By Betty Slade
“Remind me again why we had kids.” I paced the floor, waiting for one of our teenagers to come home after curfew. I waited in the hospital for our other child whose life was held in the balance. Life is a waiting game at best, and changes will surely come.
For years, our family was spread from one coast to the other, from California, New Mexico, Virginia, to the Philippines. My Sweet Al and I waited and sat still in Pagosa Springs knowing our family needed roots and one day would need a home to come back to.
We waited and planned for their vacation trips each year. There came a time when family wanted to be closer. Their careers were coming to an end and retirement was at hand. We could hardly wait for them to come home.
As life settled in, our waiting changed. Sweet Al and I changed. Once so independent, we now say, “We can’t live on the Lower Blanco without family around. Al can’t take care of fallen trees, plowing snow, broken pipes and everything that comes with country living. We need our family close to help us. Our family is now waiting on us.”
I have discovered several things in my older days. I’ve learned to wait and be more patient. It’s OK to wait. I’m not going anywhere. Nothing is fast with mind or limb anymore. Everything takes time these days. Just getting out of bed takes waiting to think about the next move before we place one foot on the floor. The family waits on us to get out of the car. We wait on them to come see us.
I open the door of the refrigerator. I wait and think how to develop a new character. Then I hear, “Is lunch ready?” I remember why I was standing there.
Sunday, I went to bed early feeling sick. I was hot, cold and feverish. The next morning, I woke only to return to the bed and sleep all day.
Tuesday morning, I woke to, “What’s for breakfast?” My Sweet Al had been waiting for me to get out of bed.
“Al, wait a minute. I need some coffee. I’m moving slowly, much slower than usual.”
When I walked through the house, I could see what Al had done while he waited for me. Al and his dog Whiskey had enjoyed themselves. When I couldn’t monitor them, they had the run of the house. Screws, nuts and bolts were stacked in coffee cans and jars where he had sorted them on our bedroom carpet. I shook my head and wondered what else had gone on while I was sound asleep.
My daughter called to see how I was doing. Did I need medicine?
I told her no, but I had an epiphany. I’ve got to be on my A game all the time. What do old people do when they are responsible for each other?
We took Whiskey to the vet to remove a tumor and found she had an infection. We put her bottles of medicine on the island in the kitchen. Al’s doctor prescribed two bottles of medicine for him, which are on the table next to where he sits. Myself, I have my prescribed bottles in our bathroom. No problem, I thought.
I told my daughter all of this to say I’ve got to become more aware of your dad. It’s more than waiting on his needs. I need to keep him safe. Older couples have to be always mindful of what’s going on with the other one. Al reached for Whiskey’s medicine and in slow motion I caught him with pills in hand. “No, Al, your medicine is on the table. Don’t take Whiskey’s.”
“Your dad always said Whiskey was the smartest dog he ever owned. Maybe he’s been giving Whiskey his brain medicine and I didn’t know it. By Tuesday, after my being sick, your dad felt left out and decided he was sick.
“He worried me all day about his new medicine. He read on the bottle that it could cause dizziness. Now he believes he’s dizzy and won’t take his medicine. I’ll have to wait for your brother to come home and deal with him. I guess taking care of older people becomes a family affair, sooner or later.”
Al waits for the weekend and for our youngest daughter, his best buddy, to come see him. She takes him shopping on her day off and to church on Sunday. They act like teenagers. They whisper in the corner about Whiskey. They have their private jokes. She keeps him young.
Our oldest daughter in California keeps my website current and newsletter sent out on time. Once a week, she helps me on Zoom with marketing my new book. She reaches out to my writer friends and helps them, too. She keeps us up to date with all the new software and solves technical problems for us. She keeps us relevant.
When our son came to Pagosa, he didn’t plan to stay. He looked for a job with a hotter job market, but he saw a change in his dad and knew his dad needed him. He now takes care of the house, cars and roads. He plows, shovels and keeps us safe.
Our other daughter and son-in-law make sure we have everything we need. They all work together to give us a good life in our last days. They keep us active.
Final brushstroke: Changes have come as our needs have interrupted our kids’ lives. They work full time, maintain their own houses. Their families still need attention. They are welcoming grandchildren, planning weddings and waiting on us. Now I remember why we had kids.
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