hard and soft


A few weeks ago I traveled to New York to visit my parents. They live waaaaaaaay up north, so far north that my cell phone bounced off Canadian cell towers. I spent nine days with my parents which sounds like a lot of time but it’s not really, because it wasn’t a vacation. My dad is very ill, my mom is exhausted. The time spent over those nine days was mostly stressful, then quiet, then stressful again. My parents are doing the best they can, but they are only human.

Crash Course in Tiny Crisis Management

A few days into the visit my Mom had an emotional breakdown over a digital camera and Dad expended most of his very limited energy on a short burst of anger, bewilderment then apologies. My skills at diffusing volatile situations have dulled a bit over the last decade or so.

“It’s okay Dad, you’re not a professional sick person. We’re all amateurs here.” I said trying to sound cheerful. Then, in a firm tone, I asked my mother to go get some rest. I’m pretty sure she told me to go to hell, but I might not be remembering that right…maybe the trip to hell was merely implied.

Multiply that scenario (more than) a few times over the duration of my stay and by my last day there I felt just as much the helpless teenager I was when I left home 18 years ago. I managed one quiet anxiety attack in the basement around the 5th day. Aside from that instance I was resolute in my goal of not breaking down.

“What right did I have to spoil my Dad’s time with sadness and grief?” I thought.

“None.” I would answer.

We did laugh a little and talk about work and life and a little about dying and a lot about medical bills and doctors and nurses and emergency rooms and $1300 Rx co-pays, treatment plans and the VA hospital and oxygen tanks. I know my parents were glad to see me after so many years (over ten years). I was glad too. At least now they have WiFi and they think I’m “smart” even if I am “a liberal.”

On my way home to Florida there was time to think about my visit, about how people tend to change over a lifetime. My current conclusion is that personalities distill down to the good or the not so good…perhaps they soften or, instead, grow spikes.

That’s okay, because we’re all amateurs here.

And, as much as life lately has become like a bad movie…I’m still pretty sure it’s worth the price of admission.



image ©Aimee McEwen