BY ERIKA HOFFMAN
His step was spryer than usual as he descended the stairs. Clack-clack, his cane stomped the wooden tread before his arthritic foot budged.
“Hey, Dad! You’re up earlier than usual,” I said as I attempted to peer into his eyes. I restrained from glancing pitifully at his uncertain, wobbly knees.
His white head turned quickly. His eyes darted. He peered around the kitchen, searching. He hobbled past me, fast for him.
“Where are they?” he asked. His thin lips broke into a smile.
He puffed and huffed by. He pushed open the swinging doors to the dining room. “Are they in here?”
He looked expectant and happy.
“My parents. Somebody told me they were coming today.”
I bit my lip. I fixed my gaze toward the floor. Stinging, hot tears tried to escape from behind my eyelids.
“No, Dad. They’re not coming today.”
“But someone woke me up and told me they were here.”
I shrugged. I turned away, opened the fridge, and grabbed the orange juice carton. “Let me pour you some orange juice. Want a toasted English muffin?” I asked, hoping to distract him. “With butter and raspberry jam?”
“That would be nice,” he said as he sat down at the table. He had already forgotten about his folks.
I stepped outside to fetch the paper and to collect my composure. Dad is 92. His parents died 37 years ago.
Most of my friends share similar episodes with their aged parents. They tell stories — some gut wrenching, others hilarious — as a sort of purging of their pent-up frustrations and chronic sadness at watching their childhood heroes slip away, fade away, or waste away. One girlfriend complains over trivial things. Her mom keeps the house too hot, claws at her arm when speaking to her, or lets her mouth sag open unattractively. She is surprised at how rigid her mother is. No reasonable explanation she presents will persuade her mom to alter the schedule she’s kept for decades. Another friend laments her mom’s refusal to bathe. “What’s up with that?” she asks those of us who are family caregivers.
Benefits come when we limit our activities to care for our elderly folks.
We understand our grown kids’ reluctance to move back home after college. They feel trapped by the idea, and they want to escape. Yet, here we are, captured by our loyalty to our elders. We shoulder the huge task of helping them on their descent from life — the same ones who helped us on our ascent to adulthood.
Yet benefits come when we limit our activities to care for our elderly folks. We are rewarded by simple pleasures, those satisfying moments once overlooked in our mad scramble to build our careers and our family. Now we notice gifts from above: We marvel at a sunset with the hues of an infant’s nursery. Not only do we stop to smell the roses, we take time to grow them. Heavenly views, ocean vistas, the aroma of newly mowed spring grass, the scent of autumn leaves burning — these free yet priceless joys come to us as we age. It’s a blessing to live in the moment.
Add to that the knowledge that you provide care and tenderness to your stooped loved one in the final days before the curtain closes, and you will feel a certain peace and satisfaction within yourself. Do you hear the applause? Bravo! Bravo! The stars in the firmament twinkle their approval. You did your part. You helped someone. Be happy with yourself.
There is a rainbow — always.
This article originally appeared in the June, 2012 issue of Mature Living. Subscribe