Friday, June 20, 2008

Tiny Parents, Huge Parents

By Barb McKone

My parents are now officially the size of garden gnomes.  They are adorable that way, but if you put pointy little hats and shoes on them and asked them to stand very still among the hydrangeas, I swear, they could pass for landscape art. 

I've out-weighed my dad for some time now.  It's embarrassing.  It's frustrating, and a little disturbing.  He eats all day, most of it dessert, and gains nothing.  He's especially partial to any kind of cream pie with meringue, and he's tiny.  My mom gets littler every time I see her, probably because of chasing my sweet dad, who has Alzheimer's, around the neighborhood for the majority of her day. Her "good yellow suit," the one she's been wearing to church every Easter for as long as I remember, suddenly hangs from her bony little shoulders. 

My parents have always been giants.  Big shots in our little town.  They've always been a petite couple, but their personalities have always overshadowed their small stature.  They've always been in charge of things.  They are planners.  They get things done.  They are important.  They are loved.  They have been wonderful parents.  Now,  I watch as the people who were my giants get smaller and smaller.  Stranger still, as they shrink in size, we offspring are becoming their parents.

I believe that Erma would say:  Forget teenagers.  The toughest parenting we ever do is the parenting of our parents.

How did I not know this was coming?  Why didn't I duck?  I remember my mother driving my grandmother around, complaining (lovingly) about running her errands and listening to her litany of maladies and driving to her house in the middle of the night when she fell or a pipe burst.  Did I really not know that those days would be my days in the blink of an eye?  

In the past couple of years we "children" have gone from talking to doctors to scheduling caregivers to taking away driver's licenses (that was a tough, tough day) to getting loans and realtors and movers and watching strangers move into childhood homes.  It sucks, frankly.  I don't like it at all.  I want my mom to be the mom, but my poor mom is too busy thinking for two.  And I'm only writing this because I know that there is no possibility that my mom will ever read it.  I would never want to hurt her feelings, but I wouldn't be surprised if she thinks "internet" is a brand of aerosol hairspray.   She's still looking for the film in the digital camera we gave her last Christmas.

(Heavy sigh here)

So.  At the risk of being preachy, my point is this.  You will shrink.  You will age, it's inevitable. But in the meantime, take your folic acid.  Take your calcium.  Have that glass of wine, and that dessert (or two) if your clothes still fit.  Do the things (within reason) that your heart desires. Moisturize.  Enjoy your family.  Enjoy and use your healthy brains and bodies.  And most of all, enjoy your parents.  Love your parents.  They're the only ones you've got.  And even tiny, they're BIG.


Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Oh, Barb, this is so lovely. And true. And I love the garden gnomes image.

Hang in there, babe!

Lorri said...

OK...I'm picturing them standing in the garden in those pointy hats. Hahahahahahahaha!

I agree that parenting your parents is the worst! What does it say when you are more concerned about your father driving than your barely 16 year-old daughter who still furrows her brow and has to think about how she holds a a pencil when you tell her to turn right at the next stop sign?!

I definitely think you are channeling Erma, Barb. And your mom would be proud!

Threeundertwo said...

Well written. My father-in-law recently died and now my mother-in-law has become even tinier than before. I worry so much about her.

I love the garden gnome image!