I guess I knew it would happen eventually – the role reversal of parent/child. Where the adult children cared for their older parents – taking them to doctor’s appointments, worrying about illness and mortality in a different way than when you were a child. A more concrete way, a more REAL way. To see your parents as humans – scared, in pain, frail – the things you never thought your parents could BE.
I knew it would happen, but I guess I figured I would be an adult before it did. Yes, I know, I’m 30, but I don’t feel like an adult. I have this card that says “Everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” That’s exactly how I feel. I don’t feel like I’m old enough for this to start happening, and more to the point, I don’t feel like my parents are old enough for this.
Both my parents are 60, and I remember thinking how old 60 was back when my grandparents were alive. But my parents aren’t old – my dad isn’t gray at all, and my mom looks much younger than her age. They go out to hear live music and have dinner with friends and drink margaritas and my mom takes yoga and my dad plays basketball and racquetball every week. That isn’t what old people do. Old people sit around and play cards and they smell funny. My parents smell the same as they always did. Thank god. Because old people smell is awful. Anyway.
The reason I bring all of this up is that recently I’ve been faced with the parent/child role reversal. Since I’m not working, I have lots of free time to do whatever anyone needs me to. A couple of weeks ago, I took my mom to have a minor surgical procedure. I sat in the waiting room for 3 hours, and when they called me back to where she was recovering, she looked so tiny laying there in her hospital gown on a hospital bed. The doctor comes in and explains to me all of the stuff that they did and what she needed to do once she got home and then he hands me the discharge papers to sign because I’m the responsible adult. WHAT? Sure enough, next to where I had to sign, it said “signature of patient or responsible adult.” Gah. The pressure. So I sign th papers, and wait for my mom to come out of the anesthesia and I walk with her to the car, with her holding my arm for balance. It was so strange.
Today I was at the Hot Tub House, because the owner had back surgery last Friday and her husband had to go back to work today, so she needed someone around for a couple of hours in case she needed anything. So we went for a walk and I went and got us lunch and then I took her to the doctor. Again, super weird, because she’s even younger than my parents. And I want to make sure she's ok without treating her like the weak and infirm, so that's a fine line to learn how to walk.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind helping out at all. I like it, actually. I would rather do it than have one of them hurt themselves or whatever. My mom said she was glad it was me that took her to the doctor and not my dad, because I’m much more patient and mellow. And I joked about how she should have gotten my brother to take her and she’s like “NO WAY”, and that’s when I realized that I’m the one. I’m the one who will take my parents to the doctors and be the responsible adult.
It’s totally surreal and I have to face it, even though I’m not ready for that phase to begin yet, but I decided one important thing. I will NEVER complain about taking care of my parents, because I would rather care for them than be without them. And not only have they taken great care of me throughout my life, they continue to do so, and that’s something that I can never completely repay. This is the least I can do.
But responsible adult? Really? That’s pushing it.