My folks live in a city that is about six hours by road (on a good day) and I visit them, say, three times a year. I try to get them to visit me but they are tangled up with their house, dog, garden, a little business they run (that is now getting a bit much for them but none of the kids want to take it over so it’s in a state of slow death) etc.
My father has Rheumatoid Arthritis and is in pain every single moment, every single day. It wasn’t so bad earlier, but for the past few months it’s become acute, mostly, because he’s developed a blood condition that requires some of his pain medication to stop. He’s now never without pain, in multiple parts of his body.
I call him, I feel terrible when I talk to him, but then my mom tells me that they are managing fine, which I know they are not. I go there sometimes when I feel he’s really low. But that can’t happen that often (kids school etc etc) so I mostly call, sometimes in my crazy day, I not even that . I get sucked into domestic chaos and forget about his pain, till I get the time to think about it again (like right now). I want to change their life. I want them to wrap it all up and live in the same city as my sister, my brother and I, so we can look after them ( so it’s easier, I guess, for us to look after them) . They fight that and are not prepared to leave their life ( which I understand but I think it’s a matter of time that they’ll have to, once they grow too old to be alone). It’s hard I know, and we’ll face it someday too, but what is the other option, if none of us can move there?
It’s so hard to watch your parents grow old. I feel helpless. Part of me says – he needs you now, drop everything and go, and sometimes I do. But I know I should be going/calling much more often; am so tied up with home and the kids that I can’t drop it all and go as often as I’d like. It makes me think – how does he feel about it? He’s in pain, he calls me and sometimes I can’t even talk because the kids are wailing and fighting over the phone. I tell him I’ll call later. I wonder if he understands. I know he calls my sister when he really needs to talk, she’s got more patience and has one grown up daughter, so it’s not crazy at home, though she works. We are three siblings, but all of us are so tied up with our daily lives that making a trip to see them becomes difficult, unless the kids have vacations.
I feel that time is running out. They are old, and though very independent, they, ideally, need someone to be there with them. They have help, of course, but that’s not all they need right now. They need one of us and not one of us can be there for too long. It’s sad. I feel guilty, more because they never ask for help, but when I call my mom (now 75) and hear that the driver didn’t show up and she drove my dad to the doc, I feel miserable.
I don’t know what the solution is. His condition is not critical but he’s unwell and has a condition where he will be for a while, so, as my mom says ” how long can you leave your homes and be here?”. Not long I know, so we call, sometimes visit, then leave them waving at the door.