Parenting the Parents

March 7th, 2010 Comments

*Time* Ticking away... purchase lisinopril My Dad asked me to stop by his house and drop off his mail.  “Just use your key and leave the mail on my chair.” He asked.  So, on my way into town last Friday, that’s what I did.  Nothing unusual about that.

However, this is the first time I’ve used the key he gave me – and it’s probably the first time I’ve been in his house without him there.  I took the opportunity to look around.  I felt a little sad, a little nostalgic, a little pity/compassion, and a little sad.

opciones financieras ejemplos resueltos Several times in my EMS career, I’ve treated patients in their home, loaded them into the ambulance, and sent them off to the hospital. Often, I was not the lead paramedic, so I was left behind to clean up the mess and chaos.  Medication boxes, IV disposables, and other assorted messes we make when we are busy treating someone in the midst of a medical crisis.  Indeed, someone must lock up and secure the home too.

I remember a man with a lot of clocks. The first time we saw him in his 30×30 studio apartment of a house – which was a little bigger than the place my Dad is currently living in – I was struck by the many clocks.  They were in various states of working order.  Some completely disassembled, and others working quite well – then everything in-between.  It was a striking scene, and appeared to be a great hobby.

On that particular day, this gentleman was clearly having an MI – or, as you might say it, a heart attack.  I was the lead paramedic that day, and we treated him with efficiency and kindness.  Although his condition was serious, I assured him he’d be OK.

About a week later we were called back to the same house for similar symptoms – chest pain and shortness of breath.  As we walked into his home, I immediately sensed that things were different.  My first clue was that the house was in disarray.  And with a quick glance, I could see that all of the clocks had stopped – even the ones that were previously working.  Then I saw the eyes of this nice elderly man.  There was a fear and concern that wasn’t there before.  I did not have a good feeling about his condition, and after an assessment of his vital signs and EKG, I knew that he was most likely coming to the end of his life.

insomniaIt wasn’t my turn to be the lead paramedic, but because of my previous contact with him, I took the lead. Mostly however, I sat on the coffee table next to his chair, held his hand, and talked with him.  The rest of the team took care of the assessment and treatment tasks.  As we put him into the back of the ambulance, my partner climbed in to ride with him – in case his condition should deteriorate en-route to the hospital emergency department.  I was left to clean up.

When I went back into his house, I was really struck by the stopped clocks.  After cleaning up our disposables, checking to make sure the oven and dryer were off, and turning off some lights, I stood at the doorway for a minute just taking in the home.  For some reason I had forged a relationship with this patient.  We only met twice, and we hardly spoke, but we seemed to convey volumes through our eye contact.  And now, just before I locked up his house, I surveyed the scene.  Disarray, stopped clocks, and emptiness.  My heart was heavy, for I had a sense that he would never come home again.  And, unfortunately, I was right.  He died the next day.

I’ve had twinges of those feelings about my Dad lately.  It isn’t a good feeling.  It makes me want to cry.

My house, car, or office sometimes fall into disarray.  I get busy, stressed, sick, or have to take care of some other priority in my life.  But, I have the ability to bounce back and recover.  There are situations, like the one we are in now, where it may take a couple of years (or so) to recover, but due to our health and resources, we are usually able to turn the situation around and pull out of the disarray. It appears that my Dad, or any aging person for that matter, may at some point lose the ability to rebound. Of course it doesn’t happen all at once.  It’s gradual.  After my Dad’s stroke in 1998, my parents sold their retirement dream home in the Columbia Gorge.  They knew they didn’t have the resources to maintain two homes anymore.  Not too long after that, they sold their primary home in Tualatin, where they had lived for 20+ years, and moved into a manufactured home park.  After my Mom developed cancer, they moved to Colorado so we could better care for them – again, they downsized their home.  My Dad has continued to downsize since my Mom’s death four years ago; to the point where he’s now living in a 300 square foot, studio home.

His health continues to deteriorate, his car problems escalate, and his stuff discombobulates.  It is hard to watch and even harder to know how to step in to help.  I mean, he’s The Dad!  He’s the one who is supposed to call the shots.  My Dad has always been large and in charge.  I’m not in charge, he is!  However, my Dad is independent, stubborn, and clearly epitomizes the state of denial.

binäre optionen 5 euro Several times over the past few weeks, I’ve had to rescue him from car problems.  I don’t mind this, surely he has done more for me in my lifetime than I will ever be able to thank him for, or repay.  I’ve had to loan him money, ignore cranky outbursts, and overlook dysfunctions that I once had hope of him overcoming.  But as I stood in the middle of his house on Friday, I was overcome with a sense that this entropy will continue.

