There are a lot of us out there. I have two relatively young children (9 and 13) plus I now have my parents (84 and 75) living in the same town as I do. While I thought this would be beneficial to everyone, it has wound up being an incredibly stressful time in my life. My parents are having an especially hard time settling in—making friends, finding things to do, just about everything now requires my help. So my question is—what did they do when they were living 1200 miles away? How were they able to get around? They seem completely unable to do much of anything except go to the bank and the grocery store every day.
A couple of weeks ago my parents took the three of us out to see The Lion King. I'm sure we were all hoping for a fun time out watching a great show. The trouble was, I had 4 kids with me. I was constantly helping everyone. Literally all we had to do was park the car (that I drove), get to our seats, and sit and watch the show. End of story. Where we took a wrong turn is that everyone was starving, traffic had been bad so we weren't able to get lunch ahead of time, so we had to split the group up. Half went to get snacks and the other half waited in line to have our tickets taken. We all met up right outside the door and walked in.
When my dad left to go to the bathroom right before the show started, I thought that wasn't a smart idea, but I'm not going to be the one to stop him. When he didn't come back...at all...I started to get worried. My kids got worried. My mom didn't seem to notice.
I had to choose between staying with my kids and heading out to find my dad in the lobby of the theater (or wherever else he might have been). Now, let me just say, my dad is not one that wanders off. He doesn't have dementia, he's just older and has to go to the bathroom about 50 times a day. But since the theater was dark when he returned, he wasn't quite sure where we were and he didn't have his ticket with him to be able to ask for help.
I choose to stay with my kids, knowing that the theater was safe and that eventually we'd have an intermission and I'd be able to find dad. Intermission, lights up, and an usher came up to us and asked if someone from our party was missing. She took me back to the area near the entrance to actual theater (not the building) where people stand or sit waiting to go back to their seats. Dad was apparently able to see the whole show from where he was sitting. However, when the usher and I got back there, he was missing...again. I finally found him outside in the lobby and walked him back to our seats.
He sits down, eats a bit of his snack that was purchased an hour earlier. The bell goes off signaling the second act is about to start, AND HE GETS UP TO GO TO THE BATHROOM AGAIN! I nearly blew a gasket. At least this time I asked my son to get up and follow him, which he did. But dad sent him back to sit down. Fortunately the second act of Lion King starts with a lot of interaction in the audience and the lights were still up when he finished his business and came back down to sit with us.
We're still navigating my parents' living arrangements and whenever prompted, I suggest they head to the clubhouse or out to a restaurant or a community music performance or whatever other event might be happening at the time. But they nearly always choose to stay home. Now, the codependent in me would have been angry that they weren't listening to my suggestions. However, these days, I take it in stride. They are perfectly capable of making decisions, they are not incapacitated. If they make a wrong decision, then they make a wrong decision. But the point is, it's their decision. The world is not going to end if they choose to stay home rather than socialize at the clubhouse. And since there are many, many options for things to do around here, if they are bored, then it's their choice to be bored. It's not up to me to entertain them or point out all the options.
Spread Your Wings!