Alas, My Parents Are Not Getting Any Younger


I just zipped up to Wisconsin to check in on my parents, both 88 now. This is usually a bit of a vacation for me, as I am allowed to lapse into child mode, but this time was harder. There was lots of assisted living talk, since mom’s getting a little tired.

Dad isn’t tired. He has mom.

If mom had her way, she would pass along the housecleaning, laundry-doing and meal-preparing torch. But dad likes it at home, in his recliner.

So mom soldiers on, keeping everything running smoothly. A big house is a big job, especially when you have high standards. The day before we got there, mom was on her hands and knees with a bar of Fels Naptha, scrubbing the floors. She apologized for not getting around to waxing them.

“Everything seems to take longer,” she sighed.

Dad isn’t insensitive. He feels bad for her. He just doesn’t want to move.

In the meantime (and I don’t know if dad has even noticed), mom has begun giving away bits of the house. Knickknacks are missing. Jewelry is being given away. Picture frames and doilies and cookie tins have found their way into my shop. Mom’s stepladder has been gone for a while now, but that wasn’t her doing.

“Your brother took it away from me,” she sighed. “He didn’t like me climbing. Now I have to stack chairs up.”


She shrugged. Things have to get done.

My sister found a service to bring meals to their home and had some sent over.

“They’re great!” Mom enthused. “They even come with recipes so I can make them myself!”

I guess it’s hard to let go.

Before I went home, I bundled up their laundry and set it by the front door. “A woman is coming tomorrow to pick this up,” I said proudly. “Now you don’t have to run down to the basement.”

Of course she did. The bundle should’ve been in a laundry basket for the folded clothes to come back in. The woman might need detergent and bleach. We’re all learning.

As I tried to convince dad that it’s time, it suddenly dawned on me that I would someday have to visit them in a new place. Yes, dad will have his recliner and mom will have her Scrabble board, but what about me, Debbie? Where am I going to sleep? And what about my job — the putting up of the Christmas tree?

My grandma once told me, “Getting old is no fun, Debbie.” I see that now. You can be in perfect health (in itself, a struggle) and still there are all these gigantic decisions to be made — where to live, what to do with your stuff, what to do with your spouse — and all at a time when you do not want to make any more decisions because you’re tired.

After nearly nine decades of deftly shouldering responsibilities, life in a recliner looks pretty damn good. I’ll have to get mom one.