I recently made a decision to travel to Pennsylvania and assist with the care of my aging parents. The local siblings have been providing their care.
My father is nine years out from a devastating stroke and is bedridden, non-verbal, and unable to do for himself. My mom has been the chief caregiver for my dad, which has not been good for her health.
A few months ago, mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's. Gradually, she is losing her ability to balance, walk, and care for herself.
The simplest things for mom are becoming more challenging. She can no longer drive, shop, or sweep the front walk. She needs help shampooing her hair. In addition, she has shrunk, four inches in height and wears a back brace periodically.
Yet she still does dad's tube feeding and assists with his care.
Growing old is not easy, is it?
Well, I am on location in Pennsylvania. For two weeks, I have taken the siblings off the clock, and become the full time caregiver for my parents.
There are lots of memories in this old row house.
Nearly 50 years ago, I choose the wallpaper in the middle room. The middle room meaning, you walk through the middle bedroom to get to the back bedroom. My mom was an expert wallpaper-er.
Pictures of my grandfather's farm and the extended family hang in the living room, pictures which I framed for my parents.
The only bathroom, on the second floor, has a claw foot tub (no shower). Thirty years ago, I had an Amish man build a bathroom closet. Hence, my traditional Christmas gift for mom, dad, and the closet, is a new set of bathroom towels.
Likewise, gifts from the siblings adorn every room of the house, all four flours.
The day after I arrived home, I decided to exercise and take a long brisk walk. Mom said to be careful, as I closed the front door, and walked north toward Lemon Street.
The sidewalks are mostly brick, and huge tree roots push the bricks toward heaven. You have to be careful where you walk.
Anyway, as I took the corner onto Lemon, I remembered my friend Vicky. Vicky lived just off of Lemon Street. We attended elementary school together.
There is one day I can remember with Vicky. It will be 50 years this week. We had been excused early from school, because the president of the United States was shot.
As I thought back in time, that same 50 year old sick feeling, came to me. Our elementary teacher was very upset, because President Kennedy had been shot.
As Vicky and I walked home from school we talked about the future. Would the communists come and get us? Was any place safe?
Vicky invited me inside and we worried more. Within a few minutes, my mom called for me to come home.
As soon as I realized it had been 45 minutes, since I began my walk, I hurried home. My mind wondered about safety, then, and still does.
The look on mom's face was the same, only matured. Mom was worried about me because it was dark outside and the streets “are not safe.”
There was so much similar. Mom was cooking soup on the stove. The washer was running. The warmth and coziness was still there.
I felt protected by my parents and their home.
Think about it. Our nation survived. We moved on, as we do after every tragedy . . . because we are still, one nation under God.
He will protect us.
Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County’s Family Week Foundation. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.jacksoncountyfamilyweek.org.