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Parents these days October 1, 2006

Posted by whatacharacter in just my blogs.

Being a parent has been mind-blowingly educational. Before kids, I thought I could grasp to a degree nearly every perspective of human experience. My youthful bravado eagerly sought out experience, and while life revealed many wonderful things, I couldn’t be prepared for what time and kids would show me.

Just being around families with babies could never match living that unique connection bonding a parent to child. It’s brutal what a sobering weight it is, but the obliging grace is that you realize you can do more than you thought you were able. Ego takes a backseat to a desperate common cause,

Burden and blessing, parenthood reaquaints oneself with the stages of growing up. From the fresh magic of discovery, to both the blissful and the painful, it manages to solidify them in your heart, giving the chance to come to peace with whatever anxious moments those past years left you with. You realize it really is possible to get through insanely tough times. It reminds you that hard work really can produce near measureless opportunity. There grows in you a boundless sense that in time lie seeds of eternity.

… it teaches that love will give you the desperate strength to fight through anything. Even if it might tear your heart out.


I just returned from a long, hasty road trip to visit my 86 year old mother, laid up in a nursing facility with a freshly fractured neck. It’s strange to still be able to see the rosy mother you loved as a child in the prone pale old battered shell, mostly still under the sheets. She moves her arms at half speed, her voice a quiet imitation of what it once was. Her jaw tries to keep up with her thoughts, but it’s hindered by the brace. I can kiss her cheek and forehead, but she can’t move her head to kiss me.

As I left, I wondered as I often had over the past few years, if this would be the last we’d see of each other in this world.

This woman, by all accounts beautiful, raised on a farm in the depression, educated with a masters in Economics, twice widowed, a teacher, traveler, and Goldwater Republican, was still strong minded enough. Enough to have chosen her present life at such an advanced age, to be with a younger man 25 years her junior; to allow him to care for her, love her, and bring her on an RV tour for this third year to his Idaho mountainside property. Escaping the summer Florida hurricanes, here they would live in an old bus, sharing a bed, unencumbered by running water or electricity. They were free to feed black bears cookies, which they did by hand, to their amusement and no ill effect (except for the cavities those poor animals must suffer, getting used to humans … and oreos).

She fell here last year too, and again I had driven out to see how she was. In the same facility, this time with cracked ribs and a punctured lung, her “care giver” accused me of calling the police on him, and not for the first time, of wanting to “throw her into a nursing home.” He threatened me saying “I’m gonna get it,” and “pay back is a bitch,” despite my protests of innocence. He is confident he knows more about anything then you ever could, despite the facts. We haven’t talked to each other since, and he refuses to acknowledges my presence. My brothers both get handshakes.

While I think that man is a deplorable delusional human being, still taking her money after all she’s allowed him, I figure any 86 year old woman should have it so good while still maintaining “alert and oriented” status. She has managed to remain living in her own home, and has been able to travel all around the country, with his care and driving. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop and who knows what will happen then?

I still need to learn what being in this position, of having a parent at this stage of their lives, has to teach. It’s an odd business to be in, dealing with your teenage kids acting like teenagers, and an elderly parent doing the same. It’s quite a squeeze, especially since I still feel like 25, and keep looking for the user’s manual.

I sense there’s a bit of the paradoxical in this, which is nothing new. While I see the compelling lesson of life value & human mortality, it’s intertwined with memory where the past is still alive. Our final destination is still a mystery, but it will get here, no matter what.



1. Jackie - October 19, 2006

Greg – so sorry to hear about your mother! I hope that she recovers – sounds like she is tough and determined enough to heal!

My mom is just a year younger. It is amazing how I can still see her as the mother she was when I was a kid – even though she’s shrunken with ostioporosis and frail these days, with snow-white hair. Most of my visits with her are on the phone -since she’s up in Alaska.

SOrry it’s been so long since I visited your blog! I have been slacking off in that area lately – but will pick up back where I left off! Happy Fall to you.

2. greg - October 20, 2006

Hi Jackie – Thanks, I hope so too.

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