Watching your Parents Age from a Distance, (revisited)

Week two of my visit home continues.

I remain ever so proud of both my mom and dad. Both continue to do exercises so that they can make the most of their seventy-four year old bodies. Mom positions herself by the kitchen sink while we practice stretching and standing. Dad is now with his nursing home therapists transferring from his wheelchair to the shower room chair. This is a major goal in his ongoing battle for greater independence. The two of them are as upbeat as one may expect. They are remarkable in their perseverance.

My mom moves slowly but is as sharp and as funny as ever. She talked with me for over ninety minutes, last night. We had more than a few yucks. Currently, she is looking for a loaner guitar so she can start taking lessons at our local senior center. This has the making of hilarious possibilities.

My dad and I needed a good day. Yesterday was a very dark day for both of us. He told me how difficult life is for him at this time. He stated that he is lonelier now than at any time in his life. Dad loves the company of others more than most. When he is alone, he is truly difficult to witness. He is having a tough time sleeping at night.

Thankfully, He was able to move into a larger room by a window that overlooks a forest. Prior to this, he asked the head nurse,” What…do I have to wait for someone to die before I can get into another room?”

Dad eats all of his “hospital food” placed in front of him. He reminds me each day that when you are in a hospital, to clean your plate. He pushes himself to stay strong. He has long ago surpassed all my expectations so now I just sit with him and congratulate him on all of his successes.

I have never known my dad to ever be lonely. Seeing him struggle with life in a nursing home is quite difficult. He seems not intellectually challenged by his conversations with the staff and residents of his home. Dad is still able to complete a New York Times daily crossword puzzle with ink. Contrast that with contemporaries suffering from depression, boredom and dementia of some sort and you have a brutally tough environment to grow.

To put it simply, my dad needs visitors.

Thankfully, he had smiles for me as I left today. He rejoiced when seeing Tom Watson make the cut at the British Open.

Both of my parents continue to live one day at a time. Both continue to teach me lessons that I will keep forever.

Reader, especially expat teachers, if you have parents that are in the later stages of life, I sincerely wish you all the luck in the world. There are no secrets or hints that can help you. You truly are a bit helpless to affect much change.

Time, understanding and companionship are my only gifts that I can give them. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Watching your Parents Age from a Distance

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?

When I was a Fourth Grader…

When I was a fourth grader…

 

The Sox and B’s were everything

Freddy Lynn and Bobby Orr were gods

Fenway was Mecca and the Garden was the Sistine Chapel.

The Globe Sunday Sports Page was my Bible

When I was a fourth grader…           

I loved to bike alone

I thought deeply (still do)

I was told to hate the Soviets, the Yankees, the Canadiens and the Brits

I questioned everything but I still hate the Yankees

When I was a fourth grader…

Fonzie jumped the shark

Smallpox was still around, but not for long

Elvis left the building

Atari 2600 was the gift that all the rich kids got for Christmas

When I was a fourth grader…

 

I was a “lab geek”

I went to school for gifted kids

I thought I was smart

I learned I was not

When I was a fourth grader…

 

Gas was expensive and solar energy was just around the corner

Bugs Bunny and the Three Stooges were always on

I pestered my teacher incessantly

I wanted to be Vinnie Barbarino

When I was a fourth grader…

I was really happy!

What were you like when you were your students’ age?

 

What was important to you?

 

What did you worry about?

 

What really mattered?