Last week I was looking backwards 20 years to when my Big Guy was born. This week I’ve been looking forward 20 years and wondering if I’ll be supporting my parents the way they are supporting my grandparents.
My Grandparents were ill for quite awhile before Christmas with some kind of virus. The week before Christmas, Nana spent a night in the hospital. It was a long night for Papa since they have hardly been apart in over 60 years. Then a few days before Christmas, Papa ended up in the hospital (and he was vocally unhappy about it). Nana was happy to tuck it at my parents’ place, but it meant that my Mom was behind on all the last minute Christmas preparations. I am so thankful I could head down a bit early and take over some of the cooking and cleaning.
We’ve kind of dubbed this past Christmas as “the laugh or cry Christmas”. Both grandparents stayed at my parents’ place, which meant a very full house. Mom posted on Facebook that we were having a “Walton’s Christmas” with 4 generations under one roof. Lots of silly little things made us laugh, but it also opened our eyes to how quickly my grandparents had deteriorated, and how much more help they needed, more than they were willing to admit. I think they drove us all nuts nattering loudly at each other – they can’t hear each other, even with their hearing aids on!
Both of my parents went to church Christmas morning (after the kids’ opened their stockings and a couple of gifts so they’d have something to do). I stayed home to “granny sit”. Papa felt terrible and wanted to sleep but Nana kept waking him up to make sure he was ok. Let’s just say I quickly appreciated why Mom needed the break! By the afternoon, Papa’s health started to deteriorate again, and we spent part of the day trying to decide whether to call an ambulance. Fortunately he perked up!
We left on Boxing Day to visit my in-laws, and the battle for my grandparents’ car was in full swing when we headed out. Since then, they are home again, but my Mom has had to visit several times a day, field distressing phone calls, travel to various appointments, help with meals, and dole out their medication so it’s all kept straight. It’s a daunting task, and one that I know she endeavours to perform with love and patience. After all, as frustrating and stubborn as they can be, they are still her parents.
They have finally agreed to move into a retirement residence, where they will get more support, but can still be independent. It’s a huge step, and one that I hope I will have the grace to make when the time comes. My Mom has told me that when they get to that point, just shoot them! I don’t think it will come to that! But I can see where she’s coming from – I certainly don’t want to be a nuisance or a burden to my kids (assuming they still like me by then)! I have really wished that I could be closer to help my Mom with all this – not just the phone calls and visits, but also in wrapping her head around the fact that her parents are no longer able to do everything themselves.
The big move is this weekend, and I wish I could be there to help. But I know that extra bodies, especially 6 year old ones, would just get in the way. I can’t imagine trying to sort through over 80 years worth of “stuff”…but then, if I were to move tomorrow and I couldn’t take everything with me, I know there’s a lot that I could leave behind with no regrets. Maybe that’s how we should all live… packing lightly and carrying treasures like memories instead. This Christmas wasn’t at all like I had imagined it would be, but I will never forget helping Nana put on make-up Christmas morning, or helping her make coleslaw with the electric food processor – we made quite a mess, and we had a lot of laughs doing it.