When Your Aging Parents Reach a Crossroad

If there is one day we all hope will never come, it's the one where our life partner has to be taken from us whether in life or in death.

However it is all so common with the increase in Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Cancers of every sort, that one of the two has to be hospitalized and evaluated and most always, inevitably the call is made by medical professionals who are doing their best but have far too many aging patients to monitor and evaluate and far too few specialists available to support them and so the call is that the said parent will never return to their home again.

This crossroad means so many different and sad things to various family members.

So I will use the Dad as an example. Your Dad has been told that he will never regain his independence - perhaps he can no longer walk or go without diapers or oxygen. Maybe he has a progressive disease that is moving at rampant rates. He is already frail, depressed and practically throwing in the towel after months that feel more like years of being in a hospital bed and away from his loved ones.

He hasn't eaten his favourite food at his favourite restaurant or watched a good movie, or enjoyed a glass of wine with a home cooked meal with your mother by his side.

Your mother suddenly is alone. After 40, 50 years of marriage and of having her best friend there every morning when she wakes up to eat breakfast and discuss one another's days and to pick up this and pick up that and pay this bill and bring the Grandchildren here and fill the car up with gas.

She is alone in the house you grew up in for the first time in her life other than the past few months that your dad was hospitalized with her always believing he would eventually return home to her side.

It's eating alone and having no one to discuss your day with or your latest worry or something fun you want to do together on the weekend. It's facing that fact that the vacation you had planned so long ago much like the Neil Diamond concert tickets you bought in advance for your anniversary will never happen.

Happiness has left town and sadness has moved in with all of its relatives.

And late at night when you both try to fall asleep, all you can do is look up at the ceiling and imagine the time you could have had together in this last stage of life. You reflect back on a black and white slide show that plays on the bedroom wall at all that you shared from the time you first set eyes on one another to the birth of your children, your first home, that vacation you saved up for so you could take the whole family somewhere new and exciting and share in the experience of travel.

There are the struggles as well to reflect upon. The good times always come with some bad times but as a couple you battled through them, sometimes against each other but always as one in the end and you did a damn good job of fighting the fight hand in hand.

So why can't you fight this one? Why can't you last more than a few rounds? Why can't you get up after that strong right hook to your jaw?

Because you've already fought so hard to stay together and you are both exhausted. One from visiting the other in a cold, uncaring atmosphere amongst strangers in the very same room and the other in great fear of never being able to sleep in their own bed and eat at their own kitchen table and say goodnight, turning the lights off knowing that the person you love most in the world - your best friend - your kindred soul - is not there next to you.





There is one person in a hospital bed.

There is another person in a bed at home.

These are two very different beds and places but if you combine them they withhold the hearts, the souls and the lives of two people who are still very much in love and can no longer reach out and touch one another as the night grows long and the slide show of what once was such a beautiful and fruitful adventure is now a memory somewhere in the distance imagined as dancing silhouettes that make up the shadows of your life.

Wishing strength to my dear parents and to all of those who are at this inevitable and really quite tragic crossroad.

There are few things as painful as what life brings us at the end and few things as wonderful as it offers us in the beginning but the real meat of it all - the best of the best - is right there in the middle and it's funny that it tends to be the part we mostly ignore and miss out on because we are so consumed by beginnings and endings.

Remember to enjoy the middle.