Sunday, June 01, 2014

Some random thoughts

I was visiting family last week.

It's hard watching family -especially parents - age. My mom is still pretty much in good health (she went up on a ladder to put a shutter back up - I was holding the ladder. I tried to encourage her to let me do it but she insisted. Then again - being on an antihypertensive, I do occasionally get moments of dizziness and maybe being up high on a ladder is not so good. But she has borderline osteoporosis (and I can SEE she has shrunk in height), so I worry).

My dad's knees are terrible. Nothing that can be done short of surgery that's not likely to be successful at this point. It sucks. He does PT to try to keep some mobility but I can tell it just really sucks to have such bad knees. (he used to play football and run track, and also hiked a great deal....and then learned when he was 45 or so that he had one leg shorter than the other and was developing scoliosis. He has an insert for his shoe but probably got it too late for his knees)

Their 55th anniversary is this year. Their church does a "silver and gold" Sunday in June; it honors people who have been married 25 years, or 50 years, or 50+ years. They ask for a wedding photo to go in a Powerpoint that's shown at the reception. My parents actually don't have any wedding photos (long story that is best explained as "it was sort of an elopement") but my mom found one from when they were traveling together shortly after they were married.

I was still 10 years in the future at that point, but when I looked at the photo, I thought: yes, I remember when they looked like that. It made me a little sad - I remember when I was small and my dad used to lift me up and hold me in the air so I could "fly," I remember when I believed he could fix anything that got broken. I remember thinking how glamorous my mom seemed. (She wasn't, really, I guess, and I don't think she'd describe herself that way. But she SEEMED glamorous to me.) I remember when both of them had dark hair. (My dad's hair is totally white; my mom's is salt-and-pepper).

When they were the age I am now, they already had both their kids and had been married for 20 some years. My life turned out really differently than how I thought it would when I was a kid. Not that I'm sad about that; it's just interesting to think about "How would things be different if I wound up with a high-school sweetheart or something that I married straight out of college, and had kids, and tried to stay home with them?"(as my mom did, and I think if I had had kids I would have tried to do the same if there was ANY way it could be done)

My brother and sister-in-law are doing the parent thing, but at a later age than my parents even did. The world has changed. My mom talks with some frustration about being referred to as an "advanced-age prima gravida" when she was expecting me. (She was in her early 30s) (One reason they waited so long: they wanted to be financially stable and have bills paid off first).
I also look at my parents and wonder at how their lives have changed - my mom is, in many ways, much more of a caretaker now. My dad can still drive, but with his bad knees, it's a lot harder, so she drives them nearly everywhere. She does all the yardwork he used to do. And she does it patiently, and without saying anything, without complaint. I suppose that is how it is when you love someone, and I'm sure it's a lot easier having to be a caretaker for someone in physical aspects when that person is still mentally the same person they always were - they can still talk to you, they still remember all the things you have done together, they can still do a lot of the paperwork type stuff couples have to do. But I confess, I'd still find it challenging to have to take on ALL the household work plus do things like drive a spouse to physical therapy several times a week. I admit it: I'm kind of selfish about my free time and I know I feel resentful sometimes when I feel like I "have" to clean the house and mow the lawn as well as do my full-time job. And I feel resentful when a student makes claims on my time I feel they do not have a right to. I suppose it's different when you're married to someone, and you take the "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health" part of it seriously.

My mom jokes that the vows they said didn't have her saying she would "obey" - I think the Disciples of Christ dropped that fairly early on - but I'm pretty sure they did the for-better-or-for-worse and all of that. And really, that's a good  philosophy of life in general: you have to take the bitter with the sweet. Bad stuff happens and while it sucks, you just deal with it and keep going.

I suppose my life has changed a lot, too. Perhaps you don't notice it as much when you're living it. I admit, sometimes I miss the days when I was in grad school - I had far fewer responsibilities than I do now, when I had to make a difficult decision about something in a lab I was teaching I could go to the prof in charge and ask his or her advice. Now I'm the prof in charge and I have to be the one making the tough decisions and doing things like busting the plagiarists. (One of the deals one of the profs I taught regularly for had going: if one of his TAs caught plagiarism or other cheating, we took it to him, and he brought the hammer down. It was much less stressful, and I suppose the students were more likely to listen to him).

And now I'm staring down a new summer semester - it starts tomorrow. I'm hoping it's better than last semester was; that one chewed me up and spit me out, partly because I had a critical mass of immature people in two of my classes and while it wasn't a LOT, it was enough to really get me down.

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