When you reach a certain age, your parents get old and need help. Unless they die young, it’s going to happen. When my mother was dying in 2002, she had my father. I traveled back and forth from Oregon to San Jose to help, and I was at her side with Dad when she died. My brother and I helped plan her funeral, but Dad was the main caregiver.
For 11 years, my father has lived alone. He has two kids, but my brother lives three hours away, near Yosemite, and I’m 13 hours away on the Oregon coast. When Dad broke his wrist, I didn’t even know about it until after his surgery was over. He took care of himself afterwards. Ditto for his cataract surgery and getting a Pacemaker to keep his heart beating. He’s a strong and independent man. But now his heart is failing, and I have dropped everything to help him. He may or may not have open heart surgery soon. Right now, he’s pretty good sitting down, but if he does anything, even walking across the yard, he turns white and struggles for breath. He needs help, so I’m here. My brother comes on weekends. We’ll be here for whatever happens.
But you and I, dear reader, don’t have children. Who will help when our health fails? Yes, we have all heard that people who do have kids can’t count on them. We know about old people in nursing homes whose children never come around, but in most families, the children are there to help their parents.
So what do we do? Looking at a future alone can be frightening. My stepchildren won’t be around if I go to the hospital or get too weak to buy my own groceries and wash my own clothes. If I have money, I can hire someone to help, but that’s not the same.
Perhaps there are clues in what’s happening now. While I’m away, my friends in Oregon are taking care of things up there. Jo is tending my dog. Mary Lee and Jessie are filling in for me with music at church. Pat, who is my emergency contact with my doctors, is collecting my mail and sending the bills and other important things to me. She’s the one who drove me to the hospital and sat with me before my cataract surgery and the one who drove me to Albany in the dark when my husband died. Other friends brought food, cleaned my house and made sure I wasn’t alone.
You can’t count on children, but you can count on friends, as well as siblings, cousins and other relatives. And your spouse, of course, if you have one. If you feel like no one will be around in a crisis, make some connections now, and agree to be there for each other when things get tough.
It might be nice to have children to take care of us, but there’s a world of other people to turn to if we just look around.
What do you think? Do you worry about ending up alone with no one to help? I look forward to your comments
NOTE: I don’t have an Internet connection at my Dad’s house, so I may not be able to approve your comments until I can steal away to a coffee shop or wherever I can find Wi-Fi, but I will get to them, and I look forward to reading what you have to say.