It’s not a secret that both my and my husband’s parents live nearby – my folks live in the same town as we do; my husband’s parents recently moved back from overseas and bought a house in a neighboring town. While most of the time, my posts about their proximity come in the form of a rant, the reality is that having both sets of parents nearby is a blessing in disguise.
It gives us comfort knowing that we’re in touch with our parents throughout the week and can be at their side within about 10 minutes. Our parents are at an age where things are changing faster than anyone realizes or is willing to admit. When my husband’s parents lived overseas, they never told us when anything was wrong with their health or well-being – we heard things secondhand from cousins or distant relatives who lived near them. My parents, the fiercely independent couple who have always done everything for themselves, refuse to admit that they’re getting old, and try to hide things. Being closeby helps to break down the barrier of mystery and silence because they can’t hide things forever.
A year ago, my husband dropped by my folk’s house (unannounced) and noticed that one of their cars was not in the garage. When he asked about it, he was told that the car was “being fixed” and got the universal “don’t ask anymore” glare. Being the dutiful Asian son-in-law, he didn’t ask any further, but knew something was up. We later discovered through the police log in the local newspaper that my dad had been in an accident that was entirely his fault. I can guarantee you that had we not noticed the missing car or seen the log report, we’d still in a state of blissful ignorance.
The incident forced us to have a difficult but necessary conversation about driving. Like much of Connecticut, we live in a town where you cannot survive without a car. Every option raised was difficult for my parents to accept because it meant giving up some independence. After much painful discussion, we reached a solution that just wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t live in town. Basically, we decided that my parents would only drive their one remaining car during the day and if they needed any ride anywhere at any time, I or my husband would be their chauffeurs.
With my in-laws, having them move back was a necessity out of concern for their safety and health. They lived overseas and were reluctant to move back to the States. On several occasions, we heard secondhand stories about them getting badly injured (falling) or being in vulnerable situations (one situation involved my MIL getting into a stranger’s car). At the same time, their physical health was/is shaky and they both refuse to seek medical attention. As the dutiful son, it’s my husband’s responsibility to take care of his parents in their old age – being so far away made it very difficult and stressful for everyone including Hubby’s extended family who had to deal with it on the opposite end. We set things up so that his parents would feel free to move back to the US for half the year, and still feel some level of independence.
There comes a sad moment of truth for any parent when they have to admit that they’re at an age where they have to depend on their kids more than their kids depend on them. Our parents spent decades devoting themselves to us, and it’s time that we do the same in return. It’s not easy, and it’s not always fair, but it is the circle of modern human life and we owe it to them. I dread each subsequent discussion that we will inevitably have about their aging status because I know that each one will be more painful than the prior, but it’s what we need to do. It makes me a little sad thinking that my own kids will have to deal with this one day, and I only hope that they feel as lovingly devoted to them as I/Hubby try to be towards our parents.