by Cathy Anderson Corn
A breathtaking scene awaited me from Dad's dock on Lake Pierce, near Lake Wales, Florida. To my left, light shimmered on the water and danced with pure joy. Graceful birds--white egrets, a great blue heron on the dock next door--added to the portrait. The breezes teased my hair and sun warmed me as I turned back and barely glimpsed the roof of the ranch house Dad built nearly thirty years ago. His yard rivals any nature preserve, with huge oaks towering above encircling banks of giant philodendrons. The Spanish moss hung slack and gray and spooky from the trees.
A power spot, a special place, and a tribute to Dad and Mom's life there together. But all that was changing. I'd been denying it for several years.
Mom and Dad were getting old.
It hit me like a speeding semi truck, the revelation, a lightning realization. A no-brainer for anyone else other than their daughter and possibly the two sons. They're both 78, but the numbers can be deceiving. Their friends Charley (90) and Vera (86) go bowling and square dancing when they aren't traveling.
This descent into old age began two years ago when Dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. He faithfully took his medications and focused on his illness, telling all who would listen, "I'm failing. I'm not much good any more."
You get what you focus on, yet he's still fairly mobile. He drove my mother crazy as he obsessed about his illness. I swear my mother's problems began so she could go down with the ship. They're rarely apart, like Siamese twins. If he was going to "fail," so was she. Her hip pain began last May and progressed to a total hip replacement this past December 12. Mom will ride along with Dad on the final roller coaster to the next adventure on the other side. At the rehab facility, Mom talked about living in a nursing home, an idea outlandish to her before.
So my trip a few weeks ago gave moral support to Mom and Dad as she transferred from hospital to a rehab facility. We fondly refer to them as D and J (Dale and Janice). Their exploits entertain and frustrate us as we attempt to help them on this last leg of their journey.
Last May I sent a gift card for Dad to buy a mobile phone; his muscles had locked trying to get out of his boat, and he stood frozen there until someone found him several hours later. A phone might have been nice. He announced to me he bought pants and tools with the card (what!). Then, when their new mini-van arrived, it had an Onstar phone. They were so excited about the phone, that I bit my tongue hard enough to leave scars.
So we call it the D & J Show and laugh instead of screaming. Of course there are lots more episodes.
Yes, the D & J Show's still playing, and we hope there'll be many more seasons to come. Dad's stopped talking about Parkinson's as he works at the rehab center every day, usually a 12-hour shift, attending to Mom and overseeing her care. He hasn't had much time to be sick himself.
So the scene from Dad's dock with life abundant says it all. Life goes on. And there's joy even in the trying times.
What are your stories of aging parents and how you cope or coped?