This is a Really Real Aging Parents Post.
My dad isn’t the same anymore.
He was . . .
the youngest 50 year old I’d ever met.
the youngest 60 year old I’d ever met.
the youngest . . .
Not any more. He’s old now. At 75, the years of taking his body for granted have finally caught up with him.
He walks with a limp, wobbling, almost drunk like. His head tilts slightly to one side. Nothing like the solid strong man I idolized when I was younger.
He grabs my bag from the car, insisting on carrying it into the house. The weight of it pulls him off his feet leaving him on the the ground. He crawls to the closest thing he can use to lift himself back to standing. I protest as he takes the handle of the suitcase again.
He’s still stubborn as ever.
But age has caught up with his mind as well.
The line between reality and confusion has begun to blur. A hazy barrier that is no longer clearly defined. I wonder if he knows how often he’s weaving back and forth across that line. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which side of the line he’s on, even from the outside.
This visit has many goals.
First and foremost, I want to see my dad. We’ve spent too many years barely talking. An invisible moat between us, neither of us quite sure how to bridge the gap. None of that matters anymore. I’ve realized that time is running out. Time is running.
Second, I want to see what his life is like. What does he do all day? What is he eating? Is he still able to take care of the dogs? The house? Himself? I feel like I’m a world away.
Third, we need to figure out what’s next. What’s now? What does he want to do? Want us to do? How? How do my sister and I take care of him from states away? He still has and deserves an opinion and I need to hear it so we can do things his way.
He sleeps a lot during the day. Falling asleep sitting up at his desk and the kitchen table. Leaning sideways in seemingly impossible positions. He barely sleeps at night.
The house is so quiet.
Days without other human contact would be unbearable for me, but it is his reality. At least he has his dogs, dogs he sometimes has a hard time controlling. Conversations with them are one sided. He says he’s okay with his life, okay with getting older.
“I’ll live till I die.”
As I load up the car to leave he says to me “I’m fine, I’m a big boy. Stop worrying so much.”
But I will worry.
And I’ll also wonder.
When does living stop being better than the alternative?