Elder Care

Letting Go of Those Aging Parents Blues

What draws us to the Blues? Most people either love them or hate them. Or, they love hating them. In any case, the Blues are part of our culture . . . And they feed a part of us we can’t seem to let go.

So, what is it about our aging parents and the blues? You’ve felt them, haven’t you? All adult children of aging parents do at some point or another. These HOT blues are a feeling of dis-comfort, dis-quiet, dis-ease, dis-organization, and every other “dis” you can imagine. There can be no doubt when they have you in their grip.

What’s so terribly bad about that?! Well, nothing if you enjoy that bluesy overwhelming feeling. I guess it all depends on why we’re holding on, and what it is that’s getting in the way of the letting go.

When it comes to our relationships with our aging parents, that “getting in the way” stuff is a combination of the history we share and the unknowns that lie ahead.

And so we hold on. And the blues take hold of us. And they hold on. And the cycle just keeps going round and round and round, till our blues are so hotly intertwined in how we see the world that we start believing they’re part of us . . . a part we believe we’ve no ability to change because it’s a part over which we fail to see ourselves having any control.

Just for a moment let me shift gears and draw a distinction between the HOT! Blues and the much easier COool Blues. I live in a very cool little burg. This past weekend was the “2008 Hotlicks Bluesfest” of Granville, Ohio. Several blocks right in the middle of town were shut down, and from 12:30 PM till 10:00 PM our village was filled with the Blues. It was great! And, it was so very coooooooooooool!

Blues lovers came from all over to enjoy the day and to hear the music of five top blues bands. Good food. Good drinks. Good music. What more could one ask?

Best of all, I live just a block and a half from all the festivities. When I’d had enough, I just went home to listen to the music while hanging out on the front porch with my dog and a glass of mellow wine. Yup. Just about as perfect a day as you could get.

Hot versus Cool: Two different kinds of the blues. Two very different temperatures. One we enjoy. One we tolerate. Go figure!

If you take a moment to actually listen to the words that lie beyond the music in the Blues, though, you’ll see there’s not so much difference after all. A lot of pain gets sung out in the blues. The music seems to take the edge off, however, so the pain’s a little smoother and easier to swallow. It doesn’t go away. It just changes enough for us to enjoy it.

As for the blues that life hands us . . . change is going on there as well. You just have to go a little deeper than that dull feeling of dis-harmony to find it.

When it comes to your relationship with your aging parents, what gives you the blues? Do you feel blue when you think about your current situation? Or, do the blues hit you more forcefully when you look into the future?

WHEN do the blues happen?

HOW do they happen?

WHAT do you do when they happen?

HOW do you move beyond them?

Looking back, when I moved home to Pennsylvania following my father’s death, I was in an almost constant minor state of the blues. It was like having a low grade fever I just couldn’t shake. I knew only that something was out of kilter.

I was looking down the road at perhaps the most important job I’d ever undertaken: caring – hands-on – for my mother.

Do you want to talk the BLUES? Let me share the concerns I had:

– My mother and I had spent most of my life “competing” with one another – or at least, so I’d believed. I was the radical child. It was far easier for us to disagree than to spend the time needed to discover how tightly connected we were with one another. (i.e., What on earth did I think I was doing? And how did I plan to become the primary caregiver to the one person with whom I’d always fought?!)

– Did I even have it in me to do what it was going to take, whatever that might be, as my aging mother’s caregiver?!

– How would I deal with . . . (whatever lay ahead)?

– What about “my” time versus “her” needs? Or, was I just being selfish?

– What if she wanted me to….? ahhhh, not that!

– How could I keep from being sucked into all the “stuff” of aging?!

– How would I handle losing her when it was time for her to go? (I was never good at this sort of thing.)

Do you get my drift? It was bits and pieces of the things I didn’t know enough about – or the things for which my expectations far out-reached my understanding – that helped me to surround myself with little Blues traps. One mis-step, and down I’d go. . . or so I feared.

The fact of the matter, though, was that I was lucky enough to learn something before my Blues completely took over. And this thing that I learned was both simple and profound. Even more, its gifts are universal.

Are you ready to catch it? Here it comes: We CHOOSE To Be Blue . . . Or NOT

The Blues are a choice we make – or not. Why do you think some people seem to sail through life, while others are perpetually stuck in the dumps? It’s not that life is any kinder or easier for one versus the other. Far from it! Rather, it’s all about the choices we make.

I know you’ve heard this before, but please pay attention anyway because we keep forgetting this part: You and I CHOOSE how to respond to whatever happens in our lives.

And the Blues . . . well, I choose to see the Blues as an opportunity to change both my perspective and my response. You, of course, may choose to simply stay blue . . . or not. Whatever rocks your boat! When it comes to caring for and about our aging parents, my way wins hands down!

Let me tell you: Life is far more fun when we choose to hang out with a blues band than when we wrap our own blues-band tightly around our psyche. Choices being what they are, I’m stickin’ with the music. If nothing else, I’ll dance those blues away! Why don’t you join me?