At this very moment, she’s next door deciding how her father will die. Just over the wall, I am begging insurance companies for a better way to help my mother live. Fourteen miles across town, my 89 year old neighbor who, last week, I serendipitously found dying on his living room floor, is flanked by two sons in town to decide which of the two procedures Dad will get and doing high school math on the survival rates of each. None of us are doctors but each of us are involuntary enrollees in med school crash courses, playing God to save the lives and what’s left of them for the ones who gave us ours.
We’re out of paid time off, low on hope and tired. Hospital dining rooms are our kitchens, Googling medical terms are our Friday nights and everyone asks when we’ll be home again.
We’re not alone but that’s the way it feels if we can ever find the time to.
Life is a killer.
None of us are surprised by the fact. But none of us are prepared for it either. Helping our aging parents through their last years, months and moments is a part of being 56 that we hoped would come much later or not at all.
Some adult children in denial drop parents off at nursing homes and retirement communities far away to play bingo and spend their “golden” years apart and alone which are, at best, aluminum foil. But for the others who know that family is everything, they accept the challenge and fight for every last second of time to spend with the people who spent decades preparing us for hard times just like these..
For Lori, Todd, Vance, Shelly and the thousands like us in the world, we know that this is what life is all about. It won’t last forever. And when they are gone, we’ll be next in line. And like our parents who have come and gone before us, we will be comforted that we taught our own children differently. And like us, they will have learned:
God knows, love’s decisions are the most painful.