Monday, April 4, 2011

Going home always gives me a lot to think about

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.


  1. Wow. your post is amazing. Your family is lucky to have you. Like you, I have two brothers but they have both moved away and are busy with their wives and kids. So, my parents are moving next door to us. People always tell me I'm lucky to have them so close, but they don't realize that hubs and I do a lot of stuff to care for them. Thankfully, they are able to watch our little dude, but they are slowing down. I know what it's like to go through the down-sizing of the house. But I know the best of my childhood is in my heart and not in a trinket. You can do it!

  2. Excellent post. My father has been ill and I know so much of what you're going through. I was a "surprise" baby when my parents were older.

    Great post.

  3. Great post. Not something one thinks about as they pursue building a family, but important, nonetheless.

  4. Beautiful post. I can relate to a lot of this, too, though my situation is a bit different - my parents are young but live far away. It's my in-laws and my grandparents who live nearby and near care and support and aren't able to offer much care and support to us in return. The grieving of that comes and goes, but sometimes it does hurt to feel like I need to figure things out on my own without that kind of embrace of my larger family.

    Thanks for putting into words something I struggle with quite often.

  5. Here from the round- up. I can relate to so much of this as the daughter of parents who got very sick for a long time when they were in their late fifties and sixties. Now as an older parent with an even older spouse, I worry about how my daughter will cope, and really want to have another child to give her a sibling so she won't have to be alone. Great post!

  6. Also here from the round-up. I had a bit of a different situation - my dad was much older than my mother. I had just finished college when he died (at age 70), and he had been ill for several years before that. But since I had my daughter at 37, and my mom is now over 70, I don't know how much time she'll get with my girl. My husband's parents are a little younger, but his dad has had cancer.

    Every now and again, I think about how long I'll be around for my daughter. It's tough to think about what I might miss out on.

  7. Wow. You make everything so real. I know that this is likely to be the situation that my husband and I are in (although with any luck we'll be closer to the 40 end of our 30s). Thanks for sharing this incredibly valuable perspective on things. It doesn't sound easy, but it also sounds like your parents are lucky to have you (and vice versa of course).

  8. From the round up as well.
    I just wanted to tell you that I am hearing you. My parents are both over 60s and in need of care and they are far away and I worry about them all the time. And I wish I could help them more, but then again, I have my son to take care of and my husband to lean on. It is not easy and I am afraid that it won't be easy for my son either, since I am also an older parent.
    Hopefully we'll live and tell.
    Anyway, great post.

  9. Thanks to everyone for stopping by! I was really surprised when Mel included me in her blog roundup and am really honored to have everyone reading this and leaving me such thoughtful comments.

    I have to say that as I was writing this post, I was a little worried because I was writing it not only from the perspective of a child with older parents, but also a parent who has been very aware of my age. I in no way wanted to give moms who are of "advanced maternal age" worrisome thoughts. To be honest, I stopped thinking about it and wrote from my heart because I didn't think that very many people would read it. I guess I was wrong :)

    I really hope that I didn’t cause too many worrisome thoughts though, because while this is one outcome of having somewhat older parents, I’m sure it’s not the only one. For my family there’s a lot more that goes into the current situation then just my parent’s age. Personally, I am very thankful that my parents had me when they did because otherwise I wouldn't be here. And whatever timeline life may give me for having children, I'm going to take it. I'm not going to walk away from growing our family at 35 because I crossed some line in the sand. I'm going to do this my way and if I still have more to give, I'm going to take it on.

    So thank you again for stopping by, for making me feel like I’m not alone in this, and for being so supportive. I needed to get those feelings out and now that they are, I feel much more ready for the next step. I’m ready to have my mom and dad close by so I can just enjoy our time together and not worry as much about all these other details. I know it’s not always going to be easy, but it’s not always going to feel this hard either.

  10. I'm from the roundup (a little late, but here nonetheless). Great post and something that I've been thinking about a lot lately.