In some way, shape or form, I’ve been a mediator my entire life: as a child, between playmates fighting over crayons; while co-captain of my high school volleyball team, between my teammates and our coaches; in college as the vice president of my sorority, between my fellow sisters and our executive board; and in my career as a PR professional, between my company and the media. Since I often came out on the winning side of things, I thought I was a pretty successful negotiator.
Sometimes when you’re a parent you spend so much time obsessing over every detail of your children and their happy “first” experiences that you may lose sight that people, no matter what their age, are continually experiencing their own “firsts.” As you get older, these first are not always pleasant.
This is the case with my parents. They are experiencing a new series of first as they get older. The past year has been a rough one for them, health-wise. Age has not been kind to either one of them.
My father is 86 and this past fall had his second battle with cancer, but the first time it was of his prostate (you can read about that here). Luckily, it was caught early and they were able to remove the growth, but because of his age decided against any rounds of chemo. He also spent close to five months away from home, first in rehab and then in a nursing home. He suffered some major health setbacks and even had to learn how to walk again. A life-threatening infection set in, leading to a second major operation. At one point, we were told he might not come home. Luckily, he proved us and the doctors wrong, and returned home in January.
My mom maybe fifteen years younger than my dad, but she has suffered from severe asthma for a large part of her life. Although she takes a program of medications and steroids daily to control this chronic disease, it sometimes gets so bad she has to go into the hospital for a few days to get it back under control. Stress is one of asthma’s triggering factors, so in dealing with my dad’s many issues, my mom had a serious asthmatic episode. This was her first experience of feeling like she was drowning on dry land. Her doctor put her in the hospital straight away and gave her some heavy-duty medication to help her. She was in the hospital herself for a week back in the early winter, and she still hasn’t quite recovered from it.
At one point, both my mom and dad were hospitalized at the same time. Fortunately, they were in the same hospital and on the same floor, but different rooms – at least making it easier for my sister and I to visit with them.
It’s one of those things that you think about, but can never really know what will actually happen…your parents getting older, their health declining and inevitably, their passing. These two people have been the longest constants in my life. I have a family of my own now, but I cannot imagine life without my parents. Though they sometimes drive me totally crazy, as all family can do, I am scared to think about my life without them. I dread the day when I won’t be able to gossip with my mom, talk about the pitiful state of the Dodgers, Jets or Knicks with my dad or share any of my kidlet’s “firsts” with them.
I’ve heard people say that the toughest thing a person can go through is the loss of a child. I’m not denying that, I certainly would be destroyed by that, but losing someone who has been with you your entire life is also a devastating experience.
My two kidlets are fortunate that they have their Nana and Pop-Pop in their lives. I didn’t really know any of my grandparents. When I was born, I had but two grandmothers left (no grandfathers) and both were gone by the time I was five. I don’t have any real memories of them, just what has been told to me by my parents or what I’ve seen in old photos. I want my kids to have many memories of their Nana & Pop-Pop. I want them to know how they were the “first” grandchildren in their lives, how much they love them and how much they are wanted in their lives. I want my son to remember how his Nana first taught him how to rub noses “like the Eskimos did” and my daughter to know she was Pop Pop’s “girl.”
As a parent, you anticipate the future for your children, all of their firsts and all the great things they can and will do in their lifetime. I know my parents did that with me, and now I experience that with my own kidlets. As a child, you look at your parents as always being there and being a lasting part of your life. But this child, now an adult, doesn’t want to look too far into the future, but rather just try to focus on the here and now and enjoy what time and memories that we can all create together.
This post is linked up to Pour Your Heart Out with Things I Can’t Say, which is celebrating its two-year anniversary. Congrats to you Shell and thanks for giving us a forum to share what’s in our heads and hearts!