5.06.2011

Health Issues

I have been thinking non-stop about my parents, my in-laws, my grandparents lately. It's been kind of driving me a little crazy. I am so worried about the health of all these people I love. When we're little kids, our parents seem so old to us, our grandparents ancient. As we grow into teens, the age gap seems to lessen and we see them more realistically...a generation gap away. As adults, we recognize that they are getting older, but they no longer seem quite so distant in years. But then, suddenly, they hit 60, and 60 sounds old-ish. 65 is the age of retirement. 70, wow, 70.

And as our parents age, health complications begin to arise. Whether in the form of a hip replacement, a stroke, alzheimers, broken bones, allergies, high blood pressure, or diabetes, these ailments become noticeable and we see our parents attending the physician's office more frequently. With age inevitable comes frail health.

Neither my in-laws nor my parents are in the best of health. Each of them suffers from one thing or another, and as they suffer, I suffer along with them. It scares me and makes me worry. And when I get scared and worried, I have a tendency to distance myself, to lessen my own worry, I assume. But it remains, as I see oma struggle to walk, opa cringe when there is too much noise, my mom tell me of her bloodtest results, and my dad as he complains of the arthritis in his hands aching so he can't even drive.

It's easy for me to negate my parents, being physically distanced form them means I don't directly see their ailments...until I see them after a time span and notice the limp in their step, the further balding, the swollen feet. Sometimes it makes it nearly unbearable, seeing the decline in my parents' health after our time apart. But nearly weekly I am in the presence of my in-laws, and I notice this or that or the other and though their negative decline is less noticebale than a reunion with my own parents, it definitely exists and I am confronted with it regularly.

I can't imagine losing one of these people who mean so much. Each of them plays such an importnat role in my life. Opa has allowed me to be myself and laughed with me as I adjusted to becoming a European, made my adjustment easier with him around. Oma is a loving woman with a very open personality which was hard for me in the beginning, but I have come to appreciate, trust, and love. She tells it like it is, and that makes it easy; no second-guessing what she is thinking. My mom is my best friend. I can discuss anything with her and know she will support me no matter what. Even from afar, there is never a doubt to who I will turn when I need a listening ear. My dad and I always had íssues'when I was growing up. He called me out when I needed it, and was a disciplinarian. As I have grown older, he and I have become good friends in addition to him being my dad. We share many of the same ideals and have compassion for each other. He is the man I have always looked up to and has shown me what hard work means, and what you can achieve by being a hard worker.

My grandparents on my mom's side are both still alive, and for this I feel completely blessed. They have given my children the feeling of having that so important extended family. However, neither is free of health problems as well as their age (92 and 84) give reason to worry. They are both at peace with their lives and both are ready for the day their Father calls them home. I'm not sure I am so ready for that day. I am extremely close to my gramma especially, and can't imagine not hearing her voice or receiving her hugs.

This all means that my family bonds are very strong, and for that I am grateful. But it does play a part in the pain and worry when each of them is in pain or has health problems. Being so far away from my parents and grandparents adds an extra burden, and though within the vicinity of my in-laws, we are not close enough for me to help on a daily basis, like I wish I could. Lately I have been doubting the decisions we have made with regards to distancing ourselves physically from family. Though our emotional bond remains close, we aren't nearby to help or be around for them when we are needed. And that plays on my heart.

I know that we need to do what is necessary to make a life for ourselves. We need to consider our children and the path our lives have led us and be together when the time allows. And we do that well, I think. However, health issues arise and it makes me wonder. Just what are our expectations in caring for our aging parents? And how will we achieve this task and fulfill our role as their children?

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