Parenting the Parents, Part I. Acknowledgment.

We started noticing that something was going on with dad several years ago – he wasn’t really getting around the way he used to – this was a guy who took care of all the routine maintenance on their house, plus 3+ acres of property. In the woods. There was no end to the work of clearing dead and fallen branches and trees, and over the years he’d amassed a truly inspiring collection of tools and devices to keep it all under control, from pole pruners to wood chippers, a few different chainsaws, and every kind of shovel, sledgehammer, and post-hole digger known to mankind. He and mom also grew a huge garden every year, conveniently enclosed as it was by the fence that used to surround our in-ground pool, until they filled that thing in about 20 years ago because taking care of it just wasn’t worth it anymore for the relatively short swimming season we get here in CT.

Even though they lived only 45 minutes away, we didn’t get over there very often. Life, you know. They came here a little more frequently, but still only 4 or 5 times a year at most. When my younger son joined freshman crew in high school, we had them come over so we could go together to the riverfront in Hartford to watch him row in his first local regatta. We parked in the parking garage that I parked in every day for work – it was probably 1/3 of a mile (maybe ½) from there to the riverfront, and fairly flat terrain. We set out as we always did, strolling at a decent pace. It didn’t take long to notice that dad was struggling – not in the way you see it with many older people – out of breath and panting – but with his gait: it was as if he couldn’t get his legs going properly – lifting them up and putting them down in a normal walking pattern was a challenge and he lagged behind. The walk back later was the same.

That was 4 years ago. My sister said something to my mom (as did my husband) about having him checked out by a neurologist. Eventually they did, but all the guy apparently checked for was Parkinsons, which it wasn’t. Time went by, and things got to the point where “walking” for him was essentially shuffling. But it got worse than the physical symptoms.

I hadn’t realized what was really happening until my sister called me at some point in the fall of 2017. In addition to his property-care prowess, dad had a sharp financial mind. He was a CPA. He handled all the major finances of the household. And for the first time ever, he’d bounced a check. Thankfully it was one he’d written to my sister, but she told me he confessed that he was finding himself confused and he was afraid he couldn’t handle these things anymore. My sister came down from Vermont. We met with their estate attorney to update their wills and make some other changes to a few things. We executed powers of attorney. And we had a family meeting.

It was just the very beginning of a world of change.

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