Many of us have parents in their golden years, men and women who lived through World War II and the Korean conflict.  Their goals in life were to work hard and raise children.  They wanted us to have a better and easier life than they had.  For the most part they succeeded.   My generation (40 to 50 year olds) is better educated, has better medical care, experienced less war and upheld a better standards of living than our parents could have dreamed of.

Now they are older, and we as caring children want to do our part to help them.  It is not easy.  Most of our parents are still very independent, even when knocked down a bit with disease, injury or just plain degradation of capabilities due to aging such as sight, hearing and mobility.  We can offer and are usually rejected.  It is their responsibility to help us not the other way around.  That is how it has always been, and that is the way it always will be.  But we all know that it cannot be forever.

As a personal example, my mother is a two time cancer survivor; breast and uterine.  She also suffers for Parkinson’s disease and has a calcium deposit on her brain from a childhood injury.  My father has broken his back twice and has had a medication induced stroke.  They live in a large house with my brother and sister about 45 minutes to an hour away.  I live in another state.  My dad does his best caring for my mom, but he has his limitations.

I have suggested on several occasions, that they could move close to me and I could take care of them.  My kids are slowly heading off to college and their own lives, so my wife and I have the capability to help. This was a cruel suggestion.  It was not meant to be, it was made with all of the best intensions.  I was suggesting that they could not make it on their own, and I was suggesting that they uproot from everything they know.  I could claim that they did that to me as a child, we moved several times for my father’s work, but half of my life was only 4 years, half of theirs is 40 years.

I justified to myself that moving them close to me was not selfish.  My state has better health care, less crime, less traffic and a better social network for older people.  Besides all of that, my dad moved his mother near to him, but that was when she was alone when his father died (he is an only child). It still did not matter.  They have their own lives.  Just as I do not want them telling me what to do, now that I am an adult, they want the same treatment from me.

I am relieved that my brother and sister are near enough to help.  I want to do more, and visit them when ever I can.  I like to think that my suggestions will help, now that I am learning how to think of their desires as well as their needs before thinking that I can come up with the best solution.

Although my parents will never move to be close to me, they are moving into a smaller, handicap friendly house.  This should make it easier on my dad, and make my mom more comfortable.  I can joke that it is actually 2 miles closer to me.  The lesson in all of this is communication and love.  Talk to your parents, find out what they want from you rather than putting your desires or judgments on their laps.  Know that they will not accept your offers, but also know that they love you as much as you love them.

It is hard to look at your parents and realize that they may not get to see your grand children.  I have thought about this on several occasions.  I was lucky enough to have a great grand mother alive until I was a teenager.  I did not realize the treasure that I had until long after she was gone.  Many of my friends never got to see their grand parents, much less great grand parents.

It is also hard to look at yourself and see that you are growing old as well.  You can look at where your parents were at your age, and consider all of the gifts they have provided.  Consider also how you are going to react when you own children start looking for a home for you.  I hope that my generation can emulate the strength and independence that our parents still have.  Until that day, I will continue to work hard to care and provide for my own children, and watch for opportunities to reach out to my parents.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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