Today I will try to write on aging. As I mentioned previously, writing a blog was my daughter’s idea and I readily agreed without a thought. Now, I’m thinking and I am a bit worried. Apparently, bloggers write once a week. I never realized how much work it would be and so much of what I want to write about would need a ton of research because I am always conscious about “getting it right”. Also, because I am currently having problems with my vision have decided to write when I’m able, but for those faithful readers, new blogs will still be published on Sundays.
“WHEN THE CHILD BECOMES THE PARENT”
It wasn’t that long ago, my views on “when the child becomes the parent” would have been quite different than they are today. My husband, Francis, and I took care of his father, Bill, for 13 years and they were very good years. It took Bill about a week to decide that he wanted to live with us after his wife died of cancer. Around this same time, he also had open-heart surgery which took a lot out of him. Within a month he moved in, “lock, stock and barrel” as they used to say, and he never left.
My father-in-law thought of me as his second daughter and I realized years later, that he was my third child. We were very good friends and could talk about anything. We loved each other very much and I cannot remember ever having an argument with him, but I’m sure there must have been a few small ones here and there.
I could clearly see that Bill was getting his health back slowly, but was still mourning the passing of his wife. I am a devoted animal lover, and decided that I was going to get him a dog for emotional and physical therapy. At the time I was a stay-at-home mom so I knew could commit to the poop-scoop and puppy training not to mention that the kids and I would also have a puppy.
We drove to Mulgrave because someone told me they had puppies for sale. I told Bill to choose one, but he held back and told me to choose the runt from a small litter of black poodles. Bill named her Buffy and she was his constant companion, day and night.
Eventually I was able to go to work, on a casual basis and Bill was able to be at home for the kids after school (which for all of us was an arrangement made in heaven). Our kids truly loved their grandfather and learned from his teachings. My daughter often comments that she can often feel him protecting her to this day!
Some of my favorite memories from those days include finding Bill sitting on a tree stump or in the garage saying his rosary. Bill and I were insomniacs and spent a lot of time sitting at the kitchen table in the middle of the night talking, Bill always with a glass of cherry brandy in his hand. I loved that in Bill’s world suppertime was at five pm whether you were hungry or not and that he was always up for beating me at a game of cribbage. Nothing was perfect but I always felt very blessed to have had him in my life for such a long time.
Bill used to call me a witch. I will never forget the first day he said to me “you’re a witch but a good one”! He would say this because I knew what he might think or say before he thought or said it. My wonderful father-in-law was an older man who was not threatened by my “women’s ways of knowing” and accepted that I could sometimes just stand by someone and know what they were thinking or feeling.
Bill was a navy veteran, so Remembrance Day was always very important in our home. On this day he would take great pride in brushing off his navy Legion blazer, shining his medals and I had to make sure they were perfectly arranged on his jacket. Those were the days…
One December 4th morning we awoke to discover he had passed during the night in “his” chair in the living room while we slept. I was devastated and missed his wake and funeral because I spent the week in the hospital with a blood pressure in the over 200 range. Life after that was quite difficult, especially when it came to setting 4 plates out for supper instead of 5. And his clothes were missing from the laundry. The things we remember!
One day I told Bill that we had to have “a little conversation”. While driving in our yard, BIll had twice ran into the fence. No major damage but to me, a warning. We spoke about it and I told him that I would have to “suspend his back-up license”. He looked at me, smiled and agreed. He continued to drive but was careful not to put his car in a position that required him to have to drive in reverse.
Bill did not like Christmas because they were poor, with a large family and he always felt bad that his family never got much for Christmas. I always reminded him that the kids had what they needed, a roof, over their heads and food. That’s what Christmas was all about! So after the appropriate time passed, we put up our tree, thinking of and missing Bill. Fran put screws in the wall on both sides and very securely tied the tree tightly, as he did every year, so it would never fall over. One morning I was sitting on the couch next to the tree and it was very quiet and peaceful, because I was alone, and that rarely happened with our “open door” policy. Bang, down comes the tree and everyone came running. My wise daughter said “Mom, that was Papa!”
We never had a tree fall before or after this event, and I believed my daughter. It was Bill’s way of letting us know he was okay and our lives could now move on.
All these years later, as I think of Bill during the holidays, and reflect on my daughter helping me on this blogging journey, “The child becoming the parent” is inevitable. It’s part of the circle of life. 2017 has been a great year at the RK for me, since my awakening in July. I’ve made new friends, tried new artistic options with my right hand, since I was left-before my stroke (no easy task I assure you). I’ve “talked” to the shrubs, trees and flowers, and wrote a blog that is now, literally circulating the world through international friends of friend. Who would ever believe? I have so much to be grateful for!
On the sadder side of life, I kissed my daddy goodbye as he moved to his new life above. Love you always Dad!
The bright side, we had a great wedding for our daughter Cara, and welcomed her husband Kyle to the family.
The stress of writing a weekly blog has been more than I imagined, (health wise), so I have decided to take a break and a rest. I have finally learned to listen to my body.
Special thanks to my family, who without their support things could have be very different. Also thank you very much to Bonnie, Cindy, Bernadette, Janice and Leona for your constant support.
Happy New Year Everyone!