It is hard to know when I first noticed that my parents were aging.
The closer you are to a subject, the more your perceptions are distorted and you don’t see as clearly.
For example, my mother and the mother of a childhood friend of mine both grew up in Germany.
When I would visit my friend, I was always struck by how thick his mother’s accent was so many decades after living in the states.
One day my friend remarked on how thick my mom’s German accent was, and I was like: What accent?
So too it has been in discovering that my parents have gotten older.
The revelation was most forcefully driven home after they had been traveling with a bus tour and Dad tripped in a parking lot and fell, fracturing his arm.
A trip to the emergency room and later his own doctor back at home left his arm in a convoluted sling that rendered the arm immobile and pretty much useless.
I learned that Mom had to feed Dad because his dominant arm was out of commission. He was also having difficulty sleeping because of the discomfort and pain.
When my wife and I visited a few weeks after Dad was on the mend, it was shocking to see Mom sticking a napkin under his collar while he ate with his non-dominant hand.
And a month after that, Dad fell off a chair while reaching for something on the floor while visiting us. I was in the kitchen when I heard a noise and the next thing I saw was Dad on his side on the floor.
It was quite the shock to see Dad — an authority figure who commanded respect and who I remember from childhood as being the strong guy I turned to for leadership — out of commission like that.
My reflections on all of this resurfaced after my brother-in-law’s father recently died at age 90. Ed’s dad was an energetic go-getter who unexpectedly took a bad turn after heart surgery.
And within weeks of his death, my former father-in-law, a contemporary of my Dad’s, also died years after learning he had Parkinson’s disease.
Dad has had a heart attack, a defibrillator installed and significantly slowed down over the past six years. There have also been a couple of medical crises set off by high heat and lack of hydration.
All of that said, Dad, who will be 79 in the fall, is in good spirits and will soon have physical therapy. He is even driving again.
Mom looked a little worse for the wear immediately after all of the strain of his fall but things seem be more settled. Though she complains about being old, there’s not much slowing her down.
They live in a retirement community that residents euphemistically call “God’s waiting room.” While there’s a bit of gallows humor about that, there is no escaping that, in the end, time claims everyone, including your parents.