Sometime in my 20's, when I wasn't paying attention, my parents got old. My parents have always kind of been old. They got married later and had kids later. My mom was of "advanced maternal age" when I was born, which at that point had everyone convinced that I was going to have lots of things wrong with me. How much things have changed, and stayed the same. Anyway, I spent my entire childhood aware of how much older my parents were then other kids. Mostly because my parents had health problems that kept them from doing some of the normal things you expect to do with your mom and dad. I don't ever remember playing outside with them or being silly with them. Our house was kind of serious. But once I hit my teen years I pretty much was taking care of myself and my parents age stopped being on my radar. I went off to college and my life got busy.
Then some things started happening while I was teaching that made me realize that my parents were really getting older. My mom had a stroke, it wasn't severe and she has mostly recovered, but it was scary. Especially since I wasn't at home. A few years later, my dad had a stroke. This one more serious. Because he worked extremely hard, he's managed to get back to where he was before as well. But during those years, I stopped being the child, I stopped being an equal, and I started being, well, kind of like a parent. I called their doctors, I took care of bills, I traveled back and forth. When my parents got to the point where they realized they couldn't really take care of their house anymore and needed to move, we talked and they decided to move closer to us. So we're in the process of helping them go through 40 years of stuff and sort out what to keep, what to get rid of, and where they're going to go. It's hard for them, it's hard on us, but it's what happens when your parents get older.
I think most people have more time before this hits them. Most people don't have to come to this realization and take on this role while they're in their 20's. I know that some people end up doing it earlier, which I have so much respect for. I can't say I was totally prepared. I always joked with my parents that they should be nice to me because I would be the one (between me and my brother) who would be taking care of them when they were old. It doesn't feel that long ago that we used to joke about that and now it's here. So I knew this would happen, but I didn't know it would happen now.
On our drive up there this last weekend, I was talking to hubby about all of this. I realized while talking to him that I had some things I need to let go of. When we were trying to have Bean, we were really aware of how old we were and how long it was taking us. Hubby's parents are older too, unfortunately his Dad passed away not that long after our miscarriage and never got to meet Bean. We both knew we wanted to be younger then our parents were when we had kids and that we wanted to give our parents the chance to get to know their grandchildren. It was crushing when our infertility problems kept hubby's father from seeing our family grow.
When Bean was born, all of our parents were at the hospital. They got to see her just hours after she was born and I was glad. Since then I've realized though that they aren't going to be grandparents like most kids have. They can't really help take care of Bean or help us with anything to make the load lighter. We asked them to head home the day after we got home from the hospital because there were too many people that we had to take care of. They've had the chance to spend time with Bean many times since, and I'm so thankful, but I need to let go of the idea of what I would like things to be like, and I have to accept the reality of what they are. I see other people whose parents help with the kids or who are emotional supports or who offer advice, anything like that. But that's not us. In our family, hubby and I are now more the caregivers in the family. For the generations below us, and the one's above. It may not be a place that I expected to be at 30, but I can do it. I've always been more mature then my age, and maybe that was in preparation for all of this. So I can take it on.
I can take it on, and I tell myself that on the tougher days. I feel lucky to have both my parents alive and here with us. I'm thrilled that they get to spend time with Bean and I hope and pray that they'll be with us long enough for her to really get to know them. But there are days when I wish I could still be the child. Not be a kid, but have a parent. My parents are here, but they just don't feel like parents anymore and so on those days, when I just want my mom, I call hubby because he's who I lean on now. He's my family and I'm all grown up. For better or for worse. I just hope I can be there for Bean for a long, long time. It's a hard transition becoming the caretaker for your own parents, but being Bean's mama, that was an easy one. And if growing up means being her mama, then I'll take all the rest of it and I'll try to focus on what's real because I spent enough years in dreamland when we were waiting for her. If I got through that, I can totally do this.