When was the last time you called your mother or father and truly listened to what was going on in their lives, to their thoughts, beliefs and even to their worries? This isn’t a guilt trip I am trying to lay on you. Let’s hope you will take a look at a few things that might change your thinking a bit.
Are your parents in their fifties or sixties, or even seventies? Are you accustomed to thinking of them as forever young, vital and self-sufficient? When everyone gets together for extended family functions, or when they attend a holiday party at your house, people are always saying how youthful they look. Once a couple of years ago, your mother did you a favor and answered an urgent call of panic about something you forgot that you needed at work (Nobody else you called first was available) and she drove it to you. Your colleagues thought she was your wife.
When your father proposes a game of touch football in the backyard on a beautiful fall day, he often outshines the younger bunch. He also amazed all of your friends last month with his break dancing at your fortieth birthday bash.
Your mother recently changed careers. She is a true Baby Boomer, always forging ahead and trying new things. Perhaps she went back to school and got certified in a new field, or maybe she quit a job she was tired of and started a business. She goes to the gym at least several times a week, is writing a novel and she is still the peace and justice advocate she was in her youth. She meditates and she plays Flamenco guitar with passion.
Your father traveled to Haiti with his men’s group after the earthquake and serves at a local soup kitchen on his day off. When your kids are bothered by something and you are too busy with your own job responsibilities, they call Grandpa to pour out their hearts to him.
Mom is always coming up with unique dishes to accommodate your likes and dislikes, or making sure there is at least one interesting vegetarian dish on the table along with the rest of the traditional Thanksgiving fare. She is also the one in the family who creates special occasions for a gathering of the clan, despite being pretty busy herself. She’s the one who remembers everyone with a card, often an original creation and who finds the perfect birthday gift for you. Her gifts are rarely commonplace and are always evidence that a lot of thought was put into them.
When you have a work crisis, even though you might not have called Mom or Dad for two months, you call them at 8 AM on a Saturday morning and chew their ears off about the latest conflict. On your last call you were letting them know why you hadn’t been in touch much and how stressed you were. They listened, as usual asked a few questions, but mostly couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
So when was the last time you phoned them for no reason whatsoever except to touch base and hear what is on their minds? Has it occurred to you that just as you are worrying about the economy, about sending your kids to college, about your next career move, that your parents have worries of their own? It’s pretty tough, if not nearly impossible for some to picture their vital and vibrant parents traveling from the autumn of their lives to the winter. If you are very busy raising a young family or climbing the career ladder, you may not feel you even have the time to contemplate this. Not only are your parents still young and invincible in your minds, but so are you. Time has a way of moving on, though, in spite of our sometimes frantic efforts to make it stand still.
As you have witnessed when your parents stepped up to the plate and did whatever they could to care for and help your elderly grandparents, life brings changes. That is a given. It’s part of the natural life cycle. Most people do not remain healthy, young and capable forever. So even if you cannot begin to imagine your parents aging to the point that they are no longer as active or as self-sufficient as they always were, it happens to the best of us. Only a few truly fortunate ones maintain their ability to function intellectually, emotionally and physically as they did at younger stages of life. Hopefully, your own parents will be an exception, but it’s a known fact that in the next few years about tw0- thirds of Baby Boomers will be caring for an elderly parent or other relative. Right now there are approximately 25 million caregivers for elderly relatives in the United States. Over 80% of these are women and 70% are between the ages of 40-59. The largest group of caregivers is concentrated within the Baby Boomer Generation, but there were about 76 million Americans born between the years of 1945-1964. Eventually, a lot of those people are going to need the help and support of their children and other younger relatives. Generations X and Y might want to do some thinking about this.
It’s a known fact that with maturity comes a certain amount of wisdom. The majority of us are not too interested in our family history, what our parents were like as kids and young adults, or even how our parents met and romanced each other. Many do not begin to see their parents as three-dimensional people, or to treat them with the compassion they might bestow on strangers, until they are fairly advanced in age themselves. Such interest usually begins once we have seen enough of life to put a few things in perspective and often happens when we wake up and notice that our parents are really starting to age. We then come face to face with both our parents’ mortality and our own.
Now is truly an excellent time to stop the merry-go-round long enough to step down and have some crucial conversations with your mothers and fathers who are enjoying the autumns of their lives. Can you commit to doing that soon? In fact, I will put you on the spot and ask you WHEN? Can you find a way to involve your kids in these important conversations and a way to create some fun and meaningful interactions for everyone, as well as a valuable life learning experience?
Iris Arenson-Fuller, CPC is a Life Stage, Family, Relationship Changes Coach. Think of Iris when you think of Big Life Changes, Hard Choices, Second Chances.
Iris helps people become become strong survivors and move from sorrow and stress to satisfaction and success.
Iris specializes in working with clients who have had losses, widows, widowers, Sandwich Generationers, and with loss issues related to the Adoption Community (Infertility, Adoptive Parents, Adoptees and Birthparents) Iris is a strong survivor herself and is a Loss to Light Expert. Contact her: email@example.com