Sandwich, Anyone?

Hello, blog.  Remember me?  What did you do on your summer vacation?

I wish I could say this was the best summer we have had in our household in a long time.  After all, both kids finished school earlier than in previous years (end of June!!).  We had a fabulous week at a beach rental planned.  SuzyQ and I were excited to get her packed up for college.  Oh, how plans do go awry.

It turns out that excitement about outfitting SuzyQ’s dorm fell victim pretty quickly to anxiety about whether she and her roommate would be able to coordinate color schemes, disagreements with Darling Husband about what is “essential” to take with her and what is excessive, and plain frustration over the daunting task of packing our child’s life up to fit into the back of our SUV.  Ultimately, it all fit; only minor things were forgotten; and SuzyQ is happy.

I wish I could say the same for those of us not away at college.  Both of my parents saw their health deteriorate this summer.  My dad had a particular crisis in a progressive decline, while Mom experienced some mobility issues.  He’s 77, and she turns 73 today.  And neither of them are spry or active for their age.  As the only one of their children living close by, I find myself assuming the growing role of caretaker.  The big problem is, my parents don’t want to need help.  Does that make sense?  They know that they need help, but they are definitely not happy about it.

So to anyone who is in similar circumstances, I put to you a few questions:

  • What do you do when you don’t agree with their medical decisions?  I’m not talking about, “Get me a power of attorney; they’re unfit to make these decisions.”  I mean things like refusing physical therapy or feeling too awkward about asking for a second opinion or settling for the same old course of treatment instead of asking for something different.  Neither Mom nor Dad seek any input from us adult kids when it comes to what test or procedures they will have done.  Should we have any say in the matter at all?  What if they then complain incessantly about their doctors or all the pills they are taking?
  • How do you help your parents downsize when they both tend toward hoarding?  No, it’s not time to call the producers of that “Hoarders” show on TV, but both parents would be better off with more open space in the house to make getting around safer and easier.  And eventually they will have to move into a single-story, maintenance-free home.  Both my parent grew up in essentially poor families.  To them, everything is valuable and must never be thrown away.  They rarely even donate things they aren’t using because, “We might need that one day.”  Add to that the fact that Mom especially has an irrational emotional attachment to most of the “things” in the house.  This too-big piece of furniture reminds her of a particular Army posting.  That ugly ceramic was made by a dear deceased sister-in-law.  All of those years worth of greeting cards were sent by someone special and therefore cannot be thrown out.  I don’t see how they will ever get past the emotional hurdles of downsizing, never mind the physical work involved.
  • Will you always disappoint someone when you are trying to balance your roles?  Mom and Dad will vehemently stress that I must consider my own family first.  And yet…  With Darling Husband facing military retirement and hunting for a new job, what happens if we relocate because of his second career?  How will the parents manage with no family nearby?  Should that be a factor in how broad his geographic search for a job should be?

As I recover from packing one child off to college 6 hours away and get the other one started on his AP classes and SAT prep, I have to shake my head again about all of those helicopter parents out there.  They should be saving their energy.  What they might want to consider instead is helicopter parenting their own parents.

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