Note: this was written in 2015, published 2017
I am fortunate that I still have my parents. With it comes great joy and great struggles. As a daughter beyond midlife, they continue to impart their wisdom of life and prepare me for what is to come.
My Dad is the quintessential success story – a man who worked so hard, built a successful business, traveled the world, practiced his Faith in God, adored his family and believed in enjoying life to the fullest. My Mom was his rock and supported him all along the way. She was his partner, his wife and a phenomenal mother. Standing side by side, as their children, we knew they were united in principles, faith and love.
They both are struggling with health issues and it pains me to see this. They both continue to take care of each other everyday and how they care for one another comes in different ways. Its beautiful to see how love sustains them. These are the lessons I am learning:
1. Independence is difficult to give up. Dad is fiercely independent and determined to stay that way. He will do things his way. His mind and energy want to push through but his body won’t cooperate. With six children, we try all to advise him with ways to make life more comfortable and safe. By being so independent and head strong, he wants to defy us and do things his way and on his own but in reality he has become increasing reliant on his children. Its a difficult struggle to watch. I am learning that as we, my siblings and I, help one another, we are blessed that we have each other. Thank you Dad for my brother and sisters – we know how to come together, we all have love in our hearts, we all love you and Mom fiercely. Thank you for letting me see how difficult this is for you. You are helping me to understand that as I age, I need to learn to let others help me and that I need to stay connected to my family, my friends and my community. It is my hope that despite my desire to be independent that I learn to be okay with others gently helping me as it isn’t only easier for me but it also a benefit for those who care for me.
2. Pride – it can get in the way of your quality of life. We may not want to trust that others know better for us. We may not want to change the type of shoes we wear, our clothing, our undergarments. We want to walk proudly on our own, we want to get from one place to another on our own. Yet, age, health, illness can be ever present and they affect our self-esteem which I see is still ever present in the later stages of life. My parents have showed me there are ways we can cling to our pride and the expense of others and they have showed me we can gracefully accept our aging changes because of others. Thank you for this lesson and I pray that as I age, I learn to accept with peace and grace the challenges that will face me.
3. Simplicity – life becomes more simple towards the latter part of life. I have seen how as they’ve entered their later part of life, they want what is familiar and what makes life easier. Dad loves his routines and he treasures Mom more and more. They went from world travelers, dining adventurers and retail trailblazers to a simpler version of themselves. Less became more. Don’t get me wrong, they still enjoyed it all but their preferences, their lists, their parameters all became less. What they’ve taught me is to enjoy all that I can while I can but also keep in mind, after a while, its not as important and maybe now I go for it with gusto OR I realize I just keep it simple….
It has been an honor to share this stage of life with my parents. It hasn’t been easy. It has been sweet, joyful, sad, heartbreaking, precious, frustrating and incredible. I am thankful for this time and for the lessons.