My father recently told me he was going to take a very long trek with his wife so she could visit her brother in the hospital via public transportation. With my father being 79 years old, I just didn't see that happening. So I offered to drive them - about and hour and a half away. It was a Friday (first Friday I'd had off in a while) - so I sacrificed the day, lol..I had originally planned to go hiking or do a movie, but family first.
When I picked up my dad and his wife and they were preparing to enter my car, the first thing I said was, "This is MY ship. I am the captain. no one tells me how to steer my ship." I had to make the humorous disclaimer because my father's domineering disposition sometimes makes me anxious. My father's more than 30 years of experience as a tractor trailer driver for the U.S. Postal Service has definitely earned him the right to warn me, but he does it constantly...and it drives me crazy. it's like when I'm on KTU and my boss calls me criticizing me while I'm on the air - he makes me a nervous wreck & I gradually become worse on the air and stutter, making all sorts of mistakes I would never have made. Well, my father telling me how fast to go, and his commanding ways..just make me nervous. And a nervous driver makes a very bad driver.
As they walked into the car, my father sat in the back. Hm. That's weird. He never did that before. Initially I was relieved. I figured it was better he be a backseat driver than right up front. But then I had a thought. Why? Why is Papi sitting in the back? When I turned around he had his leg up.
"Papi, it's your knee again, huh?"
"Yeah, Ju-ju...it's killing me."
Wow. I need you to understand who my father is. He is SO opposite of Mr. Brady from the Brady Bunch. He is more like a combination of the father in the 70s sitcoms: Archie from All in the Family and Michael Evans from Good Times. Tough. Tough as steel, hard as nails...a real force to be reckoned with. He's so tough that to this day, as a 42 year old woman, I immediately feel like that six year old girl with him towering over me. I knew his knee's been an issue for a little while. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention how stubborn he can be too...he knows he needs knee replacement and he refuses. I am empathetic to his feelings and am doing my best to respect his wishes - because after all he is 79. So we were off...after we dropped off his wife, we had some alone time, and we went to have brunch. I had a hunch to go to the passenger side as soon as I parked the car. My father began to pull himself up and he struggled. I reached out for him. "No, Judy...I got it. Watch your father. See? This is what I do." He then used the side of the car to support his weight & push himself up. My first thought was 'wow, he's very smart'...but then I became a little concerned. What if one day he goes to pull himself up against the car & hurts his shoulder? Or worse, what if he can't, and he falls. The idea of my father hurting himself is a thought I have not had before. And my heart aches at the thought of it.
I had been fantasizing about having a real deep conversation with my father. I feel like I'm running out of time, and I would really love to be much closer to him. I had a fantasy in my head about how the conversation wuold flow. Life is never how you fantasize it - sometimes better than you could imagine; sometimes worse. I felt we were making great progress, when all of a sudden he told me that he bets when he dies, I'll go sing somewhere and do a show. WHAAAATT?!! How could my own father even think that - I have been kind, respectful and loving to him and nothing less. Ugh. I hate when he does that. I assured him that family cmoes first - that if God forbid, that happened, of course I would cancel everything & be there. Wow. Done. End of conversation for me, lol.
On our way back to take them home, I looked over and saw my father sleeping. It may sound strange, but I have NEVER seen my father sleep. I saw him there - he seemed so gentle - kind of like a lion when it sleeps, lol. And for the first time, I genuinely worried about what will happen to my father. I sincerely saw him as vulnerable - so strange - so surreal to feel that way. I love my father. So much more than he could ever imagine.
One week later...
I worked at KTU until 8pm on Mother's Day, and drove straight to mom's house to see her. I promised I'd take her shopping the next day. That Monday morning, my mom said, "Judy...excuse me, ok? But I'm going to cry now. Just let me cry." Talk about having your heart break. I am the first person to comfort anyone when they cry, but she almost said it as if she didn't want to be bothered. I let her cry for about 10 seconds or so...but I HAD to put my arms around her. She began to express her frustration about everything in her life...I know that feeling, and I'm sure we all do. It's those times in our lives that we feel like life is eating us up and not the other way around.
I let her cry. Sometimes you need a good cry - it releases toxins, stress & sometimes it just cleans the slate of your mind. When she was finally ready to talk, she expressed how hard it has been to be in pain all the time. Her hip still bothers her. My father's knee - my mom's hip. Ouch. I remember when I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis - the pain in my head and eye that lasted for 6 weeks was unbearable. I became depressed and I was totally understanding why sometimes people ask to be euthanized...so I don't judge people in pain. The more she talked about it, the more surprised I became. Either I have been blind, or she has hid her pain well. She was upset about so many things...some I knew, others I didn't...I guess you could say according to what I observed, I'd say she was in crisis mode. But in our lives there are no victims allowed.
"Mom, why haven't you said anything?"
"What's the use? I'm always in pain - can't sleep, can't stand, can't do what I want to do & it's so frustrating."
Finally after a few minutes, I convinced her to call her doctor to find out her optons for pain management. It is very hard for me to see my mom change recently. I know she's older, but my mom has always been a go-getter and I just feel like she's in the prime of her life. She should be doing things for her happiness. She raised 5 of us all on her own, and I just want to see her get the joy & fulfillment I know she deserves. I gave her as many sources for help as I could think of, but ultimately, she needs to decide that she's worth it. She needs to love herself enough to pick up the phone & be proactive. She needs to love herself much more...and I tell her that all the time. I just don't know if I've reached her. She's been a GREAT mom, and she has planted seeds of positivity that flow from my spirit every day. And I just want to see her live the life she taught me.
So, I am sure these things are normal. I'm sure it's normal to question life - I'm sure it's normal that our parents get older. I'm sure it's all natural the flow and ebb of life. Birth. Life. Death. I'm at an age now where I have many friends who've lost their parents. I know it will be my turn to be a part of that club one day, but I'm not ready. I don't know if one is EVER ready. But I can feel the fear brewing from the pit of my stomach. And I am faced with wondering the following: How will they pass, when will they pass, will I be able to be there for them. My heart literally feels pain and my eyes fill with water when I begin to even fathom these things...I guess I am beginning to feel the reality of their mortality. Yes, I am holding every moment with them as precious jewels now.