Ten years ago, my grandmother died. She was 98. Gran had been to the ballet on the Saturday night and died peacefully in her sleep on the Tuesday afternoon.She was my last grandparent. At her funeral I realised that my parents were now the senior generation. The buffer between them and death was gone.
Ten years ago, my dad was 72 and my mum was 68. They were fit (despite my dad’s two double by-pass surgeries), active, busy and showing no signs of slowing. But time moves on. They have aged, slowed down, reduced their activities and travel and taken on fewer commitments. There are some tasks, like gardening, hosting the family Christmas and, quite soon, driving, which are becoming too burdensome. It’s been gradual, just the natural progression of life. You adjust, adapt, almost seamlessly.
Although there are moments when I catch my breath at how old my parents have become. A few months ago I was running late to meet my parents and uncle for dinner. I walked into the restaurant and looked past the three elderly people sitting at a corner table, too old to be my family. But the frail, slightly hunched figure was my father and next to him my mother and uncle.
Yesterday my family’s dynamic shifted.
An older relative disclosed, in a quiet and dignified manner, that they are seriously ill. It was a jolt. I understood instantly that my life had entered a new phase. The senior generation of my family is moving from being care-givers, to people in need of care. New responsibilities will fall to my siblings and I as my parents and older relatives need more and more help. And it won’t always be easy as they try to assert their will against their aging and sick bodies. As they struggle to accept a quality of life which is becoming diminished.The sadness of watching people I love fading.
I still can’t imagine my parents not being there to hug, to laugh with, to cry with, to remember my childhood with. I can’t imagine my children not having their grandparents to fuss over them and love them the way only grandparents can. I can’t imagine not having the broad shoulders of their comfort, support and love.
I can’t imagine a life without my parents.