The events of the past couple of weeks have got me thinking about parents and aging. My husband is 40 years old; his dad is 80. My own father is 42 years older than I am. If we’re lucky enough to have children in the next couple of years, we’ll be looking at a similar age gap.
Hubby’s dad retired years ago and has been living off of the pension and social security that his former job and his government, respectively, provide. Financially, he is stable. He owns his home, easily pays his bills, and has plenty left over to spoil the two of us when we visit every year or two. His health, on the other hand, is going downhill. Even before his most recent hospitalization, one doctor who had treated him told my brother-in-law that he probably had 18 months or less before the cancer kills him.
His mental faculties are also in decline. These two factors combined have led his family to pursue full-time care for him, in his home, once he’s released from the hospital. An arrangement I’m sure he’s going to hate. The alternative is for him to move in with his 84-year-old brother. Which he would also hate.
My dad’s needs are completely different. He’s well past retirement age but still works full-time (plus overtime) in a factory, a job he’s had for the last 10 years or so, and the only one where he’s ever had any kind of retirement plan. When my mom died, he had no clue how to pay his bills, and despite my best efforts to try to teach him to pay them online, my sister ended up doing it for him, month after month, to this day.
He gets a physical at work once a year, and other than that, never sees a doctor. Nor does he have a dentist. My sister and I have tried multiple times to persuade him to go, but he’s afraid (for good reason) that they’ll tell him he needs to have what’s left of his teeth pulled in favor of a mouthful of dentures. Other than bad teeth and well-controlled high blood pressure, he appears to be in perfect health.
Recently, my dad’s hours at work were cut. He immediately started worrying about how he’d pay the bills, including the mortgage on the house he’s nowhere near paying off. My sister, who lives about two and a half hours away from him, joked that he could come live with her, and between her job and his social security, they could afford to rent a nice house with a big yard for her daughter. Except she’s not really joking because if he can’t afford his house, that might be what happens.
Hubby and I both feel guilty that we don’t live closer to our fathers, especially as their needs become increasingly more demanding. Our siblings are left to make the medical and financial arrangements that make our dads’ lives easier. I wish we could visit Hubby’s dad more often in the months he has left on this earth. I wish my dad could come live with us and finally retire.
And I wish that we were finally settled. That Hubby had a job with benefits, including a cushy retirement account that will see us through our old age. So that our children don’t have to worry about how we’ll pay for our house when we’re approaching 80.
That’s not all I worry about when it comes to our golden years. Hubby and I both lost our mothers young. He has a family history of cancer, and mine is mottled with heart disease and diabetes. I want us to be around to enjoy our grandchildren. Not only that, I want us to be able to tell them the stories of past generations with our memories intact. With my father-in-law’s sketchy memory stuff and my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s, I’m equally worried that we’ll end up living into our 90s with mush for brains.
And the thought of putting our children through that….I can’t even.
It’s Father’s Day, a holiday that, unlike Mother’s Day, I can at least celebrate by giving my dad a call. Hubby will spend part of the day checking on how his dad’s doing after his first radiation treatment. I think, having lost a parent, we’re both keenly aware that we may not have much time left with our dads and want to celebrate and appreciate them for as long as we can. And I keep hoping, as I do every Father’s Day, that next year we’ll have a new reason to celebrate.