Monday, December 1, 2008

I'm not the only one getting older

This may sound naive, but as I get older, I fail to realize that my family continues to age as well. I still see my dad as this on-the-go guy and my grandparents as the fun, involved and attentive people I always remembered. But this weekend, I realized that some family members, especially my grandparents, are getting older and it's finally starting to show.

On Thanksgiving, when I left my grandparents house, the sobering reality that the looked frail and well, old, really hit me and honestly, made me want to cry.

I might be hypersensitive to this because I'm not with them very much, but seeing that my grandparents were slowing down, having trouble hearing and sometimes understanding what I was saying, was really hard. My grandpa, who could command a room and easily entertain anyone around him, was having trouble scooping stuffing onto the plate and often had a delay in answering my questions.

And watching them reminisce about me as a child made me realize they don't have any recent memories to talk about as fondly because I'm not around very much.

Now, I feel overly worried about them, wanting to help them do any big or small task around their apartment, and generally feel guilty for not being around more. Because I live in Chicago, there's little I can do to change the latter, but the reality check I got at Thanksgiving was a little larger than expected.

So when I see them at Christmas. My plan is to remind them how much I love them, endure the repetitive questions and help them as much as possible. Somehow I feel that's the least I can do, even if it's not as much as I want it to be.

Has anyone else started to notice this trend with family members? If so, how have you handled it? Sorry this post is a little bit of a downer today, but I really thought it was important to talk about because I'm feeling like an awful granddaughter.

39 comments:

Rachel said...

I had the same problem with my grandpa. He was sick for a while, but it really went down hill at the end of my pregnancy so I couldn't visit him. I was able to introduce him to Diana, but I am not sure he even knew what was going on. By the time Diana was a month old he was gone.

Grandparents can be understanding to their grandchildren having a life and not being around as often. What's important is that when you see them you let them know how you feel about them.

Ashley said...

Being married means I have to trade holidays at home, now.

Which is also so hard.

I can be a terrible grandaughter as well. (Although my grandma told my sister that she forgave her for her nose piercing because she "voted for McCain." So, I felt a little less guilty. Because, seriously!? C'mon, Grandma! I'd better not pierce my nose, I guess.)

LuckLys said...

i've noticed this as well with my parents especially, since the majority of my grand-family is gone. my dad just had one of his knees replaced, and he's (only) 49. my mom has been succumbing to colds more often as well. not only do i see this in my parents, but my siblings, which is almost harder, because i wish i could be there to see them grow up. i see my family maybe 3 or 4 times a year, and every time, my sister and brother are so much more different than the last. i only hope they don't think i'm not there for them. i try to keep in contact with everyone via e-mail once or twice a week, and i call them at least once a week and try to speak to them all individually. it's the most i can do living 5 states and a time zone away, especially with the budget i have.

it just makes me that much more grateful to spend time with them when i do see them. i try not to think about how it will be once they're gone...it's too sad, so i try to focus on the time we still have.

Alexa said...

i only have one grandmother left out of all my grandparents and it makes me so sad thinking about her not being around.

i hungout with her twice this past long weekend and seriously i can't stop smiling when i'm around her. she is the coolest lady around!!

don't be sad though, just continue to make an effort to see them as much as possible

LBluca77 said...

Last time I saw my grandma I got a big dose of how forgetful she is becoming. We literally had the same conversation 3 times in a matter of a about 2 hours. Obviously I just went along with it, but it still was sad.

I try to call both of my grandma's as much as I can, but sometimes I can't get to it, which makes me feel so bad. Especially because I know even a 2 minute phone call with them they always enjoy.


Oh also on a lighter note I am going to be doing a Christmas give away contest. The post should be up later tonight or tomorrow if you would like to participate.

Coconut said...

I know what you mean, even with my parents. I don't see them that often now and I'm always surprised at how much older they look sometimes. One time my mom hadn't dyed her hair in a while and it really freaked me out. I know they're almost sixty, but it is weird!

Mandy said...

My grandpap turns 72 in a couple of weeks. He had surgery on his knee a few months ago and when I went to see him, he had a wheel chair and it upset me. He's always on the go and it was really hard to see him that way. I know my grandparents are fairly young for grandparents but I still don't like the thought of my grandpap getting older.

Kyla Bea said...

Being forthcoming with stories, talking about family memories, and calling between family dinners is the way that I deal with it, beyond being sad here and there.

timeandagain said...

Enjoy everything and everybody you have, because " All things must past" sometimes sooner than you expect.

Ray said...

I am going through the same thing with my grandparents...everytime I go home things seem a little worse. It's really hard to see, I understand completely.

Caz said...

I totally relate to this post. With my grandpa's ailing health, the realization my grandma too is getting older. And the very sudden death of AB's Nan it's never hit closer to home the actual reality of my family's mortality.

I feel like the world's worst grandaughter being across the world and knowing I'm missing family holidays and all the little events in between.

SA said...

Yep. When my grandfather had two strokes earlier this fall and the doctors tried to prepare us for the worst it suddenly hit me that they (my grandparents, my parents, etc.) could actually die. It really is one of the worst realizations we have as we get older. The thing is my mother is more...not used to it but rational and understanding and just says it's a part of life. Which kinda freaks me out. Yet I wish I was like her.

Ginger said...

I've got a huge family spread out all over the place so there are times where it will be 2-3 years between visits with some of them. It always hits me hard that we're all aging in those visits.
But the thing that's been really getting me on the aging thing lately is my parents and aunts and uncles. This one with heart disease, and that one with emphysema, and that one with diabetes, and talk of life insurance. It's hard. The worst was having the conversation with my mom about her will, and what she wants if certain things happen to her. I walked away from that conversation in tears.
I think all you can do is be as present as possible when you are together and make as much of an effort as you can. But man, it sucks getting older.

Maki said...

I still clearly remember when I lived far away from my parents during high school (Me in CA, parents in Tokyo), my dad came to visit me in Berkeley. We went out to SF and had dinner together. As we were eating, I looked at my dad and I realized my dad was getting older and aged, and I started to cry. It was almost 18 years ago.

He's 63 now, that means he was only 45 - kinda rude if I think about it because 45 is not old, but I had never been away from him that long, so it made me sad because he looked different.

My mom is on dialysis and it makes me constantly worried about her life, but I'm trying to be strong for her.

All of my grandparents passed away many years ago. Only thing I wish is that I wanted to spend more time with them because I truly enjoyed and loved being with them.. Having grandparents is a gift to be treasured - I love the fact that my girls have 6 grandparents (My hubs parents divorced and remarried and my parents)...

I'm really going on about this, sorry, Jess!!!

Angela said...

I've noticed it with my father's parents. They are 78 and 81. Last fall, my grandma fell getting out of their RV on a vacation, breaking both legs. Since then, she walks with a limp much more slowly. My grandpa is losing his hearing and sometimes it's hard to understand what he's saying. But, when they're laughing and smiling, I think they lose about 10 years from their age--they look so young and chipper.

howitstarts said...

Of the three grandparents who were alive when I was born, only one remains. Watching them get old is really hard, especially when they don't remember seeing you the day before. I dread going through this with my parents.

Melissa said...

I completely know what you mean. I had 3 sets of grandparents, thanks to a remarriage, and now only have one grandpa left. He turns 89 next year and I know it won't be much longer. It's hard feeling like a bad granddaughter when visits are few and far between- but life gets in the way. I guess I don't really have much advice, I can just relate.

The Modern Gal said...

I worried about this a lot when my grandmother was still alive -- she lived about three hours away. Now that she and the rest of my grandparents are all gone, the only thing I wish for is that I'd talked to them more and asked them more questions about their lives while they were alive through phone calls and letters. I think they were able to enjoy me from afar, hearing about what I was doing with my life, but I wish I had been the one to share my stories with them, not my parents.

High-heel gal said...

I live in Philly and my entire family is in Ohio, so I usually only see them around the holidays. Every time I go home, I notice that my dad's hair is a little grayer (what's left of it!) and my grandparents have definitely aged. It does make me sad that they're aging and I'm not really around, but I guess that's part of life!

erin said...

I know, I really realized it when I was home in July, seeing my grandparents for the first time in 10 months, how old they are getting. Especially because my grandfather has Alzheimer's, and he doesn't recognize me anymore. I'm looking forward to seeing them while I'm home this year for Christmas. It is hard because I have cousins who are babies and the memories I have of my grandparents are much different from when I was a child. I guess it just comes with being an adult.

A Super Girl said...

I'm going through the same as you. I have 3 grandparents left, and all 3 are pretty healthy. Though they're aging, so the hearing is going and last summer when we visited, my dad noticed my grandfather seemed to lose his way when driving home one night -- and he's lived in the same town for 80+ years.

I always assumed they'd be around for my wedding and when I had babies. But as that stuff keeps getting postponed and the years keep passing by, I'm less and less sure.

You just have to keep telling them you love them, put up with their snide comments, and appreciate them for who they are while they're here.

Deutlich said...

I know that feeling all too well.. my grandpa is losing his memory and that is making it really hard to live SO far away. ya know?

Katie said...

Know exactly what you mean...I count the age spots on my pappap's arm each time I see him - this thanksgiving, there were too many to number :( It is so hard to focus on the fact that they are here now...

Maxie said...

I honestly believe my grandmother will never get old-- she's a freak of nature. She watches a 1 year old and a 6 year old every day. I couldn't even do that and i'm 23.

I just hope my mom never gets old-- I won't be able to handle that one.

Nilsa said...

The last of my grandparents died over five years ago. My grandmother and I were kindred spirits, so that loss was especially tough to experience.

And now? If you can believe it, I'm starting to notice my parents age. It doesn't make me sad yet, because they really are still quite young. But, I have noticed some changes over the past few years. And yeah, it's a downer when you think about it.

Like you, I try to focus on the positive. Because it's really no use focusing on the day they'll no longer be around when you've got so many days of life left first.

Katelin said...

i have definitely noticed that with my grandma as well. she's 96 and i always seem to forget that until i see her again. and really i try and show her how much i love her whenever i see her.

Lily said...

I think it's great you're aware of this. I mean, it's really sad and really tough (and I've definitely been there... this summer probably most notably). But you're going to be really thankful that you decided to take advantage of the time you do have with the important people in your life. I find it really easy to put this time in with my mom's mom (when I can. She's in Alabama and I'm in Minnesota) by writing letters, etc., but my dad's folks are tougher to get along with (they think I'm brainwashed and immoral because I voted for Obama and think women have a right to choose...). So that's tougher. Anyway, I'm really glad you brought this to discussion - we're all so busy with our lives and such and I'd hate to miss out on what could be really impactful relationships. Good luck!

lifeintheleftlane said...

I know exactly how you feel. One set of my grandparents live in Germany, so I very rarely see them. And when I do, I notice how much age has changed them.

My other grandmother lives in NH, and I see her about once or twice a year.

I think grandparents know how hectic life can be, and they appreciate the time they do get to spend with us, even if it's not as often as we hope.

Rachel Burton said...

I know how you feel. I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer's a year ago. it was so hard to watch him go from an active, alert man into someone so helpless and oblivious.

Colleen Snell said...

I've been there - so sad!

Blaez said...

i see how much my family is aging around me --along with me. the grandparents i remember out in the garden and doing all kinds of crazy things are the grandparents that sit in the house and don't do much anymore.

i see and hear my father getting older and each time i visit my family i'm reminded how mortal we are and i kick myself because i moved so far away from them all.

time is so precious and it slips by so fast. all you can do is make the most of what you can, when you can, and don't let the inbetween get you down.

Erin said...

I have been feeling this way a lot lately, especially with my dad being so sick. Sometimes it shocks me how old he looks now. It's hard to face that whole mortality thing.

Heidi Renée said...

I had to face my mom's mortality this past spring when she had heart surgery and we pretty much planned everything out for if she didn't make it out of the OR. As the oldest child, I was "in charge." I don't think it's a responsibility you can ever truly be ready for. But I saw my mom rise to the occasion a few years ago as her mother's health declined, and I learned a lot about staying strong from that.

I still miss my grandma every day. The heartache is just as bad now as it was three years ago. She died the day I moved in with Jason. I like to think that she knew she was leaving me in good hands.

L.C.T. said...

I have definitely noticed this and I love your reaction to it - to help out and simply make sure they know you love them. Really great attitude.

Cari said...

I can relate to this post very much. It's strange when I see my Grandmother now and realize she is not the same young spirit that would go shopping at the mall with me or swim in the pool with me. My Grandfather passed away almost two years ago and I think that has aged her as well. You are right in that all we can do is love them and be there for them as they have been for us.

Princess Pointful said...

I actually wrote about this a while ago. My grandparents on my mom's really aren't doing well, and it is hard and scary for me to talk about. I know I have to prepare myself for the inevitable... but I really, really don't want to start considering it a realistic possibility. Even though it is.

wontletlifedefineme said...

I'm the youngest by far in my family, and with one grandparent already deceased when I was born and the other three dying when I was in my teens I don't think I've ever not been aware of grandparents and parents ageing. My father died when I was 20, so I only have my mom left, and now she's in her sixties I'm starting to notice she has some trouble remembering things, and she finds certain decisions hard to make. But it doesn't feel that good to start looking after my mum at my age (25) already, although I'm glad I can help out. I just sometimes wish I still had people looking after me a bit more.

Anonymous said...

I hate that feeling...my dad was the commander of our family and now he has bad cholesterol and has to wear glasses. I'm glad that is the extent of it but I hate seeing him like that.

Lauren said...

I remember the day that I went to visit my grandparents and my grandfather opened the door and his hair was white and not grey and he just looked so old... I'd never really thought of my own grandparents as old before... still his is nearly 82!