I suggest another museum outing to my parents. Let’s take the subway into downtown Boston to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner art museum. Both parents come up with reasons to defer the trip, like hot weather. I press them as my time home grows short. My unemployed days in my forties feel more scarce than their summers in their eighties.
We venture into the wild outdoors and on to the subway in spite of the heat, parking anxiety, baseball fans, and homeless characters. The excursion magnifies my parents’ infirmities. Father can’t hear so he wanders ahead. Mother finds new systems scary. Everything threatens from pay parking lots, subway tickets, museum entrances, and restaurants. Although new experiences might alleviate her anxieties, she shelters herself more in the town and house.
Although I grow weary of and fearful for my aging parents, I also have great compassion for them. They are harbingers of my future. I learn from them where I’m going. How to cope with deafness? How to confront a changing world?
I suggest humility and communication. Admit to myself the decline of my faculties not as personal failings but as external facts, like I’m getting older and can’t lift as much as I once could. Communicate clearly and kindly to others when I need help. I wish my father would tell us better when he could not hear us and let us write more down for him. My mother bravely admits that she has trouble getting up from the subway seat.
We are a family of independent stoics. Age and infirmity suit us like ill-fitting clothes. When I broke my foot, I hobbled around my apartment until Greg forcibly drove me to the hospital for x-rays. Next time, I’ll try a different outcome.