Spending time with my parents has alerted me to a misconception I’ve been treasuring for most of my adult life. I’ve never written this down, never pasted it to my fridge, but somewhere along the way I picked up the notion that in later adulthood, I will reach a point where I will have good health, good friends, material security (however modest), and I’ll be able to look back on my life and say, “I behaved as honorably as I could, and I did OK. Now I get to enjoy life.“
Dad hit a health care speed bump the other night and my sister had to whisk him off to the emergency room. I stayed with Mom, and watched her say good-bye to the man she’s loved for nearly seventy years, with neither of them knowing if they’d see each other again. He was back in a couple hours, another prescription added to the list, but those were a long few hours for his wife.
At 89 and 92 years of age, heartbreak still stalks them. Simply getting out of bed takes huge quantities of courage. Humoring the physical therapist, taking the meds, playing the quality of life game, takes a kind of resilience and integrity they didn’t learn in college. Many of their friends are dead, money can’t fix what ails them, and with every passing day, each stands a real and higher probability of losing the person they love most dearly.
And yet, they laugh, they love, they try, try again. Dad adores a box of See’s candy into oblivion in a matter of days, Mom still makes one heck of a one-pot soup. My parents have become fearless, even to the point of regarding death as a friend whose acquaintance neither would begrudge the other. Their courage is being tested right up to the finish line, and they are meeting the challenge.
So I’m easing up on the vision of later life that lets me “enjoy life,” and hoping instead for the courage and heart I’ll need to cross my own finish line with integrity and honor. It can be done–my parents are living proof.
Who has modeled grace under fire to you? Were they young, old, in between? Healthy, ailing, or “merely” aging.
To one commenter, I’ll send a $20 Amazon gift card (lots of good titles coming up for beach season!).