My husband Charlie and I are facing the same milestone recently. Both his father and my mother have become frail and unable to take care of themselves.
Last week we put Charlie’s dad in a nursing home. His dad is 90. Now Charlie and I haven’t been together all that long, only 4 years, so I haven’t known his dad for long. But I know this man who can no longer take care of himself, can no longer walk or bathe himself or even take himself to the bathroom, once was a proud man able to take care of not only himself, but his wife and his children. He stood tall and provided for his family. And now his wife and his children must help him bathe, eat and dress. I felt his pain and confusion as we moved him into the nursing home. He knew it was coming, it was necessary because his wife could no longer be his caretaker, and yet my heart broke for him, because he was leaving the comfort and safety of his home and embarking on a new and frightening journey. I would not have wanted to be in his shoes for anything, and I hope that all of us there made the transition a little easier for him.
My mother is 84 and in declining health. Her back hurts her greatly. She has arthritis, scoliosis and osteoporosis and her pain is debilitating. She called my sister yesterday morning because she couldn’t breathe. My sister took her to the emergency room (I live in a different state than my mom), and all was fine with her heart and lungs. The pain in her back was so severe it made it hard for her to breathe. The doctor gave her pain medication and told her how she felt right then was as good as she was ever going to feel again. When I spoke with her on the phone last night she was near tears. Weak, defenseless and broken. It tore my heart out to hear the despair and pain in her voice.
My mother has always been my rock. The person I went to when life got me down, when I needed a shoulder to cry on, when I needed counsel. That rock is crumbling and I can do nothing to stop it.
I know Charlie, ever silent and stoic about these things, feels that same sense of loss with his dad. That the person who raised him, scolded him, loved him, was there for him during good times and bad, is not the same person anymore.
They will never again be our rocks. We have to be theirs now.