Over the last several months, I have talked with friends about my father and about my worries and concerns. If there is one constant across my demographic, it is a preoccupation with our parents’ wellbeing. I have found it really helpful to share stories and to gain the insight of others. Two friends have pointed out the obvious to me, which somehow I had missed in all of my worries. One friend, who has never met my father, observed that the longer my dad is able to manage (and perhaps even thrive) in his present situation, the less he will want to disturb it. Another friend, who knows my family quite well, observed that for the last 25 years my parents have been trying to distance themselves from their five children – first by relocating to the UK for four years, then by moving to the US for almost ten years, and then by moving to the Maritimes as octogenarians. To her, it was totally understandable that my father would want to continue to stay away.
In my busy and somewhat ordered world, I like to decide things. I like to have a plan. My own family works this way – we like to get up in the morning and make a plan for the day – it doesn’t have to be complicated, just a few broad themes are sufficient. I foolishly believed that this approach could work with my father. But I have learned that planning and decisions will elude us. This may be common for all elderly people. My father doesn’t want to decide anything because the status quo is tolerable. He has said he would be happy to die in his house, and by not making any decisions he might get his wish. If he stays there, he will manage until he cannot manage anymore, and then his circumstances will make his decisions for him. Perhaps this is best.
When my mother was sick, she was stoic but I would not say that she was gracious. She was angry, and at the time I really did not understand why. Anger was not part of my mother’s personality. I believed that she would approach her terminal illness with the accepting and laid-back attitude that she displayed with everything else. But after these last months with my father, I may now understand the source of her anger. Although she was easygoing, I know she liked a plan too – and her plan was that my father would die first, giving her the freedom to do what she had wanted to do for some years, which was move into a seniors’ place. She looked forward to a time where she wouldn’t have to cook any more meals and she could enjoy the company of others at the dinner table. I think she wanted to be relieved of the burden of my father, even for just a little while. She did not get her wish, and she also knew that her children were going to inherit that burden.