Watching Your Parents Age

There is nothing easy about appearing and getting older in your children’s eyes.

It has begun to happen to me.

I laugh it off because that is my response to many things that are uncomfortable. The response begins with a laugh and then dissolves into my heart when the bigger picture becomes clear.

I remember seeing my parents age.

I didn’t like it.

My mother was a mover. She had energy. And even after the depression and shock treatments, she moved, in part to keep busy so the gremlins wouldn’t overtake her again.

There was a period when she decided not to dye her hair. It didn’t set well with my sister and I. Egads. With are you doing? You look a lot older.

We were young, at least, relatively. The though of mom getting older was scary. Damn. Why do people have to change?

Mom’s back began to hunch over and her hands became like polka dot fabric, speckled with age. Sometimes, after eating, she’d get stuff stuck between her teeth and it irritated me.

Irritated. Why irritated? Why not just, oh well?

My dad got shorter, too. Shorter than I was. But I forgave him more easily than I forgave my mom, that aging indiscretion.

He had lost most of his hair years ago and didn’t try to hide it. He got his hair buzzed off. He didn’t get as many spots on his hands, like mom did, but his hands started to tremble. I’d watch him drink coffee and was afraid his coffee would slosh out of the cup.

The aging process seemed to come in spurts. I saw my parents at leas weekly, so there wasn’t much of a span of time between when I saw them. But there were times when especially after my mother was diagnosed with leukemia, that it was like, overnight, everything changed.

I remember seeing my dad standing at the kitchen sink, peeling a Costco size bag of carrots so that he could make carrot juice for my mom. They had read that carrot juice was a good elixir for beating leukemia. He rocked on his old feet that acted up, rolled his head to alleviate stiffness and looked as though he knew what he was doing was not going to be enough.

It killed me to see that.

I didn’t have to watch my mother get old and forgetful and more bent over. I didn’t get that privilege. The leukemia killed her.

But I watched my dad het older and older, losing much of his eyesight, hearing and memory.

Life teaches lessons text books never will.

I have seen my getting older in the looks of my kids. It isn’t blatant. Heavens, it isn’t as bad as eye telling my mom to dye her hair when I could have said, “You look fine the way your are.”

Actually, I think my kids are kinder than I was. My shoulders stoop and none of them have reprimanded me to “Stand up straight.”

I did give one of my sons the stink eye when he arrived at a restaurant before we did and he told the hostess that, “An old lady” would be meeting him.

He laughed and thought it was funny. I magnified the stink eye.

I think he got the point.

One of our daughters went on an adventurous vacation, rafting the Colorado for 8 days. They camped under the stars each night and hiked through age-old canyons, shimmying through narrow spots and facing their fears o narrow high-spots.

I asked her if she thought I could do it.I could tell she was trying to be kind, but honest, and she said, “Probably not.”

I knew that answer before I asked and I really shouldn’t have asked it, but there is this part of me, my mind, that wants to believe I am still game. The thought and realization that the time has past for some things, galls me. There are so many things I haven’t done.

So, I still dye my hair, pluck my chin and color my eyebrows as part of dress-up to not mask some of the aging wonders. IMG_7223 (1)

When you are young, you don’t realize that everyone doesn’t have the energy or agility or stamina that you have.

Another thing is that when I watched my dad age, I saw nothing grand about it. He closed up shop on his life when my mom died and all aging did was make him older. There were no benefits.

I have found it interesting that when people die before they get to or go through old age, our memories of them are different. We mourn the loss of those who die to young and perhaps, without verbalizing it, when an old person dies, wonder if they lived too long.

There are days that go by when I don’t think about this aging business that I am going through, but there are more days when I think, ugh, this is a bit trying. Oh, who am I kidding? Someday it is rancid. Very rancid. There is this sense of how bad will this get and how will I deal with it?

I am sure that my kids have their questions about that, too. It isn’t easy for them. I know they dread the day when they get “that” call.

Until that day, I hope that I am able to go on adventures … maybe not rafting the Colorado, but bopping from little town to little town, chatting with people and laughing.

I have my fingers crossed.



Copyright 2016 Susan Hipkins DeBow  All Rights Reserved.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen Martin says:

    I’m liking this format for your writing, Susan. Re today’s post: my mother, after suffering a stroke, told me “it went all downhill when I turned 80.” She had a good run in life. I’m hoping for the same. And looks like you’re doing well at it too. With or without rafting the Colorado.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan DeBow says:

      Hi Karen. I am glad you like it. I will keep adding to it and modifying. I think people understand my learning cure on this. Your mother sounds like she was great. She did have a good run. Cheers to all of us!
      Thank you for commenting. It means a lot.


  2. Pat Mays says:

    My hands are my Mother’s hands that loved me. So when i see those wrinkles, brown spots, thins nails, I think of Mommy. Your hands are like the wrinkles everywhere, speak to your life. Since I work in long-term care, dementia some, the wrinkles tell me volumes. At least I like to think they do. Remember when we were young I thought 40 and 50 was old, now not so much. I look back and think my Daddy died at 57, I thought he was old then now I am 68, and realize he was young. Older we get the perception of old changes. Love this one Susan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan DeBow says:

      What you say is so good and thoughtful. Yes, there was a time when we thought 30 was old. I am still better off not thinking of age as a number … just another day of life with a new beginning each morning. My mom had strong hands and very nice and strong fingernails. Her hands were stronger than mine, but mine have done a fine job. No complaints. Thank you for making me see things differently.


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