Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Living with Death

My parents

When I moved in with my parents three years ago, I worried about my ability to continue to live independently, and I hoped I'd be able to manage my mom's propensity to hoard, which seems to have bloomed in old age.

What I never considered was my parents' struggle to care for their aging bodies, and how that struggle would affect me.

Despite the energy my own children bring to the house, I often feel surrounded by death. Each morning my mom scours the obituaries to see who has died. She frequents funeral masses. She talks about the sick.  She worries about friends struggling because they spent their fortunes caring for deceased spouses.

Each month the mail comes full of prescriptions for my dad, who now walks through life in a haze induced by Alzheimer's. He shuffles around the house aimlessly. His blank face registers little.  Communicating with him is a game of charades, guessing at the meaning trapped deep in his frail hands, which he waves madly in the air.

And so I've come to think about my own mortality, and how my life on this earth will end. In my darker moments, I regard my siblings with a tinge of jealousy, because they live in their own homes, and they lead their lives without the fog of death blanketed over them.

But then I begin to think about why I've landed in this house. This crazy corner that my life has turned, from one of wealth and independence to one of austerity and interdependence is hard to understand. As much as I hate it, though, I believe it's provided me with opportunity.  The opportunity is small but significant: to offer my parents support, a soft and safe place to call home.  I have no money to give, but I do have myself.  Bills, computer glitches, doctor's appointments, insurance issues, investing, technology, meal preparation are all mundane tasks that quickly become overwhelming when life begins to wind down.  My husband and I are slowly taking them on.  

Emotional support.  It may sound cliché, but life is hardly worth living without it.

2 comments:

  1. I love how open and honest you are in your posts, Christine. My father moved into assisted living recently, so I understand what it's like to have elderly parents, but I bet it would be different living with them day to day. I bet your children bring so much life to the house, though. What a perfect balance to your parents' aging. I bet it's good for both your parents and children, even though I know it's difficult for you.

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  2. Meghan, Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We all struggle with so many issues throughout our lives. It's nice to know we can share those experiences, making us all feel less alone.

    I appreciate your comments. It's great to have an interested reader out there. :-)

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