dog ever in one of the best personalities a breed could have. My parents are like two very old labrador retrievers now. Amazingly sweet and good at breaking your heart with their obvious decline. If my parents had tails they would be slapping the ground when you walked in the door.
Mom, what are you going to do when Dad can’t drive anymore?
‘Well’, she says, ‘I will just have to start driving again’…this from my mom with pretty advanced alzheimers and can not remember hardly anything and has a look on her face like she doesn’t really know what’s happening moment to moment.
Dad, do you need me to check your bills and make sure all is well?
It’s automatic he says, pulling out his bank card saying all he has to do is swipe this and it’s automatically taken out of his bank. I said dad, that is your discover card, it’s a credit card, there is no automatic withdrawal with a discover card. You should get a bill in the mail that you have to pay with a check. There are no bills he says, it comes out automatically. Can I see if you are paying your discover card bill? Feeling like I am being forward with asking to check his finances. This is a man that NEVER discussed money. Never freely gave money to his kids for anything other then what we truly needed (like school etc). If we got money, we had worked for it. I never saw my parents as people to go get money from. They took care of us and paid for things but the primary money lesson I got from my dad was that money did not come easy. You had to work for it and you never talked about it or how much you had or how much things cost or how much you or anyone else makes. Ever. So having to ask to help him with his bills and personal accounts is very strange turn of events that makes me extremely uncomfortable.
Even talking about him in this sense makes me feel like I am being small minded and sharing his decline is a form of betrayal.
I know there are countless people that have gone through this experience with their parents. Then I think about all the parents that have gone through this alone. What happens then? That will be me! Shit, I need to get myself together before my brain just adapts and thinks all is well when it really isn’t. Like my mom says now, ‘it all goes so fast’.