Having completed my 21-hour flight from Hong Kong to Boston via Tokyo and Chicago, I am on finally on summer vacation at my mom’s house. I am preparing for a bike ride to my Dad’s nursing home facility. In an effort to stay clear-headed, I have decided to write a few thoughts about the challenges expats face regarding elderly care.
One of the positive aspects of living overseas is that when I do finally get to spend time with my parents, I truly am in the moment. I do not have any other cares besides caring for them both. I spend my nights with my mom and the days with my dad. I have forced myself to slow down.
These last two days by my dad’s side have been quite positive. I have been able to see tangible growth in my dad’s physical condition. He is more positive, accepting and realistic about his life. That not to say that he does not still intend to walk unassisted, however. He continues to work his muscles to the point of exhaustion. It is an astounding joy to watch him stand tall while he walks the 50 feet or so across the rehabilitation room floor.
Both he and I are relaxed together for the first time in a very long while. Gone are the days of a power struggle that is so common between father and middle-aged son. Neither of us is trying too hard. Sitting in a courtyard at a nursing home for long stretches forces one to accept things as they are. No longer is he struggling just to survive the day. No longer am I acting like a drill sergeant or cheerleader in getting him to move his limbs. Rather, we both are acknowledging the pleasure of reaching tiny goals.
We watch the birds, we finish the daily crossword puzzle, and we listen to each other. Dad is getting back to reading about the game of bridge (he was once nationally rated) and he is quite pleased that he still is mentally sharp. I am listening to wonderful stories from his life and getting a chance to read in the most comfortable of surroundings. It is wonderful living “off the grid.”
We are all hanging in there. I am still learning each day from my first and finest teachers.
Fellow Expats, What are your thoughts about watching your parents age?