‘How will I cope when my elderly parents die?’ This question or some variant of it is one of the commonest that brings people to the front door of my blog and I know that it was a question that was never far from my mind when my own parents became frail. I always wonder about the people and situations that are behind these internet searches and very often sense real apprehension, anxiety, fear, worry, desperation and angst from the way the questions are posed.
I have shied away from trying to respond as I am more than aware that each grown-up child has a unique relationship with his/her mother and father and it is impossible to predict with any certainty how individuals will cope, even if one knows the whole background and context.
I have found myself thinking a lot about this whole question over the last few days during which I have been faciliating my son to play in a tennis tournament, in other words driving him there, feeding him healthily, offering words of encouragement and consolation and generally waiting in the wings while he does his thing.
Yes, you’ve guessed! This is precisely what my parents did when I was playing competitive tennis back in the day. Yesterday, while I was visiting the stunning, historic Kells Priory which is near Kilkenny where this week’s tournament is on, the extent to which parents live on through their children hit me like a screaming backhand down the line.
I thought back to all the days when I was immersed in tournaments and hadn’t a clue where Mother and Father were for the hours I was locked in battle on the court. They would re-appear to pick me up and I would be full of talk about the tennis ~ never even asked where they had spent the day and if they told me I certainly didn’t take it in.
This isn’t a matter of ‘ Oh, I’m getting more and more like my parents everyday.’ Rather, it’s realising that my fears that their deaths would leave me in a sad, lonely parentless place were just that – fears – and not in keeping with the reality that has unfolded. That reality can best be defined by a sense of ongoing and energising connectedness and presence that shows up in the most unexpected places and moments.