  • We would like him to move into our home, but he fears a loss of independence.
  • We would like him to eat with us more often, but he likes to watch TV when he eats.
  • The Wife, already does my Dad’s laundry, but there is so much more we could do to help.  He just is trying to protect his privacy and independence – which is understandable.

tassazione delle opzioni binarie hourglass 4It’s difficult to watch. My Dad is not always making good choices.  He bought a 15 year old car that continues to be a strain on his fixed income.  He isn’t really cooking meals for himself and it appears he is living off of an unsteady diet of candy, coffee, and McDonald’s apple pies.  The VA wants to do surgery on him, but they don’t seem to be taking in his medical issues in a holistic manner – it is more a shotgun approach to medicine.  And sadly, his flowing river of a social life has dwindled to a trickle. As I stood in his house on Friday, I had this sad sense of finality.  I didn’t like it that feeling.  I don’t like where this is going.


  1. Thanks for sharing your story. I'll be sending some good thoughts your way in these difficult times.

    1. gwalter says:

      Thanks Aaron, I really appreciate that. Hopefully we have some more years, but one never knows.

  2. Valerie Robins says:

    This is a very difficult point in life that is tough for both you and your dad. I can understand his fierce need to maintain his last remaining bit of independence; that has to be the most difficult thing for an individual to relinquish, especially if your dad is feeling like there is not much else he can control in his life. You feel the sense his life is starting to draw to a close and trust me, so does he, even if he refuses to acknowledge it. Do what he will allow and take every opportunity to enjoy the last years of his life, building, cherishing, and remembering the memories you both have built together over the years. Memories do not ease the sense of finality but they will help you through down the road. (((HUGS))) my friend.

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Thanks Valerie, those are good words and good advice. I believe this is the challenge – to respect his needs, wants, and desires – while not putting too much of a burden on my family's needs, values, and time. At the same time, squeezing every last drop out of our last times together. As always, our expectations do not always fall into alignment, feelings get hurt, and someone gets miscommunicated with. At least I’m perfect(!) And never let anyone down unnecessarily! 😉

      1. Valerie Robins says:

        perfect eh? Think I'll withhold comment on that one <grin>…seriously though, you have a very fine line to walk here between your dad's wants and needs, your wants and needs, and your family's wants and needs…this is a balancing act with no explicit rules or guidelines…a minefield apt to explode at the least little misstep. Your position is not the easiest to navigate; been there and done that and it isn't easy..

        While I have yet to lose a parent, I have been primary caregiver to two different grandmothers in their last months and years. You want to provide the best care you can but that care you are giving can make the other person feel smothered with every detail of their lives controlled in spite of our best intentions. I think the whole thing boils down to providing quality of life for the other individual, whether it be a grandparent or parent.

        Often we need to critically look at what we are doing and honestly assess whether what we are doing is really for my benefit so I will feel better about the whole thing or is the care I am giving truly about their quality of life. Quality of life is providing for the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the other individual and, for each individual, that quality of life is different.

        Gary, feel free to contact me at any time for any reason. See my FB profile for how to do that. I'm available 24/7.

        1. Gary Walter says:

          This clicked for me:”the whole thing boils down to providing quality of life for the other individual”Essentially this is known as “The Golden Rule,” or, “the Second Great Commandment.” To love others, as we love ourselves – or to do unto others what we'd like done to us. I believe that if more of us looked at life's issues in this framework, we would find easier solutions. Whether it be traffic issues, NIMBY issues, or family matters. One can hardly go wrong by putting another's needs, or wants, ahead of their own. (Communication and motive misunderstandings not with standing)————————Gary Walter from my bbPhone

  3. gwalter says:

    Thanks Rubyjean. My Dad has had a full life, and there's really no point in continuing a life that has lost its quality. I just pray that it comes painlessly. Maybe I could just find him in asleep in his chair, watching an old friend on 3ABN or something.

  4. Gary Walter says:

    Yeah, that's a good image. Falling asleep peacefully like my grandfather – not yelling and screaming like the passengers in the car with him.

    My Dad "expects to live to be 104, like his uncle. But his uncle wasn't living with a mechanical heart valve, he didn't take rat poison (Coumadin®) everyday, and I'm pretty sure he didn't smoke 4 packs a day when he was younger. I might be wrong – but I'm pretty sure my Dad isn't going to make 100 Winters.

    My recent post Do Conservatives _no_ Love?

  5. @wifenkids says:

    Ohhhh, Grandpa. Our son wanted to call him this morning so we did. Your dad LOVED that. "Well, bless your pea-picken heart.", he said to T. So glad I made that small effort to do that, rather than be "too busy" to extend the greeting from his grandson. So, I'm not exactly sure how to care for him and help him maintain his quality of life, but will do my best to keep him connected to his grandkids. And, do his laundry. And, hopefully a meal here and there, as much as he will allow. Hugs and prayers during this, time, Honey.

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Thanks for taking care of my Dad – and teaching my kids to love him. But most of all, thank you for giving them some memories that will last forever in their hearts.

      My recent post Get Off My Lawn!

  6. Mike Mathews says:

    Perfect timing, Gary. I just flew in two hours ago from a visit to my father in Henderson, south of Las Vegas.

