Each of my parents lost a parent when they were young. My father was 15 when his father died after a short illness. My mother had just turned 22 when she lost her own mother to breast cancer.
My father – 11th of 13 children – lost his oldest brother as a result of a post-surgical infection just six months after his father died. It was a huge blow to his family and this likely sped up the necessity for him to leave school to help with the family farm. He was close to finishing the 8th grade.
My mother was still living at home when her mother died after a long illness with breast cancer and she became the keeper of the home. She also took up the mothering for her younger brothers; her youngest was only 9 years old. A natural caretaker, she had likely already slipped into the role long before the death of her mother.
Each of my parents’ remaining parent lived into their mid-90s, but my parents had long before moved away. They left northern Maine during the early 1960s –moving 500 miles south of their extended family. There were phone calls and letters, and annual trips to Maine and New Brunswick– but the stuff of day to day living was no longer shared.
Unlike my parents’ experience, I have been blessed to have them nearby for the majority of the past couple of decades. We’d also moved away from extended family just after my husband and I turned 30, but less than 5 years after we moved, they would retire to the small cottage on the former-farm property we then lived on. For approximately the next 10 years, they were nearby – watching the kids on occasion, dad mowing the 5 acres of lawn (thank you!), and mom sometimes folding our laundry when she was bored.
In 2005, things changed once again and my parents – who’d annually wintered in Florida –were now there year round. Eventually occasional health issues – both mental and physical – made it challenging for my sister and I to offer help. It was time to move back to Virginia to be closer once again.
Watching them experience the changes brought through aging and health issues gives me a preview of things to come – should I be blessed with long life. They taught me when I was young, and they continue to teach me through their lives. They offer me an opportunity to serve. They fear that they are a bother. They frequently express appreciation for my “help” –although their needs are (so far) small. They are aging, less energetic, need a bit of help here and there, but are still fairly healthy. It is a blessing to have my mom here as a survivor X 2 of breast cancer.
The roles of parent and child are not as they were many years ago. Their needs may grow. I nag them about things, scolding on occasion. I may even boss them around a bit. But he still prays for his family daily. They are proud of their daughters and express this. They are proud of their grand-children and so pleased at how “well they are doing”. They think that their first great-grandson is quite sweet.
I wonder how long they will be here but am grateful I do not know the future. I cannot yet envision a life without either of them nearby. So we will celebrate these September birthdays once again.
Perhaps it took getting to my mid-fifties to realize how blessed I am. 🙂 With age, comes appreciation.