My son, expecting his first child, is reading the book “What to Expect, When You’re Expecting.”
“Mom,” he says, “Why didn’t you tell me this stuff?”
There’s a lot of “stuff” that nobody can really prepare you for, you have to find your own way through. And everybody’s experience is a little different.
Parenting is one example, later, it’s when you go from taking care of your kids to taking care of your parents. Nobody can really prepare you for it. Nobody’s experience will be the same and not even the bestsellers can help you deal with the emotions that come attached.
And it’s never easy.
One woman had to face telling her father he shouldn’t drive anymore. She recognized that he was not only a danger to others, but to himself. He had given up driving at night a few years ago, but most recently he was getting lost and when she rode with him one day to a nearby store, she said he ran a red light and barely stopped at a very familiar stop sign.
How do you have that conversation with your father? The man who taught you to drive. The man who took your car away as punishment the time you got a ticket for running a red light. She needs to, but she she hasn’t yet. It’s too hard.
For another, it’s about moving her parents back across the country because her father is sick and her mother is unable to care for him, alone, 24/7. Her parents moved to the southwest decades ago and now she has to find them a place near her, help them get packed, moved and resettled — all while she is working full-time and has two kids in college.
There are friends dealing with parents in assisted living facilities or nursing homes, trying desperately to be certain a beloved parent is cared for in the best possible way and there are others taking their aging parents into their home. Adjusting a lifestyle that was only recently – finally – getting used to being an empty nest.
It’s hard to see a parent or grandparent, someone who loved and nurtured you through life, suddenly become the person you have to care for.
Not only is it difficult to suddenly be in the role of caretaker for someone who was always taking care of you – but for those who were always in control and making decisions, it’s a painful and delicate time to have to turn to a child for assistance.
When my father was nearing the end of his life and very, very ill, there was a moment when I had to help him get out of the hospital bed and to the bathroom.
“I never wanted this for you,” he said in the saddest voice I’ve ever heard.
“You did it for me,” I whispered to him. “Now it’s my turn.”
That memory come back each time I hear a friend talking about parents dealing with dementia or serious health problems.
Nobody tells you what to expect.
Brenda’s column appears each Monday at noon.
Photo credit: harlandspinksphoto