    My dad turned 80 on February 27. I delayed a birthday visit a week because his wife (3rd) had rotator cuff surgery about six weeks ago, he was dealing with her recovery and didn’t need distractions, but she was healing nicely a couple of weeks back when I could still get a decent ticket price. Well, the timing was good because he fainted in the bathroom last Tuesday night, got stuck between the toilet and sink. His wife couldn’t help with only one good arm, but she could dial 911 really fast and the EMS folks helped the two of them to the ER. No damage on Dad except a sore tailbone from hitting the floor.

    A three-day stay in the hospital (he hates “socialist healthcare”, so I am waiting for him to offer to pay the bill! And maybe the EMS with those “damn Union people”, too), two full days of tests, and his being released on Friday at noon worked fine with my existing plane ticket for arrival at noon on Friday. I spent the weekend doing chores around the house that are just a bit beyond his reach, standing on ladders, etc.

    My son came with me. My dad’s only grandson that he last saw a decade ago, even when I made arrangements for plane tickets to Portland to see dance company performances and coordinated summer vacations to be in the LV area only to find they decided to leave LV for a hastily-planned road trip. My son at least needed to have a clean impression of the other half of what might make me seem crazy; he got a full view of everything.

    Beyond the “use my revolver for something good”, “life isn’t too good when you reach 80”, etc., running commentary (BTW, single bypass two years ago and back to doing 20 pushups, 100 situps, walking a couple of miles, and using some light weights (20 lbs dumbbells) every morning these days); Dad didn’t get the idea that his life is pretty damn good. At least he paid some attention to his grandson and had some interesting discussions on the grandson’s plans for a firefighting career that may also end up in other areas of EMS.

    I left Dad’s house this morning with a sense of emptiness. Some of that feeling came from the concern that he may decide to end his own life before he “ends up a cripple.” Some of that feeling came from the idea that this recent episode may only be the beginning of an ever-accelerating downhill slide. And a small portion of feeling is the sadness of watching a man who I knew as someone enjoying every minute of life, give up his interest in life because of a very slight, albeit scary, set-back.

    OK, I’ve gone on too long, but your post got me thinking and I’m glad you shared it. Now I am half-mad my father didn’t care much about his grandkids or the rest of the family (I am the only one who talks to him), and half-resigned to letting him go whichever way he lets the wind blow him. I cannot, and do not want to, control him, I just miss the values he once held and has forsaken.

    1. Gary Walter says:

      Mike – that's quite an ordeal. It seems like the stress of family visits is, um, uh… stressful!

      That's awesome how the timing worked out. I'm literally laughing out loud over your second paragraph: "socialist healthcare" and "damn union people!" That is too funny!

      I too have been peeved at my Dad's inability to know his grandkids. I don't know why I'm surprised, or disappointed, it's not like he was around that much when I was growing up. #sigh But to not show up (he lives 15" away) when my kids are expecting him; or to flake on other things – well, it's just frustrating. Sounds like your dad has missed some of the best years of his only grandson's life – as if there are any years worth missing? (To my Dad's credit though, lately he has made sure to remind me to be home for dinner and my kids' bedtime. He then follows up those statements with an expressed regret that he didn't do that well. Not an apology mind you, but pretty close.)

      Our kids need to be exposed to their familial heritage, good or bad. It will help them figure things out down the road – after we're gone. That is so cool that you took your son with you! I'm so glad they had some good conversations – that is really great! It is also really cool that he is exercising. You're right, life isn't too bad – bruised butt, or not.

      That suicide fear is real. Men over 70 compose the highest risk for taking their own lives. My Dad is currently trying to sell his rifle – for cash – and I don't think he'd try anything with a .22 pistol. But it is something I've been concerned about. We'd like to think that our fathers would never do anything that dumb, but I've seen people with many more options than an old man take their lives. It is something to monitor.

      I try to call my Dad daily, but only succeed about five days a week. If I'm going into town, I try to stop by his place – if even for a minute. As I said in my post, we try to have him over for meals, but he's been declining more and more lately – it's been a couple weeks or more since he's been over, and it used to be 3-4 nights a week. But these are some of the ways I try to monitor his discouragement/depression, physical health, and state of mind.

      I totally understand that emptiness. Our fathers are our heroes. Even at two years-old, my son is mimicking me in ways my daughter never did. Whether it's in the shower at the YMCA, literally walking in my footprints at the beach, or holding his sandwich the way I hold mine – it is innate! I can't imagine not having my father around. Until recently, I knew I could always call him when I got stuck – mentally, in my car, or whatever. I always knew he'd have a solution. (I've recently come to the conclusion that he doesn't have what it takes to bail me out anymore – but it's nice to know that he's still around…just in case…).

      Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, I understand that half-mad feeling. See the comment from my online friend Valerie above. I believe she strikes a good balance between control and concern. This is what I'm going for: just trying to help him have the highest quality of life possible…unselfishly. (even when I don't want to) 😉

What's this?

You are currently reading Parenting the Parents at Gary S. Walter.


  • Subscribe via Email

    Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

%d bloggers like this: