My sisters and I have had to overtly acknowledge some things recently that – while we have known them intellectually – we have always kept the emotional reality at arm’s length.
Our parents are mortal.
We will never again live, as a family, in our old house.
We may visit a few times over the next few months, but mostly to remove the few remaining possessions we have kept there.
Our parents are in their 90s. They are strong, proud, stubborn individuals who find a great deal of their strength in each other and in the family they have created together. They worked hard to raise their children properly, during some times when raising a watermelon would have been difficult.
Based on what I see of the next generation, they managed to pass a fair amount of wisdom along (maybe it skips a generation).
But things change and in our efforts to keep them safe and healthy and comfortable, it seemed wisest to move them from that house into an assisted-living apartment near where two siblings live and where my parents can get the care and assistance they need.
And they both ended up in the emergency room.
They have recovered from the rigors of the move and are settling into a routine. They have some of their own things there (furniture, pictures, dishes and the like) and they are adapting.
But the crises of the past week, even though over, brought us face to face with mortality and loss. So, naturally, each of us bottled it up as long as we could.
It is so easy to focus on the next task – in part because there are so many that demand our attention. But each of us needs to set aside some time to say goodbye to our old home and to the youthful faith that our parents would always be there for us.
They won’t. They would if they could, but they can’t.
They raised us to be strong, self-reliant, fair, and stoic. If you were going to cry, you’d better have damned good reason.
I think we do.
I suspect that my siblings and I will each weep alone once or twice over the next few weeks.
And when we all walk into the house that no longer is home to our parents, I suspect that we will all weep together.
As a family.