Doing My Duty As a Good Son

Mom and Dad when they were both a little more mobile, in January 2018.
Mom and Dad when they were both a little more mobile, in January 2018.
Nat Hartshorne
Nat Hartshorne

It’s my turn, and I’ve been on deck for many years.  For the past few days I’ve been taking care of my parents, who are 86 and 91, and for the eldest of the two, my dad, a tough bout with cancer that’s bringing pain and discomfort.

I am the only sibling who doesn’t live right near the family compound in New Jersey. So I have taken my shifts, filled my name on the calendar, and been here to help.

It’s such a familiar role because so many of my friends and relatives have done similar work–it’s the hallmark of our generation.

There’s not a lot to do, except to be there when they need me. A lot of lifting and slowly following him in a walker as he makes the slow trudge from room to room.

We are lucky to have a home care aide who loves them, she’s from Haiti and she likes to give kisses on the lips when she greets them, usually speaking effusively in French.  Ketia brings joy to this home, every time she comes at 2 pm.

sleepy time
Resting on the porch.

Meals are a highlight when you’re old and not able to go anywhere. So I enjoyed making a meal of turkey cutlets on top of mashed potatoes, peas and gravy. My mom helped me brown the meat.

Unlike many people’s very old parents, Nat and Val are still very conversational, and they continue to want to know all about my life, my work, and my new kitten.

They just need a lot of help for things that they once did unassisted, like getting their legs into the pants, and pulling their shirts over their heads. And help figuring out which of their myriad of pills to take when.

This experience will be repeated, and I’ll make my way down here again to help out and do my part. I’ve gained some empathy, for I know so many of my friends have gone through this. I understand now how you felt, and I appreciate these parents even more than I think I did.

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