Just how it goes, goes without saying …..
(from: Solitaire written by Neil Sedaka and Phil Cody,1972)
I set out with noble intent, some months back, to write a series entitled 101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents. I wanted to move away from me and my parents and be a resource for the world, based on my reading of the literature.
You may, or may not have noticed, that I never got passed #9. This isn’t because I suddenly lost interest in the subject; because I felt that no one was interested in what I had to say; or because I thought that ‘elderly parents’ had suddenly stopped dying.
I can see every single day that people are searching for information, solace, support, comfort … words of wisdom about how to cope with losing elderly parents and I have felt really bad about my abrupt silence on the whole issue.
I realise that my mistake was in trying to be ‘objective’ about a subject that had, and continues to have, huge significance for me.
I know perfectly well that there are grown-up children TODAY facing dilemmas and issues associated with their elderly parents similiar (but not identical to what I faced), especially during what I consider to have been my parent’s ‘frail years’ ~ 2004-2010.
This very weekend in 2005 my mother was in a comatose state in hospital with pneumonia and was deemed to be on the verge of death. My father was in the very same hospital, just one floor above her, recovering from surgery for a hip replacement after a fall while down town on the Friday.
It was pure and utter hell ~though neither Mother nor Dad knew the full story.
If I was trying to write this in terms of 101 Ways to Cope with Losing Elderly Parents #10 -#14, here’s what I’d be saying with the benefit of hindsight:
1. People don’t always die when they have been deemed to be at death’s door. (Mother came out of that episode pretty well and lived on with a reasonably good quality of life (at home) for almost 4 years;
2. Breaking a hip can spell the end or the beginning of the end for many elderly people BUT there are exceptions. (Dad was walking around totally independently ~ without any aids ~ from the morning after his hip operation. He was 86 at the time! Overall, neither the break to his hip nor the surgery knocked a feather out of him. Being hospitalised, or should I say ‘ being away from home’ was his biggest issue in that it disorientated him greatly)
3. We didn’t tell either of our parents about the situation of the other at that time. We, kids, felt that it wouldn’t do either of them any favours to have to cope with worrying about the other as each had enough on their own respective plates. We never said very much about that ‘hellish’ August Bank Holiday weekend to either of them afterwards either, as it seemed like it had very little purpose to serve. In hindsight, I think this was the right decision, even though there are all sorts of ethical issues around ‘withholding the truth.’
4. Recognise the extent to which elderly parents, who have a strong bond, will both consciously and subconsciously be affected by the health and well being of the other. ( It was uncanny how often my parents both fell ill at the same time and I am as sure as I can be that it was because they were worried about each other, however much we tried to spare them that worry. This is part of what the longevity of a ‘happy’ marriage entails.)
5. Five and four years on since the deaths of my mother and father, respectively, I would say that the memory of August Bank Holiday 2005 is as vivid as ever but so are many, many, many other August Bank Holidays in which they were absolutely central. And, this morning, as I went for an early swim and for a walk with a puppy they never had the pleasure of knowing, I know that Mother and Dad are still a huge part of my life as I carry their hearts in mine.