Happy New Year!
Yes, this is the one day a year I set aside for a brief, half-hearted attempt at self-betterment. It is also my 3-F day—friends, family and football. I need moral support and distraction to wash down the bitter pill of introspection. However, this New Year’s will be somewhat different than the previous…too many to count. God willing, this year I will be far from home.
I will be in Prague.
A friend of mine who happens to own a travel agency called and asked if I wanted to tag along on a bit of reconnoitering she needed to do. Please, I carry my passport with me at all times. Asking was polite but superfluous. And, as long as there is wine and a foreign language (or at least a cool accent) involved, I’m in. I’m shallow that way…and so easily led astray.
To be honest, I’m looking for an out, a respite from this growing older thing. Curiously enough, as I grow older, my parents also age. And, as the eldest of my parents two spawn, the thankless job their frailty imposes falls squarely on my shoulders, with my brother backing me up, as it should be, but this year has been hard as we stepped out on that slippery slope sliding toward the inevitable. While I’m adaptable and embrace change, still transitions are difficult.
Recently my mother, at 78, fell off her horse and dislocated her hip. My father, at 83, can’t walk without severe pain, but still insists on driving even though he can’t turn his head side-to-side nor can he see over the steering wheel. On top of that, he likes to knock a few back at lunch with his friends, and he just can’t handle that anymore. Clearly, some measures had to be taken.
So, today, I took his car away—well, not totally, just to and from lunch at the club.
And I feel like a creep. He’s not too happy either. He’s plotting his revenge; I can see it in his eyes. I’ve lived through one male child, I can handle this, too—except this is the worst of all possible worlds: I have the responsibility without the authority. This experience isn’t unique to me; I know that. If we are lucky to have our parents for a long time, and our own health remains robust, then this is bound to happen in each of our families. The children become the caregivers. But knowing the time will come and being prepared for it are two different things. One consequence I wasn’t prepared for is the change in roles has put my own mortality in stark relief.
My parents have, among other things, provided the comfort of a buffer between me and the Great Beyond. They still do, but recent events forced me to face the fact that time is short. Next, I’ll be called to be the buffer for my son…and so on it goes.
The March of Life.
I guess I’m okay with it—I have to be. Nothing I can do to change anything. But, to be honest, trying to adjust to this power shift is totally disorienting—as disconcerting as the shift of the earth beneath one’s feet during an earthquake. A constant that proves not to be.
So this year, my introspection takes on a different aura. How can I be a parent to my parents? And the whole concept has brought long buried childhood traumas bubbling to the surface. The past can’t be rewritten, so best not to go there. But how to deal with unexpected emotions, unwanted responsibilities?
Like I said, I’m pretty shallow.
So, this year, I will be thinking about life winding down, altering, and how I can handle it with grace, aplomb, and a good bit of fight. I’m not going down easily, nor willingly. But I hope, when the time comes, and my son takes the reins, I’ll smile…and run.
Seize the day, my friends. They are short in number. It’s a new year—resolve to chase your dreams, live with passion and joy, with courage and no regrets.
As they say, “What’s worse, that you tried and failed or that you never tried at all?”
So what dreams do you resolve to chase this year?