I remember the first time I felt I had slipped into an alternate universe. A universe in which my siblings and I were parents and my dad was the child. Not because my dad had lost his faculties; he had every last one of them. Rather we found ourselves questioning the wisdom and safety of his choices.
While living this alternate universe, I also worked at a Skilled Nursing Facility where I watched families struggle with the question of how safe their parent was to return home; from their perspective. Very often the parent was sure they were.
It was in those meeting I reminded myself and the family members, our parents are adults. Just as I had been allowed to make choices that made my parents cringe, so did my father. How I spent my money, where he chose to live, who I chose to date, where he chose to drive.
Dad had the right to make choices that worried us. My dad questioned the wisdom of my getting into a car with my boyfriend having 3 other boys in it. I questioned his wisdom of driving without peripheral vision. Turned out I was safe, and he was careful.
Much life was lived between those 2 car events, but the underlying fear of the wait was ageless, timeless. I advised families that as children of parents we adore, we can’t be sure every moment will be safe but we can cover as many bases as we can; arrange to avoid as many worst case scenarios as we can. My siblings were amazing it it.
Just as my mom had a sleepless night when I decided to stay with a friend thinking it was too late to call (decades before cell phones), I knew I would lie awake worrying my dad may slip on the way to the bathroom lying in pain until found.
We came to a place of peace. Dad could make decisions, and we might worry. Dad could make decisions which might have a bad outcome, but he had made it, as an adult with choices.
Written in honor of my wonderful father who passed many years ago.
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