I had been bracing myself, this was supposed to be one of those mega head trippy weekends. No I was not going to a shady shaman’s Peruvian Ayahuasca ‘R’ Us hut. Although I must admit hallucinations and puke buckets in South America would have been a good way to take my mind off the stressful family issues that have lately made my brain spin and flip like a steroided Russian gymnast doing Arabian double fronts.
You see this past weekend was dedicated to me finally facing the fact that during the past few months my Parents and my Mother-in-Law have both independently had to move because of age and declining health issues. It happens. I get it. (It’s okay to start humming ‘Circle Of Life’.) Humans are not like Velveeta, they don’t last unchanged forever. You can deny it, fight it, run from it or even shroud yourself in the shadows, but like that persistent zombie in those cheesy horror movies busting through the boarded door you were hiding behind, age will eventually find you, attack your body and try to consume your brain. And that sucks.
So after months of mentally running from it (insert the image here of a human brain with legs, sneakers, a sweat band and those 1980s double red ringed long tube socks on) this was the weekend where all this upheaval was supposed to shift in Dan’s head from theoretical to in your face reality. Its true that finally letting myself confront the realities of my loved ones moving from the places so closely identified with them is stressful for me but, duh, I completely understand it is a whole helluva lot worse for those who have had their comfortable routined worlds turned upside down. I might have to deal with it too, but this is all about them. They are the ones that sooner than later will be playing the ‘who will blink first’ game with mortality.
So obviously, we have established they have it worse than me but… well… if I can be blunt… they can write their own damn blogs about it. No one is stopping my Father from penning ‘Dan’s Dad’s Dynamic Diary Describing his Debates on Garage Ramp Dimensions’. This damn blog is about my life. I understand and empathize but this is supposed to be a witty window into my world. So let me spin the spotlight off of them, where it really should be, and shine it squarely where it does not belong… on me.
All of us kids (and I use the term extraordinarily loosely) in both my Wife’s and my family, have stepped up to the plate to help with our parent’s life transitions. To try and make this part of their life as easy as possible. Okay, some stepped more than others… and most much more than me. I’m not sure how much longer I can play my ‘baby of the family’ card? I know all weekend I should have been focusing all my energies on my elder’s difficulties but instead I found myself selfishly seeing the forced changes in their lives as ‘Coming Attractions’ in my own world. My mind became clogged with thoughts of the later years prior to Dan’s deadly demise.
I don’t have kids to point out when I should stop driving or to get me to the doctor or to protect the last of my savings from being stolen by some sleazy scam artist. Or worse who will guide my Wife and I to safety if our wits are failing and disease warps my mental faculties to the point that I’m hanging with Sancho Panza trying to slay windmills. Of course, some have said I’m pretty delusional already, so maybe no one will notice.
I have always been fiercely independent, a trait I now see I learned from my parents. I see them struggle with that issue and I wonder what will become of me when I eventually follow in their footsteps. Fearing the uncertainties of my future, my brain started recalling examples of elderly folks I knew as a kid and wondered which one will I most closely resemble.
My Great Aunt Selma took care of her husband Moe as his memory disappeared. One night when my family was visiting, as we all sat for dinner Selma, as always, dutifully called upon confused Moe in to join us. As he straggled in from the front room where he always napped, he looked at my Mom, his very own niece, and matter-of-factually said “I don’t know who you are, but you gained weight!” Selma dutifully took over the task of breadwinner and Moe remained lovingly cared for as his mental marbles slowly rolled farther away.
One of my High School friends had an elderly grandfather who stayed with them whenever he got into trouble for overindulging in drink at his little beach apartment. Whenever he was at their place he always got up before the rest of the family and watered all the cars in the driveway with a hose… even if the windows were down. No one knew why he did this but every morning at the crack of dawn he uncoiled the hose, even if it was purposely hidden, and sprayed down the family cars like they were thirsty trees in a desert. It did not matter how many times they told him that the family station wagon driver’s side window was broken and stuck ajar an inch, he still watered the car everyday forcing them to leave a stack of towels on the seat. I always wondered if he knew exactly what he was doing and was just passively aggressively seeking revenge for taking him from his apartment and liquor.
In High School while most of my friends worked at McDonald’s or bagged groceries at Winn Dixie, I had a part time job at Overholt’s jewelry store. The store was owned by Frank Overholt Junior and Frank Overholt Senior. To avoid confusion, we called the younger one Junior, even though he was in his upper 60s. The elder Overholt was up in his 90s. Senior still worked every day and although he shuffled around like a soft-shoe dancing turtle, he was quick as a whip mentality. He had been the only one that ever set up that store’s front window display for decades. The work kept him alive and I don’t know if the two were connected but he passed away not long after the store closed a few years later.
I guess it’s easy to say I want to be like Old Man Overholt but I might end up a Moe. I don’t think I get a lot of choice in the matter. What I can control is what happens in my life between now and then. I think the lesson to be learned from this past weekend is instead of worrying about what I can’t control, deal with what I can. Share my love, energy and strength with those whose lives are currently changing and find ways to enjoy my ride through the next few decades. No matter what becomes of me, I hope I can make it a hell of a fun ride.