Musings about life in the Pigeon household

Growing Old Gracefully – Part Deux


Recently I’ve talked with a bunch of friends whose parents have regressed. Or it seems they’ve made a choice to live out their second childhood. Call it what you will. But it is something these adults are doing and it seems to be quite a common occurrence!

Things like going off on their own without keeping up contact with family. Making choices that don’t seem to concern other family members. And while I get this idea, I really really do, sometimes there are choices these adults are making that put a lot of strain on their other family members (selling property that was in the family for years without consulting others in the family, getting rid of possessions with special meaning to family, leaving the country for warmer climes without any thought to family members’ birthdays, special events, etc.).

First of all, these are adults, some are already seniors, and they really don’t need to answer to anyone. I was talking to my mother-in-law a while ago and she said she is now living a life where she doesn’t have to answer to anyone and can do whatever she wants.

That’s so far off my radar at this point in my life; it was like she was talking another language.

But I’m thrilled for her just the same.

She was a single mom raising her kids and she worked damn hard and now she is retired and enjoying life.

She might not be answering to anyone, but I also know she is the kind of lady who would put family first. She always did exactly that while raising my wonderful hubby and his brother. She has been around for all of her grandchildren’s’ birthdays. And when she happens to be out of town, she calls or plans ahead to see them before she leaves. She makes an effort to see sporting events the kids are in and she attends Christmas concerts and school plays.

And I know that if she ends up travelling or moving away, she’ll always be a phone call away. And hopefully she’ll have extra room for us when we visit (notice I didn’t say ‘if’? I said ‘when’)…

And hopefully she’ll always put family first as a priority. I like to think she would. She’s a hoot. I love her to pieces and I consider her a good friend.

But things change.

We all count on our parents to always be there, and things definitely change there!

I have friends where one parent has died and the remaining parent goes off the deep end. And can I judge? No way – I have a wonderful life, a loving husband, healthy kids – I can’t imagine what life must be like without your life partner. I like to think that if anything ever happened to my spouse, that I would want the love and support of my family.

I know that when my mom died, my husband and kids helped me get through it more than I ever dreamed possible. I hope that whatever happens in my future, I’ll always remember that even if the kids are adults, they still need a parent’s support. 

I can only think of one example out of about 3 or 4 friends where the parent has remained ‘sane’ after losing their spouse. I don’t know that many people who have lost a parent. It’s a horrible club to belong to. And I understand that people deal with grief in different ways.

One friend, her mom went a little batty though. Lost it. Cried every holiday and birthday for five years after her husband’s death. Even around the grandkids. She could not hold it together.

I find that so incredibly sad. Should she have gone to counseling? Probably. Would it have helped? Who can say?

Time definitely helps. And talking.

I know that time and talking to friends and family is what helped get me through.

My dad on the other hand, retreated to his cave. Big time.

We just had the five year anniversary of my mom’s death last week. We were around a table talking about Mom and our memories of her. Two of my kids were there too. I was able to go on and on about the silliest things I remember about my mom. My brother was able to get a word in too.

My dad was too upset to talk.

Hmmmm…. not enough talking. That’s my diagnosis.

And I don’t mean talking about work and bills and the house. I mean about loss and how hard it is and how much it really does suck and how unfair it is.

And eventually, you turn a corner and you don’t even know it. You still know it sucks to have lost this special person in your life, but in some small way you heal a little. You don’t cry every single time you talk about them. And then you don’t cry every single time you think about them. Then sometimes you’re able to laugh without crying. And then it seems to evolve into laughing at a wonderful memory rather than being too sad and upset to share your thoughts and feelings with others about this person who meant so much to you in your life.

Of course, like I said, I’ve never lost a spouse. But I do have two aunts (Mom’s sisters) who have.

Now they live on the other side of the country so I definitely don’t get to see them nearly as often as I wish I could. So for all I know, they’re a can short of a six pack. But from what I hear from family and from what I know having seen and talked to them myself, I think they’re doing well.

Is it because they’re women and have been sharing? Not that it matters if they’re women. I have a friend whose Dad is completely normal and thriving and didn’t retreat from his family and turn into a different sort of person. Maybe he felt like he had someone to talk to and actually did it.

Hmmm… Something to ponder.

Anyhow, my post isn’t just about spouses losing spouses. It’s about parents whose actions are so self-absorbed and I just have to wonder where it comes from.

I have other friends (I make it sound like I’m Miss Popular Goody Two Shoes, don’t I?) whose parents don’t see their grandchildren at all.

Maybe annually. If that.

What is that? How can you not want to see your grandchildren? Or your own children for that matter? It completely boggles my mind. I don’t get it.

It especially frustrates me because I see how sad my friends are.

And then I think of my mom and how she would have done anything to be on this earth to spend more time with her family.

Okay, that’s my rant for the day. Let me know what you think – and why you think this happens.

What is your plan for the future?

Do you plan to hang with your family every Christmas or figuratively flip them the bird and head for warmer climes? And if you do – which I’m hoping I’ll get to do one day – would you at least email?





8 thoughts on “Growing Old Gracefully – Part Deux

  1. Tracy, Tracy, how I wish I could write like you!! Growing old isn’t for sissies, it is scary at times and wonderful at others. Being alone is difficult too, there are so many decisions to make alone that you used to talk over and share. But, you are right when you say family is so important, grandkids are agreat gift and do help alot to keep you tied to reality and earthbound!!!

  2. Boy, was this a great post!
    Yeah, my in-laws are one of those who’d make you ‘wonder’. When they are around our son, the toxity they project and the required damage control hardly makes it worthwhile…which is why we’ve pretty much given up on them. They compare our son to their token grandchildren, and pull no punches when it comes to openly comparing our son to how much better at everything the other two grandchildren are. They’ve never babysat, or made an appearance on one of his birthdays,….and, they’ve had 9 of them so far to be present at. Yet, on the upcoming celebration of my husband’s father’s 70th, they have the nerve to send an email asking for money to buy him a car!!!

    Things that make you go ‘hmmmmmmm’.

    • That is such a crazy story, Shell! And what’s more sad is that I hear that sort of thing a lot from my friends.
      Not sure what these people are thinking, but I myself will definitely take it as a lesson in what NOT to do when my children are adults and I’m lucky enough to have grandchildren!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts & experiences! I appreciate it! Take care!

      • You know, I think it’s cool you’re ‘putting it out there’ and talkin’ about it….I mean, we all think we’re so ‘unique’ when we’re going through crap like this. Often, we turtle…at least I do…because, who could possibly have dysfunction as I do in their lives? Shocking to think… an alien life form…..these things might actually exist (kidding about ET)…but seriously….shocking to think that people in the little bubble we live in known as this city, and beyond that…might actually have real problems to contend with. Maybe, if we actually talked about it instead of masking it, we’d progress. If you think about it, our generation is really one of the first who talk about stuff. Our parent’s generations never discussed things….which may be good or bad when you think about how their generation remained married/less divorce, etc….along comes this generation of those who start to move ahead by talking about things that matter, except for areas like you’ve hit a head on….it’s slowly surfacing, but not the sort of chit chat you’d have over dinner…and yeah, I’d agree that it’s mostly women who ‘connect’ on these matters. Sometimes, I think it’d be easier to be a man.

      • Thanks, Shelley! That was a fantastic note! Too true, lady…
        Let’s hope it gets people talking – at least to family!

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