Our parents, at this time. And it is difficult, and it is good.

Spoke to a friend tonight. Her parents are frail, and it is a struggle. The child becoming the parent, the parent wasting and whisping into the shadows of life.  Did I forget?  Has it been awhile?

Your life goes into standby. Not always the best timing for that standby mode  – things are happening in your own life; things to deal with, things unforeseen and all I could say was … I am so sorry, I am so sorry you have to go through this.  I know of what I speak. At the worst time, when my own life was difficult … sort of all comes at you at once doesn’t it?  When life changes so fast.

Some lost our parents at an early age. I cannot imagine the pain.  Many of us are going through it now.  I was a continent away, trying to deal with life and worrying all the time about my parents who, did I ever think of it, felt abandoned in my moving.  They never spoke about it, but it was years of guilt, on my part, trying to fly out as often as possible, paying the bills (somehow the plans for retirement were never enough) and Sunday evening talks.  Till the talking became more difficult, the anger on their part, at the loss of control of their own lives, having to be moved, sitting in corners, hours passing like glaciers in the wintertime.  For me, five years of coping, and always feeling, somehow, inadequate … and times a little frustrated in trying to take care of them when I needed to take care of myself.  That is how it goes with ageing parents.

Others are lucky, live close by, there for the chat and tea.  Not for me.

We all have our own relationships with parents, and ageing parents.  And then … they are gone.

And we are orphaned.

And we wish we did it differently.

And it is something we can never get back.

And I said to her. my heart breaks for you now, you are rushing to their side, and life is half you and half them … but still, good or bad, they are your parents.  This is the time you just take each moment and cherish while you still can.

When it was the orphan thing for me, I forgot the frustration, and the paying, and the wishing it was easier. I would have done it a million times over for the moment of seeing their faces and telling them it was going to be ok. The touch, a flickering smile when you walked through the door, it is fleeting and it is part of you.

How to tell her that these years will fly by in the caring for elderly parents when now it seems so tough? Hindsight is all, as I have learnt in so many situations, only if I could tell her that my hindsight may be her opportune time to get past the stress and really learn, really talk, really let them share their young lives, their lives before you; being ‘not your parents’ and then ‘being your parents’ for it will be the foundation of her going forward.

And the blessing, the good of it?

We did that. I created a journal with my ageing Mum.  We talked of her birthdays, her schooling, her first date. How she met my father, her wedding, dreams and hopes for her children. We spoke of her wishes for her funeral, sorted her will. We had time to get past the mother/daughter thing to learn about who she was as a person, which I never really had the time to consider, until she was frail and worried more about her handwriting becoming illegible and her appetite disappearing.

It was in the frailty that I learnt more about them being individuals rather than my parents.

It was a difficult time.  Heartbreaking. And a lesson.

Today, when I fuss about how my children may not call me enough, that I am a hovering parent, that their lives are going forth, I always think about how I was at their age.  And it was not about worrying about my mum other than, I should call … faced with the ’empty nest’ syndrome, I realise I never considered how us leaving home affected her.  What did she do to fill the time, how deep was the missing, never thought about it, but as I say, hindsight.

Now I think about it … it is ok that when I was in a youthful phase of my life, always knowing my parents were there, the focus was different., we all do it, they probably did it.  As it should be … it is only at this age when they are gone, that I think … maybe I should have been more aware. Yup, hindsight.

But, and I say but, it is when they are frail, the season over, that we must take time to really connect, and value them. Should always value them (are you listening dear children).  So my friend, when the losing them is close … take the time to stop and go .. yeah, it is frustrating, and it is taking up of your time, cherish every moment and just love them, and yourself, through it.

I miss them everyday. Now more for not having them somewhere in the background of my life.

More importantly, good or bad, they tried the best they knew how.  And they loved me.

Love them when they are angry at life, and knowing they are leaving you behind. Love them when they rage and fight the furies, fall and turn their heads in defiance of not being who they were, it will happen to us too. They are afraid. When they are gone, you will realise that they were the making of you.

Make notes. Talk. Comfort.

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