Peace of mind…

When you are far removed from your family, especially your aging parents, those three words mean so much.  You need to know, especially regarding your parents, that they are ok and being well cared for.

The guilt associated with the distance melts away when there is less of a need to worry.  Fortunately, I have a brother living on the family farm near my parents so he can help out with their immediate needs, and a sister who makes a 2.5 hour trek as often as possible to also help out.  The second wave of guilt appears… I wish I were able to help out like my siblings do, and that feeling of guilt never goes away because of basic geography.

I know I am lucky to have had two great parents and a close family of siblings who do such an admirable job with our parents, but what if I didn’t? What then?  How could I ever know that my parents are doing ok?  They don’t necessarily tell me the truth about what is going on when they talk to me on the phone.  Actually, they always sound good on the phone and are able to hide many of their health and other issues.  How difficult is it for people who don’t have that support of family members?  Sometimes a friend can help… maybe a neighbor, but these could be people that you don’t even know.  Is that a burden that should be placed on these people, who may not be in the best of health themselves?

My rural, small home town in Saskatchewan has lost a lot of its services.  A new hospital was built years back, then closed.  But…. the silver lining in that cloud, is that they turned the hospital into a retirement home.  I was thrilled to see what a wonderful place it is, and that my parents are able to stay in their own community.  Every few minutes someone they know comes by to say hello, or stops to chat for a while.  There are lifelong friends and neighbors who are residents, employees, and visitors.  We thought the move from their own house would be difficult, and in some ways it was, but to see them thriving in this environment is heartwarming.  It was a pleasure to sing for them all one afternoon this last visit, and I could see how happy and proud my parents were.  At times, I had to hold back tears as I looked at the joy in all of their faces.  Finally, I was able to help out in some way!   The purpose of my next trip back is to help clear out their house so it can be sold… a task I am not looking forward to, but the extended time spent with old friends, family, and especially my parents, will make it so enjoyable.

Helping out occasionally is all that I can do for now.  Thank goodness there are societies, organizations, companies and caregivers who devote their spare time, lives and careers to that commitment of caring for our elders.  I consider these among the most noble of professions.  Plus, they all help so much to allow the rest of us to have, yes…. peace of mind.