Watching your parents grow old is such a blessing and privilege. We laugh and tease each other. They boast about knowing more about what I was up to as a teenager than they let on, and I counter with stories they never knew happened. We agree to meet halfway.
It’s also sad. A reminder that no matter medical advantages, the vessel that carries your brain, heart and other organs, will eventual break down. As John Mellencamp states in one of his songs, “Time holds the winning hand.”
I weekend trip home to visit my parents in Indiana had a little bit of all those emotions. I made the rounds, spending time with my younger brother and two older sisters. I had a recent front page profile on my parents in the Kankakee Daily Journal, framed, and wanted the four kids to sign it. We are all at that age that it’s tough to buy things for each other and rather create memories than accumulate “stuff”.
My mother has had a series of health setbacks recently including a broken foot. That led to a wheelchair and some other handicapped accessible items in the house. It also meant my father’s daily routine of heading to the office for a few hours was on hold. For the first time in their 62-year marriage, they really were together 24/7. One was physical sore. The other challenged mentally offering constant care. They may have had different barriers to a more optimal quality of life but BOTH were going through it. I witnessed it Friday morning when Dad was changing Mom’s bandages from a recent operation that removed cancerous spots from her shin. Mom was grumbling (and had every right to) when Dad snapped, in a harmless, sarcastic way, “Yep, you’re the only one going through this. You are the only one having to deal with changing these bandages. Nobody else has anything else to do with this.!” Mom smiled and replied, “You’re right.” Message received. No feelings hurt. Mission accomplished.
Barriers. At-risk students face them in high school with Jobs for Tennessee Graduates (JTG) helping to overcome what could jeopardize graduation.
Barriers. Aging parents trying to hold them back with wheelchairs, bandages, patience and a whole lot of love.
Point is, we never avoid them. You and I face barriers professionally and personally every day. Most are small, thankfully. But some are big.
We all have this in common. Teenagers, you, me & octogenarians.
And will again tomorrow.