Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tough Decisions

I attended my mother's 80th birthday party. Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!

Both of my parents are alive and, for the most part, doing pretty well; my mother especially. My father is doing ok relative to other 82 year olds. Some are better; some are worse...I think my dad's probably in the middle.

Like many of us, my dad abused his body during his heretofore life. He drank a bit too much, he ate a bit too much and he smoked a bit too much. Some of those things are now, I'm afraid, catching up to him. He did give up smoking some 20 years ago but his drinking took a toll that may be be recoverable. Oh, and he has that "crappy Irish skin" that many in our clan was born with.

I'm one of seven kids; 2nd oldest child and oldest male. Basically, it meant I didn't need to do the dishes while we were growing up (sorry sibs!). So the day before this party, we decided to have a sibling get-together. My sister Amy has a house a town away from the folks and generously offered to host the event (my other sister Bridget lives a few houses away from the folks and was going to host the main party).

So we started eating and drinking and carrying on...until I figured we were all feeling well enough to talk about "where the folks were". This was one of those conversations that nobody really wanted to start but many of us knew we should.

My folks live in the middle of Pennsylvania right on the Susquahanna River. Since flooding is a regular occurance there, they built their house on stilts so that if the water comes up, the stilts will, hopefully, save move of their belongings (and themselves, if needbe). The downside of the stilt system is that a rather steep set of stairs is the only way into the house. Since this part of Pennsylvania sees a goodly amount of snow, my fear is that entering or exiting the house during the winter months could be dangerous.

I stated as much to my siblings and opened the floor for discussion. Several of my sibs shared my fears but, surprisingly, not all of them. Some of them thought that it could be handled safely and my folks could live though the winter without too much difficulty. Others disagreed and thought we (the kids) should act. I do have 2 siblings that live within the same small town as the folks. I'm sure my folks will call them if they need assistance. What to do, what to do?

I'm sharing these details, not so much for the answers that we came up with but for the question: If the folks are fairly coherent, is it the kids responsibility to come up with solutions whether the folks want to abide by them or not? Since it's very reasonable to assume that some of my siblings will be alerted to said difficulties (and since I'm 1200 miles away it won't be me), is it appropriate to ask my folks to let us in on their thoughts and keep us advised on things that could affect any of us?

I had a discussion with my mom about some of these issues and I came away with some new understanding. One, my mom has actually thought some of these issues through. Whereas we were assuming that she was taking a "wait and see" attitude, she has, at least, thought through the "what do I have to do to make this work" thought process and has a grasp on a solution. It might very well impact one or more of my siblings but at least she's not waiting until the snow flies before coming up with ideas.

I'm still nervous but less so than when I went.