A Visit With My Parents Was A Welcome Respite

Deborah Welky


Because my parents are “getting up there,” we kids (and I use that term loosely) find ourselves facing a ton of uncomfortable conversation whenever we visit. Here are a few things we ask them: When you are no longer able to function fully, what is it that you want? Would you like to come live with us? Would you like a house on our block? Would you like live-in help? Would you like a variety of caregivers? Would you like one of those apartments on an assisted-living campus?

That said, these conversations are not nearly as uncomfortable for us as they are for them, especially when they currently feel pretty perky and capable. But who wants to try to navigate this type of conversation when they’re feeling low? It would be like adding insult to injury. So we plod on, none of us sure where the conversations are headed, nobody wanting to jump the gun, nobody wanting to wait too long. It’s a mess.

But last week, my daughter Jenny and I had a rare opportunity to visit them for 24 hours. My nephew Connor was also there. It was magical. The beauty of a 24-hour visit is that there really isn’t time to delve into the messiness of life. There is only time for fun. What a welcome respite for all!

Jen and I started out by ordering a slew of assorted food from a Tex-Mex restaurant and bringing it over. It was unclear if everybody was happiest to see us or the food. Didn’t matter — we all dug in.

Then Connor picked up every stick in the yard (something that had been bothering my parents now that lawn-mowing season is about to arrive in Wisconsin), while Jenny and I took mom clothes shopping. It was a successful trip because we all found exactly what we were looking for and, even though there was a sale going on, an extra discount was applied at the register. Now that is the way to make three women happy! When we got home, mom took a nap while dad manned the Scrabble dictionary for Jen, Connor and me. We had to play a quick game because, at 5:30 p.m. sharp, we were all leaving for Harvey’s restaurant.

The beauty of a quick game of Scrabble is that you make a word and put it down rather than conniving to put down the tiniest word possible in the most awkward of places so that your opponents have nothing to build upon. We played like eight-year-olds, and it was fun!

At 5:30, it was almost a celebration to go to Harvey’s. Wisconsin winters are harsh, but the weather that night was tolerable. Without parkas, boots or mittens, we were able to fit comfortably into one car, and we were drooling in anticipation of the almond-encrusted whitefish. Despite his many medications, dad had a 7 and 7. Connor (an ICU nurse in his home state of California and the new VIP of our family) had approved it. The table talk was delightful.

We trundled home, crawled into our beds, couches or sleeping bags and slept soundly until the smell of frying bacon woke us all up. Thanks, mom!

At 11 a.m., Jen and I had to leave, but it had been one of the best trips ever.

The thing about normalcy is that you take it for granted until it’s gone.

What I know now is that normal is a gift.