This month is a month of milestones for me. We all experience them, but it’s interesting that so many milestones are occurring in such quick succession: all of them — many of them big ones — occurring in a one month’s period of time. Allow me to recount a few of them for you in the hope that they may cause you to reflect on several that may have occurred in your lives, too.
Ah the milestones! They help us to define our lives. Events that happen in succession — beginnings, special occasions, plannings, ends — they help add order to the jumble of minutes, hours, days, and years that comprise the puzzle pieces of our lives. They depict the circle of our lives.
Milestone number one this month: our youngest child — a son — is to be married in Leesburg, Va. Typically, at least in my experience as a parent raising both sons and daughters, his sisters were “born older.” They married younger. They were ready to start adulthood sooner. They were more mature from the beginning.
But he’s caught up and is marrying a wonderful girl. I remind him often how fortunate he is to have met her and to have won her love. I encourage him to often remind her of this fact, too.
While we’re gaining a daughter and not losing a son, our youngest child being married — even though he’s a bit behind his sisters — is an introspective, even a little bittersweet, but an exceedingly happy milestone event in our lives.
Milestone number two: Both my wife and I are dealing with elder parent issues of health and loss of parental independence this month. There has been a role reversal in our relationships as parents and children. We children were in many ways the dependent individuals until now. Today our parents, in a manner of speaking, have taken on some of the roles of the dependence of children as their independence has waned. While we came to them for advice even years after leaving the “nest” and striking out on our own, now our parents come to us for advice.
I don’t mean to overstate the situation because we are blessed that our parents are still with us here in our worldly lives and still have — to one degree or another — most of their mental (if not their physical) abilities. But both sets of parents’ physical and mental abilities are on the downhill slide. Their ends, inconceivable as it seemed even just a few years ago, are now in sight.
Milestone number three: Both our eldest grandsons started kindergarten this past week. Their mothers’ cried as they boarded the buses for the first time. As their grandparents, we knowingly acknowledged the emotion having experienced it ourselves.
Our grandsons’ independence is on the rise — their tie to their mothers’ apron strings frayed irreparably just as it was for us when their mothers boarded their buses for the first time. “This is a good thing,” we tell our daughters, yet understanding their hesitation to let their “babies” go.
Milestone number four: My wife and I toured a “retirement village” — or “the end of the road” as my mother-in-law calls it — this past weekend. We are planning for an ordered end to our lives at the same time our parents’ lives are nearing their ends and our youngest child’s married life and our grandson’s independent (kindergarten) lives are just beginning.
This retirement village offers complete care from “independent” living (they take care of everything including changing a light bulb in your apartment — how really independent is that?) through what they call “memory care,” really truly the end of the road. Memory care is a nice way of saying, “dementia,” which is a play on the word “demented,” which is a play on the word, “crazy.”
Maybe we’re crazy for not putting off achieving this milestone. After all, retirement villages are not cheap. Then again, what planned, end-of-life, institutionalized elder care is?
However, we’d be worse off to not plan for our end-of-life lives, to let worry about (or hope against) dementia delay or negate our planning until it’s too late. Until we’re too demented to fully and knowingly participate in planning for possibly the biggest milestone of our lives: the end of them.
So it has been a big month of milestones, some better than others. But good or bad, each one adds order and purpose to our cycle of life. Though some are happy and others melancholy, I’m defined by all of my milestones just as each of us are defined by our own.
Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.