My octogenarian parents live in the middle of Wyoming. They are 23 miles from a hospital and 900 miles from their children. They moved here in 1990 when hiking and cross country skiing were their passions. Ten years ago, my folks thought they would move closer to us kids, but not finding any place they liked as much as Wyoming, their window was missed.
Now, my mom has become forgetful, and my father is not very ambulatory. With icy roads and walkways, 3-4 feet of snow accumulation, sub-freezing temperatures, and long, very dark nights, it is definitely no place for old men. (I'm looking out the window at a country lane where 2 vehicles spun out of control into a snow-covered gully and red lights of an emergency vehicle are flashing.) I have spent the past month trying to find a safe situation where they might actually be happy. It's a tough task.
This has brought up a lot of issues regarding responsibility in caring for elderly parents. I've heard non-committal "if it works in my schedule" and "we'll do what we can do." I also learned of a woman with dementia whose family has deserted her but always comes sniffing around when money is discussed. I met a darling hunched up woman in an assisted living facility who said her son says the place is too expensive and she needs to move. I doubt he will find a cheaper option. The home has at least a dozen residents with one harried caretaker.
It's funny how some make it a gender thing. I was talking to a friend who mentioned his sisters caring for their parents. I asked why this was the case, and he said women are stronger than men. Not long after, an elderly friend mentioned how attentive her daughter has been as she has aged, but added her son has been useless. She said daughters always seem to take the responsibility. I further read an article about long-living men and how they often had a daughter caring for them. So, why have so many men eschewed this shared responsibility?
I honestly do not know the answer, but I do know we get to choose who we are in this world. Part of that is doing the hard work of caring for those we love. Do we really want our parents, who have given us so much, to be alone? I think not.
M.J. Minerman writes for spinsters around the world who have "not found their lids and are pursuing lives well-lived."