This week, I took the boys down country and met my brother with his son. We stayed with grandpa for four days, as we do each school break.
Here’s the thing about visiting parents when they’re aging, there’s always a slight tension that never quite goes away. It’s like the prickle in your finger you can’t stop thinking about.
In between our visits, I worry about my father. He’s on his own now, mum having died nearly two years ago. I love his independence. He’s a potter-er. He has his aches and pains but he soldiers on. He makes his own meals and does his own laundry. I know he can take care of himself. I know he’s happy. I know he has a good life between his church, friends, bowls, volunteer work, clubs, and meetings.
The last few get-togethers dad started complaining of memory loss. The last holiday or two, we have noticed changes. Some little instances of his not recognizing people he should have known, and so on. Since then, the normal mild tension one feels with a parent in their 80’s, became greater concern for his well-being. We’ve been keeping an eye on him. And now, each time we go, I’m hyped with stress, how is he going to be this time? Is he going to be worse? Will the decline be slow or steep?
This visit was a relief for my brother and I because dad was fine. He showed no displays of memory loss beyond the ordinary things you or I would do. He was great. However, he is still different, more turned inward. When we saw a family friend on the last day, she asked my brother and I, how was your trip, and we both replied, “Interesting” in the same breath.
This holiday, dad, who is famous for his telling of jokes, and the offer of “a story,” had been silent. He didn’t tell a single joke in four days. That, in itself, set the tone for the difference. Dad also has his favourite things he likes to say, like how he was blessed with a lovely wife, a happy family and finding the land he lives on, and the story of how he found it. None of these stones were touched upon. And, that was unsettling.
In the evenings, the boys would be playing cards (and dad joined in on many games), Sam would be playing his psp, and I’d be writing. I’d look up at dad and think, why isn’t he talking? He was busy with his Sudoku or he was working on his crossword, or he was reading the paper. If I asked a question, he’d answer and then go back to his crossword. He seemed deeply intensely absorbed in his routines and his things he likes to do.
Then on the last day we were there, I thought, I need to have a talk with dad.
I got up early. The instant I heard a footstep above, I rushed upstairs. I caught him before he could get started on his paper and I started him talking.
I engaged him, told him things about us and asked him questions. We had a conversation.
He said, “I’ve been blessed with…” and I can’t tell you the relief I felt as he told me his familiar saying. He said, “And this place had only been open for development five days when we first saw it. I’ve told you the story, have I?” I said, “Yes, but tell me again!” I was so overjoyed he was back. There you are, dad. Whew!
Dad is simply aging naturally and as well as you can. He’s at the age and stage in life where he’s becoming more introverted. He’s looking inward which is the normal thing to do in the final stage of life. He’s got his routines and his set ways of doing things and he concentrates on them more so now than he did before as is natural. All is well with grandpa.
Yet, still I worry.
The kids love to visit. My son with Downs’ syndrome loves grandpa, and Sam did spend a fair bit of time just staring at his face. Bless him, dad didn’t react but carried on as usual. I treasured him more than ever. I came home happy to report to the rest of the family (and Facebook!) that grandpa is going strong.
Now, how to manage the stress of worrying about him. What do you do?
Talk to you later.
Keep on Creating!
Yvette K. Carol
“If you’re distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” – M. Aurelius
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