The kids and I have just returned from a trip that was supposed to be a long weekend in northern Michigan but instead morphed into several days thanks to (1.) confusion over the kind of coolant to add to my car and, honestly, confusion over whether or not my car even REQUIRED coolant (it did not, as it turned out, $200 later) and (2.) unpredictable winter weather. We had a wonderful time – my mom and I took the kids ice skating for the first time, which was treacherous but ultimately rewarding, and our whole family went sledding.  We visited partly to break up the monotony of an extended business trip Sam is currently taking, and we returned to Toledo grateful to be in our own home while a little saddened by the lack of snow. Winter has very little point, in my book, if there isn’t any snow.

While we were there, one of my parents’ friends passed away. She had been exceedingly ill and it wasn’t unexpected, but it was sad nonetheless. My father particularly doesn’t handle this kind of news well since so often the people passing away are his age or, often, younger.

“It seems like we are losing people right and left,” he said, his head in his hands. I don’t really know how to act in these circumstances because he is correct – he is losing friends right and left. I generally don’t say much and give him room to just be, eventually joining him to watch Jeopardy or a college basketball game. At seventy-three, my dad is as passionate about the things he loves as he ever was – great novels, hunting, gardening, fishing – but he is slowing down at a remarkable rate, almost to the point of concern. I spoke with my mom a little bit about it and she agreed he sleeps more and moves less than he used to, and sometimes she is worried, but I am actually equally aware of the changes in her. She tells the same stories over and over again and seems exceedingly quick to anger. Ten, or even five years ago, I would have pushed both of them about these changes -pointing out to my dad that Bernie Sanders is older than he is and look, he’s running for President! Or I would have gently guided my mom toward a neurological exam. What I’ve learned over the years, though, is that they need me to remain their daughter much more than they need me to be their doctor, and until I notice something really troubling – so dramatically out of character that I need to talk about it with my brother – I am going to let them be.

Our relocation to Toledo means I now only live half a day’s distance from them, and this has been a huge gift. I can be present in a way I haven’t been for over a decade.

On the whole, I’m feeling increasingly positive about things. My eyes have completely healed from their freak allergic reaction to my contact lenses, and while I will never be able to wear contacts for 12 + hours a day like I was so stupidly doing, by summer I should be able to wear them for outdoor activities, wrestling with Duncan and driving. I will never take my sight for granted again. I have organized my resume, updated my linked in account, and have embarked on an exciting writing project with my brother – more on that coming very soon! I *think* I’ve also found a way to tackle a book I’ve been hoping to write, and my goal this month is to submit one of my poems to a literary journal.

The move from Pittsburgh rocked me to my core, no doubt. Having two such small children made it worse, I think – their needs had to continuously come before my own. But here we are, nearly at the end of the first month of a new year, and a sense of normalcy is emerging. I can’t say it hurts that Duncan is days away from  turning two years old. The other morning he walked up to me with some request or another and I looked at him and said “You can get that yourself. Once my babies turn two, I get to start reading the paper again.” He looked up at me with those big brown eyes of his, flashed his dimples in the way that slays me every time, and went and had his sister do his bidding instead.

And so it goes.


3 thoughts on “Returned

  1. Ummmm…. If I were you, I’d give a touch more thought to intervention with your folks. One of the things I had to learn with my mother is that, eventually, I had to stop being her daughter. The role reversal with aging parents is complicated and sometimes difficult. But things got much better when I began saying to myself, “I’m the adult in this room.”

    Of course, Mom didn’t move down here until she was about 80. For five years prior to that whe was with her sister in Kansas City. Still, we had thirteen years for her to learn how to accept my help gratefully, and for me to learn that sometimes, I just needed to take charge.

    And there’s this: sometimes, we assume changes are a result of the aging process, and are irreversible. (I know I don’t have to tell you this. You know it. Still…) There were many people who thought my mother was developing Alzheimer’s, until a savvy cardiologist said, “Phooey. Let’s give her a pacemaker.” It made all the difference in the world. She got that at age 85, and regained her energy and mental clarity.

    And then there’s this. I’m 70. I think I’d best begin taking even better care of myself!

  2. Thanks for the update. Sounds like things are coming together and those writing plans sound exciting. I love it that babies turning two = more freedom for the parent. Our little one has me wrapped around her little finger. And I can relate re the contact lenses. I only wear mine for outdoor activities now and only for a few hours at a time. And on the mention of Sanders, are you in the Bernie camp? I hope he does well.

  3. Shoreacres – thanks for your insight! I am going to pay careful attention to my parents – I know you are right. They have let me “take charge” so to speak on certain occasions and it has worked out fine – I am their healthcare advocate. It’s difficult with things like dementia because the signs can be so gradual at first.
    Pete – Hi! I know just what you mean about the little one and being totally wrapped around her finger – I’m the same way with my son. Two is delicious! I am not in the Sanders camp – I don’t think the plans he has are economically feasible with an already divisive government – despite her flaws I really do think Clinton is the best candidate. I’m with her 🙂

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