On Parenting Parents

Sorry it’s been awhile. Lots going on.

Highly technical diagram

Through some weird twist in the time-space continuum (see highly technical diagram) my sibs and I have become our parents’ parents.

Clearly, this is the result of all that we put them through as kids – well, not me of course, but my brothers and sisters (random speculation on their part).

Me? I suspect it’s another one of those lousy curses my mother put on us. While my 15 year-old ears heard her say, “Just wait until you have kids,” she may as well have said, “Just wait until I’m your kid.”

Let me explain…

About a month ago, whilst I was in the middle of polishing off a bit of snappy dialog between the hero and heroine in my latest book, the phone rang. A frail, but cheery voice on the other end started, “It’s your pesky mother. I hate to bother you, but…”

handsThe “but” gets me every time. Well, if not me, whoever’s number is next on my parents’ speed dial.

I don’t mean to sound callous. These calls started years ago. First, mom couldn’t reach something on the top shelf or dad needed a hand lifting something that he used to be able to heft over his shoulder effortlessly in the past.

It was around then that my sibs and I suggested that they move out of their multi-level townhouse into something a little more manageable. Dad was on board; mom balked. A child of the Depression, she was (and is) loathe to part with her things (and has developed a bizarre penchant for hoarding canned goods, bread, milk and eggs).

So the years passed and the calls (and her canned good supply) increased.

And two of my sibs moved out-of-state.

Somewhere along the way, the errand running morphed from occasional grocery store runs to doing all of their shopping and taking over their finances when errors in their checkbook, and late or missed payments, became the norm.

screen640x640More disconcerting, though, is the speed at which our roles have reversed.

At first it was hard playing parent to my folks. My sibs and I would go into heavy deliberations on our strategies before even approaching them with delicate topics. Even then, we were on eggshells.

First, there was the whole bit about getting our dad to agree to relinquish his license – especially after he drove his caddie up onto a crowded curb (no one was hurt, that goodness). Since then, there have been several attempts to get them to downsize, interspersed with several trips to the ER each time dad took another tumble.

Things came to a head about a month ago when my mom called again, this time to tell me, “Dad’s having trouble coming down the stairs.”

I just so happened to be working from home that day. What they would’ve done if I was in the office, I don’t know. I went flying over to their place and called an ambulance. He was admitted to the hospital. My out-of-town sister came home. We  worked with the discharge coordinator to have him moved to an assisted living facility directly after being released from the hospital because a) my mother cannot take care of him and b) he can no longer get around on his own.

Everything was a go. Dad was on board.

doc_brown-full-1Then Mom intervened. Put a kibosh on the whole plan.

Dad went home. A nurse visited for a few times until my parents canceled (“We don’t like strangers in the house,” they said).

I know what you’re thinking. Why not have your folks move in with you?

The answer is simple. Neither my sister or I live in a one-story house.

Which brings us to the most recent call.

I had just started a load of laundry when the phone rang. “Hi dear. Sorry to bother you, but your father needs help getting down the stairs again.”

I love my parents. I do. But I’m this close to staging an “everything-must-go-Flux-Schematicincluding-anything-that-breathes-or-talks” estate sale.

Anybody know where I can get my hands on a flux-capacitor? How about a DeLorean…? Anybody…?

5 thoughts on “On Parenting Parents

  1. Seemingly calloused sounding I know, but, be thankful you have had your parents this long and are able to help them. Some of us would do anything to have our parents another day.


  2. Sigh….my Mom died almost two years ago. The last six month of her life, we moved everything from her second floor bedroom (in the Victorian one-family/two story house I grew up in, two blocks from Lake View as a matter of fact)to the first floor family room. M & D slept on the pullout sofa…Mom wanted to die in the home she raised her family in. With Home Hospice, she was able to get her wish BUT we moved heaven and earth to make that happen.

    I am the oldest of six and your story about conferences with your sibs sounds familiar. My youngest brother and I made Mom’s wish come through…he lives in an apartment building they own (and he manages) down the street from the family hacienda and I live in the south suburbs. We were the ones to put the plans into action….I did the research and he made it happen. We don’t resent each other because we each have our own skills and used them to help Mom and Dad. My other sibs? Not so much but everyone had their opinions on what we should/should not have done. Baby Bro and I got to the point where we told them to *put up or shut up*….most didn’t take that so well!

    Things will work out…there will come a time when your Mom and Dad come to grips with their limitations. Soon, I hope, for your sake. I get ya, I really, really, REALLY do!


    1. Thanks for writing, Marie. I’m sorry to hear about your Mom. Glad you were able to work with your brother and make her wish come true!


  3. Yup, I’m right there with you. My only saving grace is a sister with a bachelors in nursing. I take care of the finances, and she takes care of the medical stuff. It’s working. For now. Any chance your siblings will move back and help out?


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