parental stress

I suppose in some ways, my childlessness is a blessing, as I’m not sandwiched between my parents and my children like my sister is.

My siblings are together for a couple weeks to help get some things organized. We were supposed to be there also, but New York stated anyone who came in had to be quarantined and two weeks there wasn’t possible. We didn’t want to run the risk of a fine, or being unable to leave the state to come home in time to continue working.

My parents weigh us down. In their mid sixties, they should still be pretty independent. They aren’t. Their health and attitudes have aged them quite a bit and they seem much older than they are. I miss who my parents used to be, as these two people only resemble them somewhat. I cling more to memories already made and realize there is nothing I can do to repair this damage. I just have to live with it.

It’s heartbreaking at times, and much like I wistfully look at people with their children, I look at people with their older parents and wonder why mine can’t be well enough. When you see multiple generations together and enjoying their time, I wince a little. I feel a bit robbed. Probably too much of a victim mentality but it’s there and I’m trying to deal with it.

I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m lost with what to do for them at times, especially when they’re so resistant to change and help, unless it comes in a form they’re approving of.

My mom is currently in a rehab facility and not a pretty one. Visitation is still banned with Covid flying around and I feel guilty that I don’t call more. My dad is home alone and that presents its own issues. I’m not sure I trust either one to take care of themselves well, and the resulting burden falls on my sister or sometimes my uncle, or another capable adult to help.

I don’t have the luxury of paying for help and staying out of the fray. I cannot afford to hire them a full time aide or pay for a nursing home that doesn’t feel like a “box” to them. Nor, in reality, should I have to. They’ve struggled most of their adult life, and have no long term care plan. I suppose like many, they figured they’d have to work until the end, and when that doesn’t happen, and you can’t, you live off of social security and the dwindling amount in your retirement account. Do I spend my savings to try to save them, or put it aside so I don’t end up in a similar fate? After all, I don’t have kids to depend on.

The entitlement that your kids should take care of you in your old age is a whole separate thing I have a hard time dealing with. “I took care of my parents so my children should take care of me” is a valid argument I suppose, but the world changes. Also, we may be more willing to help if my parents were 76 or 86 and just now needing help, rather than fighting us for the last few years about what we thought they should do.

Raising children isn’t an exchange of caregiving that they need to repay as you approach the end of your life. It’s idealistic to look at life like the book “I love you, forever” but no one wants to bathe and dress their parent. I’ve helped a lot, and I detach somewhat, thankful that I’ve dealt with enough patients in healthcare that I can view it that way most of the time. Because, the rest of the time, the devastation of seeing my mother not be able to dress herself, or my father struggle to walk straight is crushing.

Who are these people? My parents were tough and fun and kind. These two are sad, soft and worn down. I hate myself a bit, because I miss them and get homesick, but when I’m with them I often can’t wait to leave. I was complaining about spending an evening with my mother back in March when I flew home at the last minute because my dad was in the ICU and doing poorly. I cried driving to her house, because someday, I know I’ll wish for one more chance to see my mom and spend time with her.

The damage is unsalvageable. I love them. I try not to lose my temper, to remain understanding and helpful of their situation. I work to stay empathetic, no matter what they do. I hope someday I forget enough of this, or forgive it, and think back only on good memories of my mom and dad.

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