It was the first day of November 2011.
‘I’m an orphan,’ I joked half-heartedly to my son.
‘But Mum, you’re sixty-one,’ he replied, a distinct tone of sadness noticeable in his voice.
I needed no reminder of that fact. I’ve not taken to being a pensioner and facing my seventh decade very graciously. But within his simple statement I understood a multitude of things and think he understands them too.
Losing our parents is something I imagine most of us dread and think about far too often. I know the thought has haunted my waking hours and restless nights for an awful long time and far too frequently. But the truth of the matter is it’s no good surmising, for as with most things in life it never happens as we may envisage.
Whatever happens it’s definitely a no win situation. In the past most people were without a mother and father by the time they reached forty, but longevity is becoming more the norm in these times. True, I have friends who lost their parents decades ago and feel they were cheated by not having them long enough, but for many nowadays looking after aged parents is a way of life. It’s been that way for me for almost twenty years and I admit there have been times I’ve wanted to throw the towel in and escape the painful responsibilities.
I read we will be christened the sandwich generation. For many like myself, approaching the autumn of our own lives, it’s a time when the stress of caring for elderly parents while attempting to remain involved in the lives of young grandchildren becomes almost overwhelming and allows so little opportunity to enjoy the years we have left after finishing work.
My Mum passed away in 2008 after suffering the slings and indignity of dementia. It had been a difficult and painful road, yet thankfully her passing was swift, even if totally unexpected. The three years since her death have been harrowing to say the least as my father became frailer, prone to falls, yet insistent he didn’t want outside help. I think I have spent more time visiting hospitals and dealing with traumas in the three years since I lost my Mum than ever before.
At ninety my Dad underwent an operation for a broken hip after a particularly dramatic fall. Last February he was miraculously rescued from a house fire and eventually admitted he could no longer cope on his own. Sadly the place we secured for him at a lovely local care home was to be short lived. After surviving so many terrible ordeals it seemed he’d simply had enough and slipped away peacefully on October 31st of 2011.
So now it’s all over. The day I dreaded, yet over time thought might allow me some life of my own has finally arrived and I don’t think there are the words to express the turmoil of emotions I’m living with. Either that or I don’t possess the capacity to put it all into words. I do know I will carry the scars from long-time caring for the rest of my days, yet at the same time will greatly miss my parents and think of them every single day.
Life is all about change. New phases, new seasons, new pastures and inevitably new years. 2012 will be the first year of my life I’m without a parent and if I’m lucky I’ll be sixty-two in August. That’s an awful long time to have your parents and I do appreciate in many ways I've been lucky. We all have our crosses to bear and I realise the simple fact of having two parents live to a ripe old age is something many are deprived of.
I know how strange it will be to not have to think of their needs any longer, yet am painfully aware it’s rather late to make any dramatic changes to my own life. Things will be different this year for sure, but I won’t be making any resolutions or predictions. Rather taking one day at a time and quietly hoping the wheels will turn more in my favour than in the last few years.
I wish any readers a happy and healthy New Year and look forward to reading many more inspiring entries from the many talented writers at Open Salon.
To everything, turn, turn, turn
There is a season, turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven.
Turn, Turn, Turn. – The Byrds.