My parents have significantly aged over the past 3 years, specifically my Dad who at the age of 89 has been in good health and functioning well. He is an active man, whether cooking, gardening, grocery shopping, driving my mom to and from places, or the handy man for his children, until he had his first fall and broke 7 ribs in February, 2013. His first stroke followed in November and his second one in December 2014. With support and encouragement, he managed to pick himself up and return to a fairly normal life. Although it was a bit more challenging than he revealed; I knew this was the aging process and I felt a downhill spiraling was imminent. I continued to advice him to slow down and avoid multi tasking. I encouraged him to listen and pay attention to what his body was telling him.
Unfortunately, his second stroke left him unable to speak and was one of the scariest times in my life. I waited patiently and prayed he would regain his speech and overcome another physical hurdle. Through months of prayer, positive mantras, speech therapy, physical and occupational therapy, he was blessed to regain his speech. Driving again became his goal and motivation; and in my mind, it was the last thing I thought he was physically and mentally capable of doing. Despite the fact, I expressed his driving was not a good idea; I had no power to fix or control the situation. Lucky for him, he was granted his license by the skin of his teeth. I knew it meant a lot for my parents to maintain their independence, so now, my advice was drive minimally, avoid night time driving and rainy days, and be grateful God gave you this opportunity again. Letting go of the need to fix, or change a person’s choices has been an on-going lesson for me. I have struggled with this in the past with my children. I wanted to shield them from life’s inevitable disappointments; and as parents, we enable and try desperately to control their decisions and their outcomes. Often times their choices become not only their consequences but ours as well. My husband and I finally came to the conclusion, our children needed to take ownership for their lives and only then would they realize they needed to make different choices. Once we let go of the control to fix, our attitude changed, our fear lessened and we began to provide a support system that encouraged accountability, independence and unconditional love. No one likes to see anyone fail, let alone our loved ones. And so it is, I must let my parents live the life they choose, love them unconditional and be there for support.
As many know, dealing with and watching our parents age can be a challenging time and change becomes inevitable. It is heartbreaking to watch my parents live a life they are not good at living. I can only imagine how difficult it is for them to transition into a different kind of life style. I begged my Dad to slow down further. Needless to say, there was another “accident” a fall that left my Dad with 7 more broken ribs, a broken humorous bone and 10 stitches in his finger. After three long months of rehab, he has arrived home. Although he needs assistance, he is home and making progress.
Why do we feel as individuals we must try to “fix” other peoples lives? Why do we feel responsible for their choices? Over the years, I have realized we are not capable of fixing other people’s lives. It simply does not work and adds stress and anxiety into everyone’s life. I believe the only person one can fix is oneself. Whether it is having the desire to fix our parents life, husbands, children, friends, employees, co-workers, the real fixing comes within each one of us. We all need to make our own mistakes, learn to live with disappointment and frustration, and allow ourselves the privilege of learning strategies to navigate through the tough times and tough individuals we meet in life. It’s never one fix but a continuous process of self-reflection that has the power to influence and change our relationships. While parents, friends and loved ones are there to support and provide love and guidance, the true desire, effort and determination comes from within. I need to continue on my path of letting go of all that is out of my control and find the courage to heal and forgive so I can live my best life.