My parents are getting older. It’s hard to watch them walk more slowly, close their eyes when they try to think, or forget things I told them just minutes ago. Aging. We all do it. However, I’ve never been able to imagine my parents older—and now they are.
My parents are 74 and 77. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I never expected my father to live past 65. Every year with him is an unexpected blessing. But my mother, I fully expected her to live into her 90s. She’s tough, and I don’t think she’ll go down without a fight. However, given some health concerns in recent years, I’m not so sure.
My father’s first ministroke
My father had his first ministroke about 10 years ago. A ministroke (or TIA) is a brief interruption of blood flow to part of the brain, spinal cord or retina. This can cause temporary stroke-like symptoms but doesn’t actually damage brain cells. Luckily, there isn’t any permanent disability. However, I feel these ministrokes have aged him.
I’ve never wanted to live past 80. But my parents, I want them to live to 100. I can’t imagine my life without them. What if I have a question or need advice? What if I forget how to make something and my mom isn’t around to give me the recipe?
Interviewing my parents
Knowing my parents weren’t getting any younger (and I’m not either), I decided to add “Interview my parents for posterity” to my List of 50 Things Before I Turn 50. So, I found a list of questions and set aside time to interview them. While I interviewed, my dad video taped the conversation. It was such a sweet experience–a lot of the things I never knew and other things I’d forgotten they’d told me years ago. Funny how we think we’ll always remember certain things. Often, we forget the details or forget them altogether. Over time, our minds are robbed of these precious memories. The only way to make sure we never forget them is to make sure they are written down.
“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.”
― Anne Sexton
Losing a parent
I love my parents, and I continue to feel so grateful they are still alive. I have many friends who have already lost one of their parents. According to the Office of Social Security, about 3.5% of children under age 18 in the U.S. have experienced the death of a parent. Losing a parent can be traumatic at any age—even when you know it’s coming. The American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) believes it’s healthy for adults to experience a range of different emotions when a parent dies. These feelings can include sadness, rage, anger, numbness, anxiety, guilt, regret, and remorse. When you have time to anticipate your parent’s death, coping can be less stressful. However, I don’t think you can ever feel prepared to lose someone you love.
Life is short and you never know how long your parents will be around. You don’t need to have a List of 50 Things to make it a point to interview your parents, but you do have to be deliberate about it. So, take the time to capture their stories and experiences. Do it today. After all, you never know when you’ll need the recipe for grandmother’s baked custard.