I want to talk to you about something a bit more serious. A bit of departure from what I usually like to talk about, however it’s weighing on my mind lately, so I want to get it off my chest and quite honestly, it needs to be said.
I want to talk about getting older. You’re doing it, I’m doing it….we’re all doing it. As I type this, the hair follicles on my scalp are producing more grey (or is it gray?) hairs, the skin cells on my face are not reproducing as quickly as they did 20 years ago, unlike the fat cells that seem to be working overtime on my thighs. I can see the years reflecting back at me in my face, in how my body moves (or rather doesn’t move); all over in who I am. I am slowing morphing into my genetic mother (another topic for another day folks) I digress. We’re all morphing, slowly but surely we’re getting older. Our bones snap, crackle and pop where they use to move smoothly from position to position. Our fast ball has moved out of the passing lane and into the slow lane. That mile we ran in under 4 minutes, well, at least you’ve still got it under 5….for now. We no longer get carded, and we start hearing “yes ma’am” “no ma’am”, “yes sir” “no sir” more and more.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. We gain wisdom and life experiences over time that help us guide our decisions to more clear and just conclusions. We’re better able to mentor our children and young people. We see with more clarity the reasons in life, for this or for that, that in our youth had eluded us. We’re more confident in who we are, what we want and where we want to be in life. We know our limits; we know that one or two drinks is more than enough, that no matter what the current fashion dictates; crop tops are not flattering. However, we can rock those skinny jeans with the best of those 20 something’s and with more confidence too (and face it ladies and gentlemen, confidence is attractive). We don’t have to ‘sell’ ourselves out to find a mate, we don’t compromise and we don’t apologize for it.
We’re also more consciously aware of the years going by, the time we have left, and we utilize that time more efficiently than our younger self did. We understand and know that we are mortal and that someday we will indeed die. The concept of mortality is not lost on us, we no longer ignore that nasty little detail of life; that we will die and with each passing year our percentages of survival decrease. We no longer toss the notion of death aside with a nonchalant “oh I’ve got plenty of time”. Even with good health, regular exercise, a proper diet, and well managed stress we are not exempt from our final fate. That’s just how we’re designed….we are born, we live and then we die.
How many of you have actually given thought to that? Oh sure, of course you have..in passing, (No pun intended there, promise) I have too. However, I never gave it more than a moment or two of my time. Perhaps a bit more when someone’s illness or passing touches me or my inner circle. Admittedly, it just doesn’t stick around long….I mean well, I do….. and I am sure you do too, we all do. We never mean to be callously dismissive of death, but it happens. We just don’t want to give it attention; after all it’s not exactly a pleasant reality is it? Do you want to think about the game on Friday night and how you’re team will fare in your fantasy league, or you want to contemplate your final moments in life and whether or not you have a Do Not Resuscitate order? Do you wanna hunker down with a bowl of popcorn and your love, all cozy on the couch watching the newest episode of The House of Cards, or you want to draft your last will and testament? I think if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know what we’d rather be doing.
So what’s changed, that’s got me thinking about this more? Well as with most, it’s due to someone very close to my heart and the reality that this person probably won’t be in my life for that much longer. It’s a hard, harsh realization and it hits you like a ton of bricks. Now I am not immune to this, logically I know and have known for a very long time that we’re getting older, and that means my parents are getting older. Now I should tell you that I do not live geographically close to my parents, so I don’t see them as much as I would like to. For years I never pictured my mother and father any older than in their mid-50’s. Vibrant, still and leading a very active life, both of them equally so. I never saw their true age, I focused on my mother’s hands and how full they were, what a life they’ve seen, the work they’ve done, the COUNTLESS diapers they’ve changed (we’ll get to this in a bit). My dad; what a strong man, hard working for years in the remodeling and home construction line of work, to be so strong, yet tender and yielding when he needed to be. One thing you have to know about my dad, is that he gives THE. BEST. HUGS. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderfully great it felt to have him hug me, to feel the love and protection that he gave to me, just to think of being wrapped in such strong, loving arms and to know in your heart that you always have a safe place is enough to make a daughter cry….and I know I felt like the most special person to him. I am sure if you ask any one of my sisters, they would tell you the same.
