Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Transitions and a look ahead

A pair of camera bags, tote boxes and a plastic tray of markers lay on the floor of my parents' living room in their new apartment.

It's been a long time coming. A move that would make life easier for my parents. A move met with reluctance by my mom and dad, who were proud of the home they built together in Robins, Iowa.

But age and deteriorating health forced this move.

My dad received a liver transplant on March 22, 2013, after discovering he needed one because fatty liver cirrhosis was sapping his ability to live. The condition also was crushing his ability to care for my mom, who has been battling scleroderma, a degenerative muscle disease, for more than 20 years now. They could no longer care for their beautiful home and yard -- and each other -- without difficulty. So they moved into an independent living facility at the end of March. A transplant and a move, simultaneously. It's a ton to take on.

Two weeks after my dad's surgery and the move, a lot has been on my mind.

First, the realization that my parents will never live in a traditional home anymore. I feel very old.

Second, there's a certain sadness I've been unable to shake. The retirement community where they now live is fantastic. My parents can relax, take care of each other and do whatever they want and enjoy themselves. But -- and it's a weird point for me and them as well -- they live in a community where their neighbors are 10 to 15 years older than they are. My parents are the youngest people here.

There are activity nights where bridge is played and Shirley Temple movies are shown. A pianist will play music such as "Old Rugged Cross" during Sunday dinners. It's pleasant, but it's not them. It's not pinochle, film favorites from the '60s and '70s or George Jones, Rod Stewart or The Doors.

Baby boomers mixed with those from The Greatest Generation. Tiramisu mixed with green Jell-O salads.

It just doesn't feel right.

It also doesn't feel fair.

My parents worked hard to retire and live well, travel and enjoy those golden years. I know they are in a good place now, but I also know this isn't where they pictured themselves or how they pictured themselves.

They dreamed of a nice space where grandkids could visit and play. They dreamed of time where they could be together and relax maybe on a beach in San Diego or, perhaps, Australia.

But, they are together. And happy. That's what's most important.

I just have to come to grips that life is changing rapidly and we are all getting older at the same surprising pace.

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