Ok, so I started this post in a very different way than it’s now turned out. I started in the same old crabby tone about my parents and their unwillingness to change, something that has frustrated me over the years. Visited them this summer – they’re older, more stubborn and ever more determined to be independent.
So when I started writing about them, it dawned upon me that this unwillingness was actually something to be proud of, really. I cannot believe I am saying this, but it’s true. I mean here they are like a pair of wounded soldiers – dad has rheumatoid arthritis, blood pressure, stent in his heart, blind spot in one eye, a deteriorating red-blood cell condition with an unpronounceable medical name, mom has high blood pressure, osteoporosis, a terrible back and spine and my obstinate dad for a husband – but they refuse to make the changes in their lives that I think they should. And you know what, after this trip and many fights, I finally saw their point. Well, I’ve seen the point earlier too but this time I kind of realized that they are special in being determined to carry on despite age and ailments.
I realized on this trip that I’ve always known my parents to be strong, both mentally and physically, but this time it sunk in in a way that it has never before. And I think such a realization can only come when you are a parent yourself.
My trip sort of started this way:
“Do you want me to give up and sit at home and age even faster?” asked my dad at my suggestion that he not drive on the highway anymore. “No”, I bit my tongue “I never said that Pa. Drive in the city if you want, but the highway…” He, of course, didn’t wait for me to finish and launched into this rant about how he knew what he was doing and ended it with his all-time-favourite one-liner: “I am not stupid”. Well, I said, I knew that but sometimes there is a fine line between being independent and being, er, foolish. The fact that I’d used foolish as a synonym for stupid was not lost on him. He then continued to declare to my mum in this self-destructing manner that he was going to give up on life because that is what I thought he should do! AAAGGGHHHHH. I wanted to pull my hair out! My poor mum got in the line of fire and I kicked myself for letting that happen.
Dad sulked for about a day after our fight. Till I apologized, at the prodding of my mum and my own guilty conscience, for what I’d said and offered some sort of an explanation. He didn’t seem too convinced, yet was reluctantly happy that I’d broken the ice (we both have the same egos – I get mine from him!) Anyway, long story short while I was there I realized this one thing: they want to live in the way they want for as long as possible and no matter how silly we kids think that is, that’s the way they want to be and we should respect that.
So my trip ended this way: (which is how it pretty much ends each time, with me feeling like a rat for having lost patience and having fought. This time though there was all that now-you-take-care-and-forget-the-fights kind of parting, there was also the I-know-you’ll-do-as-you-wish-and-that’s-ok thing that I said to my dad)
When I was leaving, I hugged my dad, as he winced in pain, and I cried. Lots (again, kind of normal when I leave home). My older daughter and mom joined in this tearful separation of course. I wished they could’ve come back with me for a few days.. I told Pa to be careful when he drove, to not tire himself unnecessarily to see the doc regularly and follow his advice. I knew he would do none of that, but I said it anyway and he nodded. We both knew he’d go back to doing exactly what he wished, detrimental as it would be to his health. He’s almost eighty and is not going to change now.
I drove away feeling proud of my parents, of their will-power and determination to take on life and live it on their own terms (actually ma lives it more on pa’s terms but then I cannot change that fifty years after they married!)
They sleep in pain and wake up with it. Yet they carry on doing what they must, ma will water the lawn and drive to the market, pa will go to the bank every two days(refuses to get an ATM card – has deep reservations against plastic) and buy vegetables on the way back no matter that he cannot lift the bag. They are almost eighty and don’t want to slow down. I hope they never do.
Kudos to you old folks. Even if I have half the strength of mind and body when I am eighty I would be blessed.