This has been a hard post to write. I have put it off for a week wondering what to say, how to express it, what to avoid sharing.
As many of you know, we recently visited Barry’s elderly parents in Georgia. We’ve postponed the visit for a little more than two years, mostly because we didn’t want to unwittingly drag covid into their midst. By November we finally felt the trip must happen–covid or no covid–and we boarded an airplane in Marquette to fly via Detroit to Atlanta.
We rented a car–our first rental in many years–and we rural Yoopers navigated through busy traffic to their home near Athens.
How can I say it? Perhaps Charles Dickins had a clue. May I paraphrase him? It was the best of visits, it was the worst of visits.
Barry’s dad said it was the best visit ever. You will now look at these smiling pictures–oh such happy faces–and think–oh so lovely, what a wonderful time, how beautiful that they could spend time together again.
And all of that is true. So very true.
I still smile thinking of the sweetness of the trip, the fun Barry and I had exploring the Botanical Gardens and the tiny zoo filled with balloon Santas, Grinches and Reindeer. How Barry and his brother were able to help his dad with projects. How we all sat on the back patio and munched pretzels while sipping our preferred drinks. How we cheered on the University of Georgia Bulldogs. How we soaked in the faces of our loved ones.
Precious visit indeed, my friends.
But there are always things you may or may not share in a public space. Barry agrees I can share here. His mom suffers from dementia–probably stage 6 or end-stage 7. She struggles to articulate her thoughts, to string together two words. Her vivid multi-dimension world has shrunk from crosswords, family finances and loving grandparent to sitting on the couch (when she’s able) and pointing to nearby objects. She spends more and more time lying in bed.
Does she know us? We don’t really know. She seems comfortable around us. She still calls her husband “Jim” at times. She seems to know Barry and his brother are her sons. And one bright shining moment–when they were assisting her with walker to reach the back patio–she glanced out the window and said, “Oh, look, there’s Kathy out there!”
I suspect it may be one of the last times she knows me.
She was an intelligent loving caring schoolteacher. She showered gifts on her three grandchildren. She was the best mother-in-law a girl might want. She didn’t criticize; rarely offered advice except when asked.
She so welcomed another female into her mostly-male family.
When I look into her eyes I still see the intelligence and love shining there. It just can no longer be expressed and shared in the same way.
Both parents are 89 now–Barry’s mom will turn 90 in March.
His dad takes care of her the best he can, but it’s hard to witness. Because he’s struggling too.
We can offer advice: assisted living, nursing home, in-home help, medical alert buttons.
Believe me, it’s all been on the table so many times.
But they are not ready to change anything–yet.
We worry about a fall. (There have been falls.) About so many things.
We call frequently.
We wonder when a call will come that signals the end of their current situation.
We are so lucky that Barry’s brother and his wife live nearby.
I know several of us with elderly parents suffer the same fate: to try and do the best for them while considering what they want.
That’s about all I have to say. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times.
The worst because we want the best for them, always.
Who knows if and when we will see them again? We don’t know. But we are very glad we made the trip this month. So very glad indeed.