Thursday, June 9, 2011

Down the Long and Lonely Highway

In just a few short hours, I will have our sons loaded up and hit the road. It's time for our monthly pilgrimage to my parents. I'm always vaguely amused when I return and run into acquaintances who ask if I enjoyed myself. When the boys were younger I was often asked if I got a break by heading there. Uh, no. I've written a couple of times about what we are facing. Daddy has dementia.

As is my way, I will try to find something amusing in the trip. Dark humor is my friend. Sarcasm is my constant accompanist. So I'll roll my eyes at some fifty something road warrior who is trying to text and drive on the interstate and come up with some something to say. I'll sit there and patiently pretend to have not heard the same story a gazillion times while in my mind, I do my checklist. "Has he said this yet? What about that story? Ah, there it is." Give him his Father's Day card early. He won't remember that he didn't get it on Father's Day. Shoot, that's because he won't remember he got it. The boys will stay up all night watching tv and I'll just ignore that. Hey, they're supposed to get to do what they want to at their grandparents, right? Does it matter that I'm there? Nope. This trip we're throwing in a side trip to the old hometown. So I get to visit with even more elderly relatives. But at my age, it's nice to be the young'un and I especially love how they all tell me how little I still am (keep in mind that all things are in relation to them). No trip is complete without the trip to the cemetery.  Good thing I got that membership. We need someplace to load up the pictures to that will appreciate my skill at taking a picture of a gravestone.

Through all of this our teen sons will show a calmness and compassion that humbles me. They will take Daddy to the restroom and make sure he doesn't lose his way, while pretending that they were the ones who needed to go. They understand the need for dignity.

I ran into someone who told me that some people think she's cold but she had never really experienced helping the aged. Her parents were both dead by the time she was in her mid-twenties and her grandparents had long been gone before then. While it briefly flickered through me how much less complicated my life would be, what really stayed in my soul was the thought of how much less I would have been. I've developed a strength and compassion that I never knew I had in me. Not to mention the driving skills of a short haul trucker.

Someone else once told me that if it stressed me out so much then I just shouldn't go. But that smacks of a selfishness that I always knew I didn't have in me. And it does stress me out - before I go and after I return. But while I'm there, it doesn't stress me out at all. When I read essays such as the one our guest columnist, Jim Zisa wrote this month, "The Profundity of Moment" , when I consider how much my dear friend Mary would love to call her Mama and chat, but can't because she's gone, or think of how much another dear friend would have loved to share her beautiful girls college graduations with her parents, well, I'll climb right into that SUV and make my way on down the road. There is a grace to the time spent with love. So I'll come back a little worse for wear, but better for spirit. Shouldn't life be about doing what is hard? Doesn't love come with hardship?


  1. I keep hearing that statement, we are "the sandwich generation"...taking care of parents and children all at the same time. I only briefly had the experience while my Mama was still alive and it was daunting. Still, like you, I wouldn't have traded any of it for a moment of peace or a trip to the beach. I had time to be with someone I loved who loved me. You can't go back and re-do what needed to be done. Safe travels my friend.

  2. Mary - you are so right - "to be with someone I loved who loved me." As parents ourselves we now know what it is to be imperfect and yet love perfectly. Day two of the trip - off to the big city now where there is no stop light, but lots of love.


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