The Family Meets

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The Family Meets

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pizza-386717_640On Sunday, my four siblings and my parents met to talk about my parents' wish to move. My parents have looked at condos and retirement communities over the years but now feel it's time to move. My dad, who wanted the meeting, is tired of the responsibility for the house and my mom is tired of the stairs.

We met over lunch at the house for about three hours. The day before, my mom asked me if we've ever had a family meeting before. If you had, I answered, you didn't invite me. As kids, we ate dinner together as a family every night. I wouldn't call those dinners a family meeting; my dad ruled with an iron fist and pretty much focused on the food and the Cubs or Bears or Bulls or Blackhawks (Chicago sports teams).

My parents are considering a move to a condo or a continuing care community. My mom wants me to move with them so her preference is a condo. My dad wants to let someone else worry about the house maintenance so would prefer a continuing care community. They both are open to looking at both options. I'm thinking about what would be best for me.

We were all nervous about the meeting. Would my dad's temper reappear and hijack the meeting? Would we all communicate well? Would we get along? In February, my siblings and I met without our parents and I had shared thoughts about a move at that time. Our February meeting went well with an open discussion among all of us about what's coming--our parents' continual decline.

My mom decided to start our meeting with a prayer. She instructed us to hold hands as she ad-libbed a prayer which asked God for his blessings on us and for our good health. My brother then shared good news that his maintenance treatment to keep his cancer in remission is going so well that he can discontinue. What a relief for all of us.

Next, my dad took a moment to share a few thoughts. He started to cry after a few words and then waved his hand toward my mom and I. I thought he wanted me to shared his thanks to my siblings for the support so said, "Dad is very grateful for your support and for all your help." When he finally regained his composure, he said, "I want to thank Mom and Denise for all..." He couldn't finish because of the tears but we got the message.

We discussed the possibilities that may happen, including my parents no longer driving, proximity to doctors and family, lifestyle choices, and a future that will include more care, including from professionals and with medical equipment. My parents and I met with their doctor in May to talk out their move with him; he told my parents to consider a five-year plan. I took that to mean my parents have five years to live. I had wondered if my parents understood that, as well. During Sunday's meeting, my mom shared the doctor's five-year suggestion, adding, "I know that means I have five years left."

While we didn't come to any decision, we did have two big wins during our meeting. Previously, my mom had been adamant that she would not consider a continuing care community. She's relented recently and said she would consider all options. And, my dad, who's hot temper, quite honestly, terrorized us as children, was calm and reflective and receptive. He asked each of us to share our thoughts on their move, talked out their budget and asked my brother (a CPA) if he would accompany him when he meets with his banker to discuss financing.

I'll keep you posted as we search, consider and decide.

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jan

Once more you and your family are the trail-blazers. To me it looks like a symphony; to you maybe it feels like jazz night at the improv, but all outward appearances of what your family is accomplishing are staggering. That you can speak the truth in love and hold each other up while you hear it is tremendous. At the same time, you never really said, Denise, what you do think is right for you. I hope you will share those impressions and thoughts in a blog (BLOGS) too. Thank you for sharing your family's journey.

EllysGdaughter

Dear Denise, I guess I really didn't see that possibility coming but it really makes sense. What a precious beginning to the meeting that you and your siblings will never forget! The absence of the temper and control are absolutely reassuring to your family that your parents are thinking responsibly about their next few years! I couldn't help but snicker about the \"five year plan\" because I was told by Elly's doctor that she was \"good for maybe another year but not over 2!\" It's been three years since he said that. . . The quality of care and how the Lord numbers our days has more to do with it than what Doctors may think, but,,, considering the quality of life we want, let's live each day to the fullest :) I wish my Grandma would speak honestly and openly about how she really wants her last years/weeks/days to look like!

TomB

Wow, that was powerful.\r\n\r\nI can relate to your dad. My temper used to be explosive. That kind of reactionary personality usually covers up a detachment from feelings that hurt us because boys aren't supposed to feel, much less express pain, disappointment, and sorrow. We're allowed to be angry, though. That's how we stopped Hitler, after all. *wry mouth twist*\r\n\r\nIt takes a severely broken heart to be able to access that pain and let it wash through us. Your dad in his advanced years has finally allowed the inevitable to break his heart a little bit.\r\n\r\nI hope he, your mom, and you and your siblings find peace.\r\n\r\nG-d bless you all.