By Jane Waterman |
How to Transform This Remarkable Challenge Into a Journey of Love »
That Christmas vacation when I first caught sight of my folks, who’d aged unrecognizably since my recent visit, and then saw the dirt and disorder that had taken over their immaculate home, I knew two things. The first was that my parents needed assistance. But almost as clearly, I saw that I, too, would need help and lots of it.
Although I had no idea then how much help I’d need nor where that help would come from, I did sense that something very different was happening and that major changes were ahead. As events unfolded, that prediction proved disarmingly accurate. It was a life-changing moment, and neither I nor my mom and dad would ever be quite the same again.
It seems unimaginable that my parents would conceal their health, home and how they’d been living from me, but it’s not at all uncommon for older parents to do so. Like my parents, Jack and Lillian, your parents may also have feared the unknown consequences of inviting their family in to help them and, instead, resorted to hiding things from you.
Once I saw for myself what was really happening with my folks, I had to play catch-up for not having planned better, as well as deal with my grave concerns for their ill health. When I was able to deal with the shock, slow down, respond rather than react and look more deeply, I discovered that my parents’ needs were vast and pressing. It became apparent I would not only need to make sense of what was happening medically but step in to repair a whole laundry list of non-medical items for them.
I was beginning to understand that I would need to take on a different role ahead with Jack and Lillian, one requiring skills and qualities I generally associated with good parenting. This was new, however — it was parenting that appeared in a radically different context. It was by adult children who had turned around now to care for elderly parents who, so long ago, had cared for them.