There isn’t much that I can write that hasn’t already been written, more eloquently than I ever could, on the passage of time and how the role of caretaker transitions from one generation to the next.
I have been a caretaker of my own children for eight years now. But now I find myself looking at the very likely possibility that I may be caretaker for my dad. Not next month. Hopefully not next year. But eventually.
I know that millions of people at my stage in life face this same reality, but it’s different when you know what is eroding your parent’s ability to take care of himself. It’s different when you can see around the bend, but you can’t tell how rough the terrain will be.
Parkinson’s has my dad in its web. Not completely trapped, but weekly gumming up his wings with a new hurdle, a new restriction, a new challenge. My dad–my strong, quiet, patient dad is aging. I know this happens to all of us. Of course it does. That isn’t what bothers me. It’s seeing his freedom slip. It’s watching him have to resign to what he can do, not what he wants to do, that is grieving me.
Perhaps it is because he is so quiet and so patient that this disease seems particularly harsh. Dad has never been a thrill-seeker. He’s never wanted the spotlight. He’s a man who has dwelled, quite contentedly, enjoying his creature comforts. And now some days even those are difficult for him to enjoy.
We don’t know how quickly his Parkinson’s will progress, but I can tell you that the improvements that I observed this spring once he started his meds have already waned. A lifetime lefty-he’s finally had to teach himself how to eat right-handed. He tells me is starting to get concerned about his driving. He gets up extra early in the mornings, but some days it’s so difficult getting ready that he has trouble getting to work on time.
Taking care of Dad is a role that I will willingly accept. Seeing to his physical needs is one thing. It’s ministering to his spirit that has me most concerned. Unlike Wemmick’s deaf but jovial Aged P in Great Expectations, somehow I don’t think that just giving Dad a nod and a smile is going to be enough to lift his spirits. And sometimes, between him and me, at least on my part, there is so much to say but the words just aren’t there.
Even writing about it here and now… the right words just aren’t there.