Raking the leaves

Today I spent a large part of the day outside, raking leaves and bagging them. I had help from my four-year-old for a couple hours until the lure of inside and warm and cozy drew him from my side. It's okay, because he was only so much help anyway and it was more about the company.

While I was alone, I realized that raking was a very good way to put my mind into a better place.

This has been a week of commuting back and forth to my parents' condominium in Winston-Salem. They are elderly (95 and 86), somewhat infirmed and still living on their own. My father has now fallen a number of times, and it's cause for great concern.

I'm the only living child of my parents; they now have to depend on me for direction on their welfare, something no one would have expected any more than Brian being the sole surviving Wilson sibling.

Parenting one's parents is not an ideal job, especially with my folks. My dad has tightly clung to the reins of the family's finances. He was a banker and has always paid all the bills except for the time when he was in the Pacific during World War II. That has not presented my mother or myself much opportunity to school ourselves on the matters of home finances, something I'm going to have to learn right away. Bills have now fallen by the wayside with my father's impaired vision, so there's much to do to get things up to date. I'm fortunate in having a wife who already understands how to make ends meet; she knows what's ahead and has been lovely about helping me with this.

I'm going to try to figure out what the best options for my folks are. Part of me wants to have them continue on in their home until it's untenable, either for medical reasons or for financial ones. That seems to be what my mother would want, to be surrounded by her tchochkes. Part of me wants to get them into a retirement community, either in Winston-Salem or in Durham, so that my dad can get the kind of care he needs and will soon need more of. He said to me once "You know, not everybody wants to go to a nursing home. I do, but..." Part of me just doesn't know what to do. Both parents are very stubborn about what they will and will not accept.

So I raked today and thought about all the possibilities and the inevitabilities ahead. I bagged about six giant paper monoliths full of wet and dry leaves from the base of the retaining wall and the little part of lawn near the street. I filled the rolling yard waste can to the brim. I greeted passing neighbors and strangers alike. I got out the ladder, moved the cars and sawed down big dead limbs that hung over our driveway. I reorganized our shed so that we can now get to everything inside it. I breathed the cool wet air. I did this for several hours and still I have no idea what to do for my parents.

My arms and legs are tired. My brain is tired. I should be able to sleep like a log tonight and face another trek to Winston-Salem tomorrow morning, possibly having had the answer delivered to me in my sleep by a man on a flaming pie, although I'm not counting on it.


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