February 11, 2015

My Daddy's Getting Old

I’m sorry if I ramble and things are not completely cohesive. I just needed to write and I was drinking a very strong airplane cranberry and vodka drink while writing it. 

I have travelled with my dad before, I went with him to Argentina a few years back - just him and I. But this trip was different. I noticed things that I was hoping I wouldn’t have to encounter for several more years. 

But it makes sense. My dad is getting old (some will say he already is). 

My dad turned 80 last year (I threw him a party, you can read about it HERE). But because I’m only 30 (yes, I was born on his 50th birthday), it’s hitting me hard. 

His memory is going, his hearing is not so good (I’m trying to get him in to see an audiologist), and he is becoming more stubborn and grumpy than ever before. 

I write this here knowing that he will most likely never read it and because I need to get it out, I need to speak it, but I don’t want to cry in front of anyone. I cry too much already. 

My mom, who is 10 years younger than him, is always complaining to me about how he treats her. This isn’t anything new, but it has become more frequent lately to the point that I can see it is really bothering my mom now. She cried during a walk one day. It made me cry. My mom used to never cry, now it’s often since my sister passed last year. But since my mom always complained about my dad I didn’t really pay close attention. I know my dad, but I also know my mom. She is hard headed and very frustrated with having to do all the household chores herself - but that’s not new. I know she provokes him. 

This trip has made me realize my dad is very grumpy, stubborn, and has qualities that I just don’t like. He tells old man jokes - the racist kind - that make me uncomfortable even when it’s just him and I, but when it’s around others I try to hide. He has also reached the point where he will start making up stories, especially to tell strangers. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. I’m afraid of what he will say to strangers (and my strangers I just mean the people we encounter at restaurants and the like, not random people on the street). 

I’m hoping that a lot of the not understanding has to do with his hearing. I’ve been telling him to go to an audiologist for a long time, he is finally recognizing that he is having issues hearing. I noticed it at restaurants where I had to translate what the waiters would ask or say to him, but now it’s becoming an issue of me having to yell at him or just speak very slowly of him to hear. Which in turn gets him upset because he thinks we are talking down to him, which is not the case. 

I am glad that my dad is still here and that for the most part he is healthy and there is no reason for me not to think that he will be around for another decade (his family tends to live for a long time) but it’s hard learning to be around this new person. Even though he is my dad, he is changing. I guess that I am too. 

(I’ll pause to say that the flight attendant just came to ask if we wanted peanuts or pretzels, I told him this, and he then re-asked the question to her - this is what I mean). 

Maybe this sounds shallow? Rude? Disrespectful? I’m not trying to be. I just feel like I’m losing the dad I remember, the one who played with me and took me places. (damn it, the tears are coming and he’s sitting next to me on the plane) I feel that I should be older when this happens. 

This is why I want to be young when I have kids. Being a child of older parents is not the same as being one of younger parents. They have less energy and you have a bigger risk of losing them at a younger age (your age that is). 

How do I learn to be with this person who is not the same one I’ve had all my life? It feels that the change was so quick. Like yesterday he was the guy who was picking me up from girl scouts and now he is the one I need to help.

Love the Here and Now
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  1. I don't think your story is disrespectful or shallow at all. One of my best friends (she's 24) just watched her dad turn 80. She's struggling with the same feelings. It's ok to be confused and worried and sad and irritated. Your dad is lucky to have a daughter like you!

  2. I cannot imagine how hard this is. My parents being 65 causes me so much concern. I am so sorry for what you are going through. I worry that if I wait as long as I'd like to have kids (no desire in the near future) I'm going to be an older parent and miss out on so much later on down the road.

  3. I am sending you a big hug and I think that you are very thoughtful and generous. This is not easy at all and it's okay to feel conflicted about this.

  4. It is hard to watch your parents age. I have been doing this along with my siblings. I am the oldest of the siblings (there are 7 of us) but it is hard on all of us. My parents are even older than your (86 and 82). They have had severe health issues (stroke , heart attack and aortic dissections). They are doing OK for everything they have been through. I try and do what I can for them. I was not and will not be able to give them grandchildren (health issue on my part). But I think it is also hard on them realizing they need to rely on their children for things they didn't need to before. It stresses me out sometimes the way that things are but I can not do anything about it. I have to just believe that I am doing the best I can and they are as well.
    I do hope that you do take some time for yourself and also enjoy the time you have with your parents.

  5. I can't imagine what you are going through. It's hard seeing our parents in a different light and seeing them age. I hate it. I don't think you're being rude at all...we need a space where we can let our fears be heard and be supported. Sending you hugs!

  6. It is so, so hard to watch our parents aging. We see them as these solid figures in our lives when we grow up, never ever imagining the likelihood that we will possibly have to cope with losing them one day, or have to see them changing and getting older. I lived away for the last 12 years, the more recent 6 of them across an ocean, so when I came home this summer the changes were really stark in comparison to my memories. I'm sorry you're feeling all the feels of this too :/ Sending you hugs from here!

  7. Thank you so much! It really means a lot to hear this. :) You are very sweet!

  8. Thank Rebekah! I really appreciate the kind words and knowing that I'm not alone in these feelings. Thanks ;) I feel the same way!!!

  9. Thank you so much Lora. It's so nice knowing that I'm not alone. That what I feel is normal.

  10. It is so hard. The idea of not having them... and then them changing. It's something that one never wants to have to do. Thank you for sharing your story with me. Hugs to you!

  11. Yes. You said it perfectly!! Thank you so much, Anne!

  12. Wow, I cannot imagine how hard it is to live so far away. The contrast must be scary to live through. Lots of hugs to you!

  13. Oh Kathy! That has got to be so so hard to watch. I'm nothing little things in my mom too, but she's only 51, I don't even want to think about her at age 80.