Home for the Holidays

You fly home for the holidays. You think Mom is doing okay. Dad has said she’s hanging in there.

You realize she is hanging in there but only because your dad has started doing most things for her. He cooks (not well, but they are fed). He does laundry (you didn’t know he knew how). He goes grocery shopping and feeds the pets and even makes the bed.

Those text messages your mom sends? That’s actually your dad texting you using her phone.

Your Christmas gift this year was a gift card. You don’t mind that, but it seems off. You realize Mom didn’t have enough energy to do the shopping. She used to love doing Christmas shopping for her kids and grandkids. Now you’ve got a $100 gift card to the Home Depot. It’s not a bad gift, but your mom never would have purchased that.

You realize your dad is a rock star, but he’s also a poor communicator and super defensive when you try to have a conversation. In addition, he’s had two heart attacks and doesn’t take care of his Type II diabetes. You think denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

They are planning a trip to Hawaii. The mention of it makes you stick to your stomach. You don’t think it’ll go well. What if they get separated and she wanders off? Can the two of them get through airport security without a debacle? Who will they call if things fall apart? You aren’t sure if you can step away from your job to go get them if there is a crisis.

Your sister thinks everything is fine. She says your dad should have been doing all of this stuff around the house for years, and it’s good to see him stepping up in retirement.

When you ask your dad if Mom needs to go to the doctor, he asks, “What are they gonna do for her?”

He also insists she’s been to the doctor recently and the doctor didn’t notice a problem. Of course, this was a visit to urgent care for a sinus infection.

He keeps saying you shouldn’t worry. He tells you that they are managing “just fine.” He assures you that he has it under control, but you also see in his eyes that he’s tired. Tired of answering the same question repeatedly. Tired of reminding his wife what day it is. Tired of getting up at night when he wakes up and she’s not beside him. Tired of losing her a little bit more each day.

But they are still having fun. They go for walks. They watch movies. They play cards. You can’t say Mom has a poor quality of life. She’s not ready for a nursing home. You aren’t about to offer that they could come live with you out of state.

So what do you do with this? You feel like you know there is a bomb under your family home but no one else will acknowledge it. You feel gaslighted.

You fly home. You had planned to come back for Easter, but you book a flight in early February.

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