My parents. My parents. My aging, restless, unpredictable parents…
They’re at it again. Upsetting the normal order of things. Bucking normalcy. Stealth loose cannons, doing things their way, even in their mid-80s. Even after 65 years of marriage.
My eyes are tearing as I write these words. If not your parents, they sound like a romantic pair. Walk in my shoes, though, and caring about these two feels like parenting a pair of itchy teenagers with too much imagination, zero common sense, and just enough money in their pocket..
During our weekly call this morning, my mother brightly exuded that they’re “moving.”
Me: “To where?”
Mom: “I don’t know.”
Me: “What? (pause) Well. when?”
Mom: “By the end of March. Maybe earlier.”
Me: “Is it money? Just tell me. We can help.”
Mom: “No. We don’t want any money. We took money out yesterday, and bought a new car. Bright blue. Dad says it’s a Suzuki. Has four seats.”
Me: “Uh, OK…”
Mom: “We’re going to travel. We can’t do this anymore. We want to wander. We want to see the ocean again.”
Mom: “No one can tell us what to do. We’re like that. You know that… ”
Me: “Oh Mother… ”
Mom: “Debi, if we die on the road, well there you go… That’s it. We can’t stay in this little place.”
Me: Sighs… I recognize the tone in her voice, that unstoppable train wreck of certitude and stubborness. I feel familiar defeat.
Mom: (pause) “If we come by, can we stay with you a little while?”
Me: “YES! Yes, yes yes. Please stay. We have an extra room, Andrea’s room. YES!”
Mom: “Oh no. We never want to live just one place again. Never. Not ever.”
They live in Colorado, just north of Denver. Mother hasn’t driven in decades, and hasn’t seen a doctor since the last time she drove herself to an appointment. She has osteoporosis, crippling arthritis, and progressive memory loss. She barely moves with a walker. Father walks with a cane, has fallen several times, and has grown mildly confused in recent years. They have a special horror, though, of assisted living. (An unfounded horror in my view…)
They desire to travel north to see forested mountains in Montana and Idaho, then west to the coast. “We want to drive the Coast Highway again,” which presumably means Highway 1, one of the nation’s most treacherous roads.
Their lifelong best friends, Alice and Bill, died in 2006 in a car accident, hit by a drunk driver, on Bill’s 80th birthday while family waited for them in a restaurant. They never took a last trip. Never bid farewell to their favorite places and people. Never again enjoyed their beloved annual family vacation on California’s central coast, on Highway 1. I get it.
Ron and I have offered to:
- Fly to Colorado and drive them back here to our Southern California home
- Fly there to help them sort this all out
- Take them into our home permanently Even offered to move to a bigger place.
- Settle them in Reno, where Ron has family. Where we spend lots of time. Where they honeymooned in 1948.
No dice. Today, they sound like two teenagers goofy at the glorious prospect of freedom and the open road.
I’m afraid for them. This won’t end well. Ron thinks this might blow over. It won’t. Trust me, it won’t. I hear her defiant tone. His boundless joy.
Told them I love them. That we’ll be there if they run into problems or run out of funds. Mother repeatedly warned me… begged me… not to worry about them. They’re fine. They’re happy. They have to do this, she said. We can’t keep sitting here.
I’m horrified, and feel so sad and helpless, much like I often did as their ultra-responsible oldest child. In real life, this isn’t romantic. It’s foolish, and it’s heartbreaking for family. Nobody wants Thelma and Louise for parents…SHARE