Christmas was never the same in our house once my oldest sister married and moved on. This event took place four days before Christmas in 1975. I was only 10 years old. Not only did my sister leave our cozy, teasing, obnoxious, and loving family but Mom decided to redecorate the entire living room and dining room which meant that the Christmas tree could not be in it's standard place in front of our huge picture window. These two remarkable events in the eyes of my tender 10 years of age were devastating to me. Once the thrill of the wedding wore off, the reality of knowing that our family and it's dynamics were forever changed. Being the youngest of 4 siblings, I watched as one by one my siblings left the fold, never to return again to the family as I had once known it to be. How was I to survive? Well, I did survive thanks to my ever patient and omniscient mother. She told me that my role in this family as the youngest was to learn to accept change and embrace it, don't fight it. I remember asking her if I could cry about it before I embraced it and she said yes but don't drag it out! Ya gotta love her!
When the aging process began with my parents, I thought, no sweat, I can handle this; I have been well conditioned and well prepared. Not so. I struggled with this terribly. My husband and I are both the babies of the families and we made a decision early on in our marriage that we would not move out of state due to the fact that our parents may need us in their aging years. Aging seemed to happen so suddenly but in reality, it did not. Yes, there was the graying hair and the all-of-a-sudden inability to see anything without any type of eyeglass wear but there were other things too. For Mom, the second battle with cancer really knocked her for a loop. She took to the bed too easily and was constantly watching television. This was because the brain damage had made it so that simple tasks, like reading and needlework, were a virtual impossibility for her. Her handwriting changed too. It became so difficult for her that she stopped trying all together. (Maybe this is why I cherish anything that is handwritten by her). These things I know were premature aging due to her disease but there were other things as well. Like the inability to have multiple plans for one week let alone one day. I was so dismayed by this because my Mom had always been able to go in twenty different directions and not miss a beat. For Dad, his aging process seemed to start after two accidents. The first was his fall from a ladder, resulting with a bad break in his arm. Then just a few short weeks later he had a car accident with a teenage girl who had just gotten her license and ran a stop sign, smashing into my Dad and his car. He never really healed properly from either one of those accidents. I noticed that his pace slowed tremendously and that he too watched way too much television at ridiculously high decibels. What was going on? Then there was this inability to eat lunch at lunchtime and dinner at dinner time. These meals seemed to get earlier and earlier. To make matters worse, they would go to bed at 7! What? We could never call them or reach them after this time of night because they would turn off the ringers. One of the biggest shockers was the fact that they started to eat much smaller portions of food thus enabling them to think that other people eat these small amounts. Our family is big on food, not just any food but good food-okay, maybe any food. We love it. We can't even talk about any type of food without salivating. Most of our family fun was always gathered around an excellent meal. Both Mom and Dad were very good cooks but it was my Dad who had the sophisticated and extraordinary palette. He taught us to enjoy it to the fullest! We did and still do. Why, then, when we invited them over for a meal did they only bring one tomato or a handful of something? What happened to the gloriously large helpings and the well orchestrated food plans? When did my parents become O.Fs? As usual, I took my mother's advice and embraced the change, but not before having a good cry.
As I gaze across the room at my sweet and gentle husband, I watch as he struggles to read whatever it is in front of him because now he needs to wear reading glasses. He never seems to have them on him at any appropriate time. Like any good wife, I comment about this (okay, maybe it's more like a nag) and then he looks at me and holds his hand to his ear and says, "What?" After I fall on the floor hysterically laughing at him because HE WAS SERIOUS, I realize: Oh no, no, no, no, no, I am NOT ready for this change!