My 7 year old daughter was brushing my hair. Having someone else brush my hair always feels nice to me, and capitalism always feels nice to her, so I promised her two quarters to brush my hair and we were both happy. But it did mean she noticed my hair is turning gray.
I told her I didn’t mind getting gray, since I don’t. It doesn’t make me feel any different. But the gray hair does remind me of something else: my parents are getting older.
More than anything else, it is the changes in my mom and dad that remind me how time keeps ticking. My parents are bumping up on 70, and they are both very vibrant, but gears are getting rusty and not everything moves quite as smoothly. They need my help more often, and not just for figuring out how to buy something on Amazon. I know that’s normal, but it is also disconcerting.
Ideally, your parents are your rock. They teach you how to drive a stick, help you find your first job, and let you sob when the boy you love cancels on you the day before the big dance. They know everything. Having my own kid taught me that parents don’t know everything, but it also made me appreciate them all the more.
Now, my mom is preparing for knee surgery, my dad needs more naps, and I feel twelve years old again. My mom has never stopped moving, but now her knees make her struggle with going up stairs. I do the heavy lifting now, instead of my dad, and he is embarrassed and sad about it. And I worry that Alzheimer’s might appear in my mother, the way it did in my grandmother. I don’t think it will- she hasn’t shown any signs of memory loss- but still, I worry. My parents aren’t supposed to need my help, I’m supposed to need theirs.
It is normal for our roles to start changing, and someday, my daughter will probably start taking care of me, too. I can think about it intellectually and understand that. But seeing it actually happening is not as easy to deal with. We’ll all be ok- my daughter, me, my parents. All of us will be just fine. We’ll just take it one gray at a time.