Yesterday I wrote about the past and present of my parents’ relationship. Today I talk about its future. Their commitment to each other has not ended. Their respect and concern for each other continue. I have done what I can over the last few months to help smooth communication and have been an integral part of the evolution of their relationship. I take great pride and satisfaction in knowing that I understand each of them well enough to do so, and I can definitely say that it’s one of the most difficult but gratifying things I’ve been involved in. It is not only for their benefit, but for my own, that I’ve done this. I want them both in my life, and in my childrens’.
Over the past few months during their separation, their friends and acquaintances have at times been more uncomfortable than my parents themselves have. On one occasion my mother arrived at a restaurant for lunch with a friend to find my father already there lunching with a friend of his. The staff wasn’t sure how to react, offering to seat them in different rooms. It wasn’t necessary, my mother told them, it wasn’t a problem.
My parents and I have spent many hours talking about their relationship and its future. We talk about their relationship as it was, as it is, and as it could be.
There is still a great deal of affection between them, there is a bond of 50 years of life together. Their memories are mostly of life with each other, I’d bet. They have two children and six grandchildren. They are intelligent and accomplished individuals who have spent their careers helping others. They are strikingly different; however, each was able to help a legion of patients.
My parents are committed to each other. No longer will they be married, but instead they will be bound by what is right. They are firmly committed to helping each other. After my mother moved into her apartment last Autumn she fell and badly injured her leg. She called my father. He took her to the emergency room. He took her to follow up appointments. When she needed to be hospitalized for IV antibiotic treatment he assisted. After she was released he went to her apartment and changed the dressing on the leg (often daily) and checked on it for healing and infection. She had a problem and in his usual way, he wanted to help fix it. I was touched by his devotion to her after the separation, but not surprised.
She remains concerned about him, his safety, his health. Should he have a medical crisis, I know she would immediately be there to help.
They have attended events together as recently as last week. They live in a small town and will no doubt see each other often both intentionally and unexpectedly. As their child, what matters most to me is that they can rely on each other since they live only two miles apart from each other; I am hours away. Of course I worry. Of course as they age I will worry more.
Those who know me have sometimes wondered why I’ve been as involved as I have over the past six months as all of the transitions have occured. Often, friends have tried to discourage me from being involved and told me to “just get out.” They say I shouldn’t have been in “the middle.” What I can say is this: they are my parents. They are my responsibility at this time in their lives in a way they might not have been when they were younger. I am hopeful that they can each live alone and enjoy their lives as much as they can for as long as they can. But when they can’t, I am committed to their safety and well-being. Helping to ensure that they understand each other and can move forward as peacefully as possible is important. It’s important because we are still a family. My brother and I are ties that bind them, our children do, too.
We are a family. We remain respectful, caring, and committed to help each other.
The truth of the matter is that there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to help them, as long as they need me to. This has been a time of acute change, and when I was needed I stepped up. Going forward, we hopefully won’t need this to be the case as often. But this is what is right for us. The months I’ve spent triangulated in this process have been meaningful, valuable, necessary. I’ve helped them reach a state where we all can look to the future and say it might not be what we would have dreamed, but it still can hold more wonderful memories for us, both together and apart.