Parenting Your Parent

It happened.
Not when I expected it either.
I received a call on a Thursday from my daddy. He wasn’t living with me at the time. He had been for about a year or so. Then life happened for me.

So much was happening and nothing was happening all at once. I’d reached a point in my life when nothing was making sense and I didn’t know where to turn. So I reached for my brother. My brother had lived in Tennessee for as long as I can remember. He moved there when I was about 9 years old I recall. Over the years I got to know him over the phone and through an occasional letter and very few visits. He had his life I had mine.

As an active mother of 4 raising them to the best of my ability with what I have learned and learning so much along the way. Taking care of my daddy was not fitting into my puzzle as I saw it. Or so I thought at the time. I asked my brother when I was 41 if it would be okay if our daddy could stay with him until I was able to figure things out. He graciously accepted.

Fast forward 9 months my life changed again as well as my daddy’s. He had turned 80 while he was staying with my brother. I can’t even recall why I was unable to be present for his special day. I’ve learned how to move forward from that and forgive myself for not being there. I was living in Florida he was living in Tennessee and as I could see it wasn’t meant to be.
My daddy called me about 2 months after he turned 80 crying over the phone. He was telling me he was unhappy and wanted to come home. I had asked if he wanted me to come get him and he said yes. Then I asked him “for how long” and he said “how about forever.”

When your 80 year old daddy calls you on the phone crying you do what needs to be done to turn his frown upside down as he would do for you when you were little. The following night I flew up to Tennessee and my daddy and I drove back along with his cat (that I rescued when she was a baby) the following day. I moved him in with me. I was living with my oldest daughter at the time as my marriage was not working out as I had planned.

We started over.

Then I got sick. A cold really but it knocked me out. Life was happening and I needed to rest. I recovered I recall within a 24 hour period but had a lingering cough I couldn’t shake. By the time I did my daddy had caught it and it was almost too late. As I’ve learned through the short time of him living with me once I went and got him from Tennessee. He needed more and more reminding to take care of himself. Reminding him to drink water, take his vitamins, eating healthy foods even showering. I had started to parent my parent.

We laugh constantly when we are together. My sense of humor I certainly got from my daddy. We have jokes only the two of us understand. The two of us would go out to dinner and always sit at the bar. My mommy and daddy used to do that when she was alive. They would sit in the bar at a booth. Neither one of us drink alcohol at this point of our lives. I order water in a wine glass and he orders a non alcoholic beer.

I came home from work and decided it was time. I didn’t know what else to do to help him. He wasn’t drinking anything, eating, he simply stopped taking care of himself. He’d gotten dehydrated. As I’ve learned from similar situations in the past. When your dehydrated less oxygen gets to the brain and nothing makes sense to the individual experiencing it. I took him to the hospital that evening and I remember him saying to me sarcastically “who died and left you boss” my quick response “mommy.”

A week later he was released from the hospital. Early mornings for me as I would drive there to see him before I started work, go see him after work. All the while doing my very best to take care of myself by giving my body what it needed. Although I was slacking on my running routine. I was doing the best I could at the time with the time I had.

He’s on oxygen 24 hours a day now. I received a 15 minute crash coarse on how to manage his machine. Might I just say it was a tad overwhelming, but I learned.
He lives with me and now 2 of my daughters, my dog and his cat and lots of love. As a family we came together to figure it out.

He has a phone that he can receive text messages and pictures and all 4 of my kids reach out to him to show him they care. I’m able to send him reminders and little messages throughout the day  of how much I love him and I tell him how proud of him I am.

When you have to start parenting your parent your life changes whether you are a parent yourself or not. As they get older one can only hope that you have gotten wiser. Take the time to listen and learn even google information if you have to. They rely on you to help them smile, to help them learn, to help them live. Just as you relied on them when you were you were little. Don’t give up on them, they never gave up on you.

Todsy my parents would have been married 47 years. Happy Anniversary mommy and daddy. I love you.



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