This Is Us
The Pain of the L.L. Bean Catalog
My aging parents have hijacked the simple pleasures.
It’s been a rough few weeks, shoved into a rough few years. I know everyone else has experienced the same dumpster fire world for years, and I know that wanting to throw myself off a cliff after two years of taking care of my elderly parents is overly dramatic, privileged, weak. But that’s where I’m at. I guess I’m also ending sentences with prepositions now, which tells you a lot.
My parents sort of planned for old-age, but not really. They bought long-term care insurance, paid off their house, and had a decent amount of savings, but they didn’t make any decisions. They just let themselves slowly decline, together, in a house that they let fall apart. When my father’s Parkinson’s got so bad that he was pushing himself around the house in a desk chair, they still made no decisions.
When I asked my mother how she let my father get so bad, so undignified, she looked at me coolly and said “he’s an adult.” I burst into tears and screamed something like “well then what is marriage for?” Then I went outside and threw up into the strawberry plants, holding on to the railing of the new wheelchair ramp I had installed in a panic. My father was passed out in a living room chair at the time, the mucous in his mouth showing, which made me throw up more.
I always intellectually knew that depressed people don’t mobilize, don’t make any decisions, and just let the world wash over them. But it wasn’t until I saw the descent of my parents, life-long, albeit undiagnosed, depressives (who were made for each other in that way), that I actually understood it. I don’t know what they would have done if I hadn’t stepped in, but I think about it all the time.
Would my dad be stuck in that armchair with swollen legs, snoring with his mouth open? Would my mother’s dementia get worse and worse until she lit the house on fire, because she couldn’t shuffle to the stove in time? Now I ask my father this question all the time. “You would be so fucked without me” I often say when I’m frustrated that I can’t find a password to an account (ask me about how banks refuse perfectly executed power of attorney documents), and he just says “that’s true.” Sometimes I have a…