Sunday, January 3, 2010

They are Officially Old

Shortly after my maternal grandmother died, I was out to lunch with my Dad.  He looked at a couple of people in the restaurant who struggled with walkers and canes and said, "With both grandmothers gone now, we're the old people in the family."

I didn't know it at the time, but he was planning to take that seriously.

My parents are life-long smokers.  I mean heavy, heavy smokers.  In the winter, when the house is closed for days on end, it is hard to walk in the door without gagging on the lingering smoke.  I try not to wear anything good to their house as just a few minutes inside means I'll smell like an ashtray for the rest of the day.  Even my hair absorbs the smell.

My Dad is showing the effects of 60+ years of smoking in so many negative ways.  These days he's a bit slower than usual, which you'd expect with age.  You also see him struggling to breathe as the emphysema takes its toll.  One of my brothers thought Dad was going to drop on the driveway while snowblowing it a few days before Christmas.  Of course, Dad told him he was fine, but my brother could see that he was struggling and took over the job.

My Mom is not any better, but she covers it well. 

We have long since given up trying to get them to stop smoking.  After years of trying, we've finally decided to let it go.  The problem is we're dealing with strong-willed adults who don't really want to listen to their children. 

It's not like we haven't seen it coming for a while, but I guess while the Grams were alive it was secondary to what was going on with them.  My paternal Grandmother was in and out of the hospital so much that we didn't always take the time to notice the changes as my parents moved towards old age.  My maternal Grandmother wasted away in a nursing home for years.  We did see the toll that took on Mom, but it wasn't something we could change so we just tried to be supportive. 

What I wish I could change is the "we're old" mentality.  They have really taken it as their mantra.  When we were younger, my parents talked about trips and adventures they wanted to take when they retired.  Now when we mention something they dismiss it as too much work or too complicated because Dad's on oxygen. 

Instead of trying to make the most of these years, most of the time I feel like they are just counting down the days.  Unfortunately, we're all stuck in the countdown with them.  It's their choice and we cannot change it -- no matter how much I wish we could.


cindy w said...

That's so sad. My grandparents have been gone for ages - the last one passed away when I was 20 years old - but I don't think my parents really took on that "we're old" mentality then. It's starting to show up a little bit now. My dad is 73, and every time I see him, he seems a little bit more frail. Which is weird, because as a kid he seemed so HUGE to me.

I am not a fan of this whole "aging parents" thing. Not one tiny bit.

Christina said...

My mother in law has the same attitude. Well I am too old to do X or Y. You will see how hard it is when you are old too. AARGH.