We are raised knowing our parents will get older. We spend our teenage years rebelling against them and our early 20’s tolerating their need to still treat us like children. Sighing and rolling our eyes as they continue to remind us that the way we do absolutely everything is not the way they would do it. Not even close.
The years go by and they complain we never call anymore and still remind us of the simplest things like… “wear a coat”. We listen, we sigh.We grudgingly wear the damn coat, even though we are sweating when it’s 75 degrees an hour later. All the while , we are fully aware that they will not always be around. That one day we are going to wish they were there to get on our nerves. Even though they weren’t perfect. Even though we aren’t always sure why. The day will come when we will want to give just about anything to help them get back into their email account… (for the 100th freaking time), or just to ask them what that one ingredient for a recipe was called that we can’t ever remember.
Luckily, if our parents have a sense of humor, they might try to help us prepare for this part of life by cracking jokes about their will or insisting they don’t need one. They will out live us after all… because they don’t forget their coat. They eat their vegetables. They wear sunscreen and go to bed early.
We kind of hope it’s true. This beautiful illusion we have that life will last forever simply because we love someone. Yet, we are adults and we know that death is just as much a part of life as birth. We prepare ourselves for that day the best we can. We try to take care of them when they are sick, help them when they feel lost and soon the roles are reversed between parent and child. This, we can try to prepare for. This, we can plan.
The thing you really can’t prepare yourself for is the moment you realize you are grieving someone who is still very much alive, just no longer there. I could never have prepared for the person who taught me about life to forget how to live so completely. What’s worse, they forgot how to love anyone or anything. They become a shell and insist that you hate them, you must. But, you don’t. Not even close. You want to hate them. Hating them might make it easier. Loving someone who suffers from memory loss due to dementia or any mental illness is like watching them drown slowly in a room to which you do not have a key. You can’t pull them out. It’s not a lifetime movie. It’s not The Notebook. It’s a fucking nightmare.
This is not something I usually talk about. It has affected my life immensely. It matters because people matter to us. If your parents are still around to annoy you. If they tell you that they love you and that they wish you’d call them more. Believe them. The day you think you are preparing yourself for might be so much closer than you think.
“The trouble is you think you have time” – Buddha