Saying good-bye to mom and dad
My parents are well into their seventies. They live pretty far away from me and I see them about twice a year.
Every time we visit, I notice how they’re getting older.
Maybe I wouldn’t notice it as much if I saw them every day.
But because months always pass between our visits, the changes are always very noticeable.
And in some cases, I find them alarming.
Things are changing
Gone are the days when my parents were the strong grown-ups who knew everything and could do anything.
When I was growing up, they were the people in my life who knew how things were done. They gave me advice; they looked out for us kids, they were on top of the world.
These days, every time I see my parents, I see how they’re getting frailer. They’re walking with a stoop and they’re huffing and puffing. Things that we younger ones can do without thinking twice are exhausting for them and a huge effort – both physically and mentally.
Can’t teach an old dog new tricks
They’ve tuned out of large parts of contemporary life – computers and the internet, for instance. They don’t know what an ipod is, how to use e-mail or how to take digital pictures.
It must be a strange world for them, where everyone is talking about things and using technical devices that they don’t understand.
They drew a line about twenty years ago and decided that they didn’t want to bother with all that new digital stuff. I guess they were tired of learning, tired of adapting, and happy with what they had.
Alien new technologies
I remember that in the mid 1980’s, my mother, who used to work in an office before I was born, was totally fascinated by my electronic typewriter.
Imagine what she’d say if I showed her all the neat things you can do with word processing today (and I, for one, am surely not among the most computer-savvy…)
My father only recently opened up to the world of audio CDs when he bought a new car. The car radio no longer has a tape deck, but came with a CD player. So my dad could no longer listen to his beloved audio-cassettes in his car.
But in this case, he opened up to the new and started buying some music CD’s for the car.
CD’s are now a fascinating new world for him. He loves the “shuffle” function and the fact that CD’s – unlike cassette tapes – don’t need rewinding.
Sadly, he’s beginning to like CD’s just as they’re about to be phased out and replaced by mp-3s, mp 4s, blue-ray discs and other nifty new technologies.
With love from me to you
Recently, my parents’ stereo broke down. They’d had it for more than 30 years and they were convinced that you couldn’t get anything that good any more today. They tried to get the receiver fixed, but it still doesn’t work properly.
So when I last visited them, I offered to give them a stereo that I still have sitting around my house, but that I’m not using.
My father was delighted when I promised I’d bring it down and hook it up for him.
And all of a sudden it occurred to me how the tables had turned.
When I was a boy, he used to give us kids his outdated gadgets whenever he upgraded to something fancier – his old camera, his slide projector or his transistor radio.
Now I was giving my father my old stereo system. Still in perfect working order, but something I had outgrown, replaced with something more modern. Times change.
Death and dying
During my last visit with my parents, we also talked about how they would like to be buried after they die.
It was the first time we openly discussed the topic.
And even though everyone knows that death and dying are topics you’ve got to think about when you’re nearing 80, talking about these issues with my parents still caught me off guard.
My parents told me that they’d decided against a traditional burial. Instead, they want to be cremated after they’ve died.
And they don’t want a gravesite on a cemetery.
Instead, they want their ashes scattered in a forest.
My parents know that their children live far away from where they live now and where they will most likely die. Once my parents will have passed, there will be no reason for us “children” to visit their town.
That’s why my parents decided that they would like to be buried anonymously in a peaceful forest overlooking the countryside that they so love.
No obligation for anyone to plant flowers on their grave.
But no grave you can visit when you have the urge to be close to them.
Visiting my parents now, I fully understood that they will not live forever. Death is just around the corner.
I’m grateful that they’re still there to visit, to hug and to thank for everything they’ve done for us “children”.
I’m grateful that even though they’re not as strong as they used to be, they can still take care of themselves. They still travel, eat well, drink, laugh and enjoy their lives.
I’m grateful that they’ve still got each other.
And I’m grateful that I’ve still got them.
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