The ageing clock

Like so many of us in this strange and stretching season I won’t get to see my Dad for Father’s Day tomorrow, but my heart will surely be with him. Tomorrow he will wake for his first Father’s Day without my Mum at home by his side. 

As the ancient wisdom writer penned “there is a time for everything” and this includes the reality of ageing, with my beautiful Mum having come to the point in life where she has needed to move into residential aged care over the past week.

I have seen this happen to so many other people, but in some child-like way I didn’t expect it for my Mum. She seems to have conquered so many health challenges in the past, including Guillain-Barre syndrome. As it is, I’ve been fighting the prospect of this huge shift in her life more than she has. AND I’VE BEEN TRYING TO UNDERSTAND WHAT GOES THROUGH MY DAD’S MIND AFTER WAKING UP NEXT TO MY MUM FOR 58 YEARS and now being at home on his own.

My mum has been her usual brave and resilient self, holding tightly to her faith. She has walked through many valleys in the past and she moves into this new season of life with a very healthy perspective. Her physical health has been declining fast, but her emotional awareness is strong. She has come to that point of seeing personal needs that she and my Dad can no longer meet. 

I knew with Stage 4 restrictions that I wouldn’t get to head north to see my Dad and older kids for an early Father’s Day, as has been the tradition over recent years, but the tyranny of “COVID distance” seems so much harder this weekend as I think of my Mum and Dad transitioning into this new season of their life.

They have clocked up almost six decades of marriage and family has been front and centre of their lives. They have been creatures of habit, they have enjoyed simple pleasures, they have lived humbly, they have always been there for each other – in good and bad times. And all of their adult life they have poured themselves into others – modelling for me the importance of servanthood. A commitment to making a difference in the lives of others was engrained within me from a young age as I watched my parents, serving in their neighbourhood, at school, church and the mighty West Rosellas!

Last time I was in Newcastle I had the talk that was always coming with my parents. 

My Mum knew it was time to look at aged care options, but my Dad was his determined, somewhat stubborn self, speaking of his desire to stay at home for as long as he could. I walked out of their small unit that day and cried. I was struck by the inevitable reality of ageing and significant life change and that this transition was out of my control. I couldn’t stop the ageing clock. I couldn’t suddenly come to the rescue.

“We’re going to be OK,” was my Mum’s parting words. She has echoed these words so many times in my life.

This year has clearly reminded all of us of our human frailty and the many things in life we can’t control, so there seems something appropriate about the timing of this transition in my parents’ life. 

Tomorrow I will ring my Dad and as always he won’t want any fuss or bother!

He’s never liked being publicly celebrated. He’s happier celebrating others. But tomorrow I will thank God for such a wonderful Dad.

A word that describes my Dad is predictable – and as I grow older I see the positive side of this and the amazing impact this has had on my life. He’s been constant in his care and encouragement. He’s been constant in his love of his family. He’s been constant in wanting the best for me and cheering on his grandchildren.  

And even in this stretching season of life, there’s always a reason to smile.  

For one, my Dad is known in our family as having one of the fussiest [boring] diets in the world. And yet over recent months with my Mum having spent much time in hospital he has discovered delivered meals and is eating things he would have never touched if we had served to him in the past. 

While Satay Beef, Butter Chicken and Shepherd’s Pie may not to new to most of us – they are for my Dad and in his own words, “they’re pretty good”! This creature of habit is discovering some new things!

As I called my Dad last night, the television as usual was blaring in the background as it always does. Yes, I said he was predictable!

And I must admit this usually frustrates me so much. My normal response: “Dad turn the TV down!”. But last night I paused and smiled. My Mum wasn’t there to tell him to turn it down, or put in his hearing aids in [which he never does].

In the midst of pain and change, suddenly the TV volume screaming wasn’t a concern to him or I.  It was just good to hear his voice. It was good to hear how he is so courageously navigating new territory. He will always hide his hurt and pain, he will always put on a brave face. I’ve always wanted him to be more open with me about his feelings, but for now I can just let him know how I feel. I’m proud of him, I see his struggle, but his fight!

Happy Father’s Day Dad! And take care Mum – I miss you both! I thank God for both of you.

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