It occurs to me, as I see my parents now, they’ve changed. It’s no longer deniable that they are entering into their ‘Golden Years’ (to which my mother comments are “not so golden”) knowing that their lives are consumed with this health issue or that. Their schedules are no longer booked with their childrens or grandchildren’s activities, but with doctors’ visits, prescription refills dates and speckled with notes from one care giver to the next. It’s a hard pill to swallow (again no pun here intended) to see how their lives have changed.
Now the rolls are reversed and it’s the children taking care of the parents. Making sure they’ve eaten, taken their medicine, get from place to place, to be the liaison with the dr, making sure that they understand what the dr is saying and making sure that the advice is followed up on and additional appointments are made.
Now before I proceed much further, let me take this time and tell you about my amazing family. It’s an essential part of this story, so bear with me. Such a shift in ‘ parental power’ if you will, in a family is very taxing. It can be horribly upsetting and I’ve seen it tear down some strong family bonds. Siblings bicker, aunts and uncles form allegiances, aligning themselves with whatever position benefits them most, losing sight on what matters most, taking care of mom and dad, preserving as much of their dignity as possible in their remaining years. When things get shifted and by default or location you’re the one that is taxed with the bulk of the care for the parent(s) while others, if there are any, take a more backseat role (for whatever reason that may be) perhaps, they do not have the ability to be the leader in this role, perhaps they are not logistically close enough….well you get the idea, there are almost an infinite reasons why someone over another takes on the ‘lead’ role in caring for our aging parents. My family, while not without sibling spats and disagreements, is pretty darn amazing. Remember I mentioned about my mother changing countless diapers…well it’s no exaggeration. My parents have 24 children. (I’ll let you digest that a bit) . Yes, you read right. No, I am not lying or exaggerating. The good Lord blessed them with 10 and they adopted 14 more. I am in line at #20. (that makes me one of the adopted ones)
With my parents aging in the forefront of our family dynamics at this point, my siblings have done a beyond amazing job at taking the reins. We’ve discussed a bit how difficult this situation is and if you can take a moment or two and just imagine how hard it is to be the one to take over and care for your aging parents, in the same ways they took care of you. Think about their reality and how it must feel to them to have that ever present knowledge in their face, knowing that there days/months are numbered. Stop for a moment and think about that. For some of you reading this, you already know the feeling. You know what it’s like to be the caregiver, to feed, to bath to try and help them hold on to what pride they have, while doing for them the basic needs that they can no longer do themselves. You’ve seen them through times of fear and doubt, reassured them when they’re afraid, held their hands and comforted them, the way they comforted you when you were scared.
As I sit over 400 miles away, I see this unfold and I am in awe of what a blessing I do indeed have in my family. They haven’t just stepped it up; they’ve gone way beyond that. We’re all kept in the loop via group text messaging; a Facebook page dedicated to mom and dad’s health concerns. They share pictures of them with those who can’t be close to them; detailed doctor updates are sent throughout the day and as needed and phone calls are made. When I was called up to be there recently when things were pretty up in the air with our dad; never, ever was I treated like someone who’s thoughts and voice wasn’t needed or wanted or warranted, since I wasn’t directly involved in their day to day goings on and care. I never felt like a second citizen for any reason. The love and compassion that my mother and father have shown and given in their years reflect brightly in the lives of their children and grandchildren. The selflessness that is shown is beyond measure and I am in awe. I am sure that they might downplay my words and tell me that I’m full of it. I’m ok with that…this is what I see and what my heart knows to be true. (so take that Dominique clan…the lot of you). In situations like this, that test, to the very core, a family’s love and dedication to one another; my family has passed with flying colors. This is a true reflection of our mother and father and their love and commitment to each other, their children (and spouses), grandchildren and each and every member of the Dominique clan, regardless how you came to be part of this crazy family.
I suppose I ran off tangent for a bit….this was supposed to be about my feelings and experience with my parents aging and eventual passing. Instead I ended up telling you about my wonderfully amazing family. I was supposed to be releasing my fear, anger, frustration and some tears….instead throughout typing this, I laughed, I smiled and yes I still released a few tears, but for a different reason. I am blessed. Truly blessed. No matter what I know lies ahead of me, I know that my family is with me, even 400 miles away.