The past few weeks, life’s had its way of letting me know I have so much more learning to do.
I’ve been talking with friends and family about the idea of growing older, realizing that two of the new roles of reaching your late 30s/early 40s is that of provider and caretaker. It’s not unfamiliar because, by this age, most of us have kids and already know we’re putting food on the table for someone other than ourselves. It relates moreso to our parents and how our roles reverse with them.
As we get older, so do our folks. As our lives are picking up, our days becoming more packed with things on the to-do list, our moms and dads see their days slowing down. They’re retiring, shifting from always on the go themselves to days highlighted by going to doctor appointments and lunch buffets. They shift from breadwinners to fixed income. From iron men and women to down days caused by aches and illnesses.
For me, it’s something I started to come to terms with years ago once my mom was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I typed that sentence like the shift was easy. It wasn’t. If there’s one thing I learned from my parents, it was that you always go and fulfill your responsibilities. From grades K-12, I missed two whole days of school, both occasions for funerals. The trait’s one I’ve pretty much carried on in adulthood, one I learned from my folks. There were no sick days, no skipping out or any of that. Unless bound to the bed by strict doctor’s orders or other circumstances, everyone in my household went where they were expected to go daily.
Watching my mom gradually slow down to the point where some days walking from her bedroom to the kitchen could be an exhausting experience…well, that’s taken time as much time for me to adjust to as it has her I suppose. She and my father never had any major illnesses when we were growing up as kids so watching her move at a snail’s pace, hearing her describe her pain and, on several days out of the month, her explaining how doing anything more than sitting up in the bed was not possible, that messes with you.
It’s taught me patience for one thing. A lot of it. Also, it’s the strongest reminder that my parents won’t be here forever. They’re in their twilight years. With that in mind, I’ve taken to talking with them a lot more about…everything. Nothing’s held back about why certain things happened during my childhood, how to handle certain things as a parent, husband, brother, etc, and then, some days I just listen to them talk about life.
Especially with my mom. Retired for the past several years, she’s at home all day and her lifelong best friend died of cancer less than a year ago – another reminder of where my parents are in life – and it left a huge void in her life. Without anyone to talk to and confide in, she’s turned more to me, my sisters and my pops for conversation. And she talks so damn slow on the phone, some days it’s frustrating. She repeats herself on stories. Long pauses in between sentences. Assumes because I work from home that means I’m at home chilling to talk on the phone endlessly.
But, sometimes I do. I have to. It’s because I realize that there will come a day when I won’t be able to pick up the phone and call her to ask her tips on how to refinance my mortgage or what’s the best way to handle an insurance claim. Or, just to pick up the phone and talk to her. There’s not only this wealth of knowledge she has, but also just how she’s there. As a mom. As someone I can confide in. Someone to bounce ideas off of.
All of these same ideas apply to my pops as well. He’s generally been a rock, but his health is starting to catch up with him as well. A month or so ago, we all spent a full day at the hospital while he got an arteriogram. Going in, I prepared myself for the best and worst for weeks. Thankfully, his report was much better than expected but there was one sobering reminder that he, too, was getting older.
After the procedure, he was still a little woozy and his right leg slightly numb. But, he was anxious to get out of there asapsual so he wanted to get up and my two laps walking around the recovery wing. The nurse needed my help to help steady him as he stood up. To fast forward the story, he actually collapsed onto his ass during one of his laps. In a way, him falling was a lot of things. Funny, because my dad is cooler than ice and falling’s not in his DNA. Also, a little saddening because it’s a stark reminder that, as the days go by, he’s aging, too. Physically as well as mentally.
Where am I going with all this?
I’m not 100% sure.
Somehow, life and music are always intertwined for me. I can’t say that any rapper’s every given up the guidebook for how to deal with your parents getting older, but Big Boi’s latest #MashUpMondays entry sort of did or at least it sparked something in my mind. “Damaged World” features the Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumors original tune “Tremendous Damage” crossed with Menahan Street Band’s “The World.” The lyrical significance is we hear Big reflecting over his father’s death. A bit of timing comes into play because Andre 3000 lost his father very recently, preceded by the loss of his mother less than a year ago.
With all the hoopla surrounding ‘Kast, their reunion tour and celebrating 20 years of Southernplayalistic…, a bit of research revealed to me that Big and Andre are my peers in age, which I never really noted before. In a way, as we’re growing up and older, our favorite artists are as well, experiencing new life stages at the same time we are. As Big rhymes “February 28th, the day my daddy died, Well, not really, his energy passed to the other side,” it’s a subtle reminder for me to make time for mine before they cross over, too.