Last week my dad died.
My mom and dad moved in with my husband and I ten years ago, when we were planning to have children. Their health was beginning to fail and the maintenance of their home was becoming too much, so it was me or a condo.
They lived halfway across the country, so for me it was no contest. I wanted them close. And if we were starting a family, they wanted to be part of our child’s life.
So we bought a bigger home with an in-law suite, and mom and dad moved in.
My dad worried that they would be a burden, that they had waited past their usefulness to come, and that they would be taking more than they were giving.
Instead they gave to me and our family in ways none of us could imagine.
When I was pregnant and part of the high risk program, I had to go into the hospital every two weeks and then every week for tests and scans. My dad took me to almost every appointment. We looked funny the two of us, with matching walkers heading down the hall.
When I was home on maternity leave and could barely walk, I couldn’t leave the house without John. I didn’t get lonely or depressed because I had breakfast every morning with my mom and dad.
When I was having hip replacement surgeries and was bed ridden for months after partial paralysis, my daughter was just learning to walk. My mom and dad became our lifeline. Supervising the housekeeper, babysitting, keeping me company, and generally making sure that nothing fell apart. I’ll never forget the ridiculous fights my dad and I used to have over what was or was not in the freezer. Because I couldn’t walk, but apparently he couldn’t see. (Love you dad)
When I worked for the very first boss I couldn’t cope with and didn’t know what to do, my mom and I would talk before I picked up my daughter, so that I could greet her with a smile and come home with a lighter heart. You can always depend on your mom to call it when someone’s talking crazy.
Those 5 years of chaos would have been impossible without them. They kept my spirits up and reminded me, as they had when I was a child, that I can do anything. They kept me sane.
And when it was needed, it was no trouble to do for them in return.
When mom couldn’t travel very well, we started hosting her friends in our home so she could have company more often.
When mom fell and had to start using a wheelchair, we renovated and moved them upstairs and us into the in-law suite. We started making the meals and eating together every night.
When mom died, we integrated dad into our social life more, taking him to try out new restaurants every week, having weekend trips around the area. Inviting him when we had company over. All of the kids loved grandpa.
When dad’s health started to fail, we moved the house around to give him accessibility and privacy from the kids.
And now they are gone. And this week was the first time I have been alone in my home for 10 years. It was quiet and unnerving. And a little lonely.
I know losing your parents is natural, but it isn’t easy. I have been expecting this day since they moved here. Dreading it more each year, as they grew older and started experiencing more health problems.
I also know that I will never regret having them here, having them be part of my child’s life and her part of theirs. That alone would have been worth any sacrifice.
One of the most difficult things John and I struggle with is helping his parents when they are a continent away. There is only so much you can do in the week or two you are visiting, and it feels like you are never there when you are really needed.
Over time, I will likely write a great many posts about accommodating aging in the home, aging in place and similar topics. We have learned a lot as a family over the last 10 years that I would like to share, to help others who plan to do it.
But this week I just wanted to write about my family.
My mom and dad were awesome. I can’t imagine better parents. They loved each other deeply, were in love their whole marriage and they were best friends too. They were both had successful careers, and wonderful friendships and I aspired to be like them. The inspired me to be better.
They weren’t perfect. I lived with them for 30 years, so I harbor no delusions about that, but then neither did they. They were flawed and wonderful.
They loved me and my family above all else and were completely loyal. It was comforting to know that they would do anything for me. I miss them so fiercely that sometimes I’m afraid I am never going to be able to remember them without pain.
Someday it will come, I will come across something that reminds me of them without falling apart. It took two years after my mom died before I could be around Christmas music. Now it seems old country will be banned for a while too, although at least that is a little easier to avoid.
For now, I will just eat breakfast over the kitchen counter, instead of across from an empty chair. Maybe I will even find some new interests.
I’m looking forward to the day that I can smile and tell a funny story about them. Or look at pictures of them. Or share their memory with my daughter. I can’t wait to remember them fondly and reminisce about the fun we had and the wonderful people they were.
Patience may be a virtue and living in the moment may be a good thing, but right now I would love a fast forward button.