Monday, January 14, 2019

Our Parents are Dying

I have wanted to write this post so many times and I stopped because I was afraid of what people would think of the title. Which is ridiculous because what I write is mostly for me, and also for the people that are going through the same heartbreak.

I remember when my first friend got married. And then the 2nd, and then 3rd, 4th, 5th...etc. Wedding season was the absolute best. Sure we complained about the costs but we were invited to open bar dance parties for entire weekends. It was pure bliss. 

Then the babies came. I loved baby showers mainly because I had no idea about gear, clothing...etc. Then came baby sprinkles (2nd showers) and now come 40th birthday parties.

But for some of us amidst all the celebratory milestones of our 30's, comes the worst phase of them all. 

Our parents are dying

Maybe not for some of you, but for some of us we are knee deep in it. I entered this phase in 2011 when Mom's diagnosis was official and still haven't quite left. I don't think you ever graduate this stage until you become orphans. 

In 2016 my Aunt died from sudden cardiac arrest. She was the Aunt I saw the most, and the one I inherited so many traits from. She was a Rockbrook girl, an OCD planner, a Queen of Oberon, and a damn good time. 

Dad and his indescribable sister Aunt Kathleen Cowart

In 2017 my dear friend lost her father. And then my crazy Nashville cousins lost their father. In 2018 I lost my mother. And in 2018 two other friends lost their mothers to Alzheimer's. Before the end of 2018 two other friends lost their fathers. 

Over the past seven days a friend has lost his father, another friend has lost his father, and this weekend my friend lost her father to Alzheimer's. 

I didn't imagine it would be like this. I still think I'm in my early 30's. (Spoiler Alert: I'm not.) Grandparents are supposed to be trekking to Disney with us. They should be telling inappropriate jokes to our children, micromanaging our holiday menus, and lecturing us on thank you notes. I still haven't been duck hunting or fly fishing with my Dad and am worried we are running out of time. (Dad is fine, I think Mom's death has me on high alert)

My Grandparents Kay and Bob Boylan with their dear friends Big T and Betty Ann Myer

My parents were both orphans by the time they were 35. All my grandparents died young and while I was only 3 at the time I never understood the importance of grandparents in kids lives, much less in their own children's lives. How did my parents deal with losing all of their parents so young?  They picked up and moved from their beloved New Orleans to Arden, NC and I'm sure the change of scenery must have helped. I don't remember ever seeing Mom upset but I was also so young. I remember growing up hearing stories of the infamous Bob Boylan. I remember Mom sometimes getting teary eyed saying she wished her parents could have known me. My brother is 13 years older than me so he got to at least know this older generation a little more than I did.

My Mother with her mother, Dorothy Duffy Brown

But since I never had grandparents I didn't know what I was missing. Mom, how did you cope with the death of your mother? What were those early years in Asheville like? Were you jealous of your friends who had two healthy parents? Did it strengthen your relationship with your children? I feel like my mother's death has made me be more intentional with my time and love with my kids. Amelie's bedtime routine takes forever but sometimes I tell my brain to shut up and just lay there and play with her hair until she falls asleep.

I don't like this phase. But it is one we will all inevitably go through, I just never thought it would be now. I figured they would all live to at least 80? Mom never saw 70.

I want you to know that if you have a friend in this phase that reaching out, maybe even monthly, or weekly, is the best thing you can do. It is lonely and sad and isolating. I have a separate post I will write about the best things you can do when a friend has lost a parent, but if you have a friend going through the early stages here are a few things you can do.

Send a card. 
Send a text/DM/facebook message.
Drop off something to their house.
Ask with interest how their parent is doing. 

It hurts more than I thought and I get a new message from a friend what feels like once a week now with Hospice questions. I want those friends to know that I will answer any question with love and am here for anything you need.

Lastly, cherish your parents. Think about your own parenting and look back at all the amazing things they did for you. What I hear from other grandparents is they just want time, pictures and love from their kids/grandkids. Make sure you are sending it to them!!!

1 comment:

  1. i've been following your blog from time to time, dealing with similar issues (although not alzheimers but diseases that took a long time). my parents are both gone. i'm your age (or younger) too, in a similar life sage...we have a friend or two in common i think from unc, although we don't know eachother. you are a beautiful and poignant writer, and you are able to put into words so much of what i have been feeling over the last few years during the very hard chapter of my life. i have often thought about if i'm jealous of my friends with parents; i realize that i of course am jealous, bu i'm not actually jealous of them. i love to hear them talk about their parents because it is a reminder that that is 'normal and hopefully we will successfully (and healthily) live to be in our 80s and 90s. thank you for sharing your thoughts and voice. wishing you and your family peace and good memories.