One of my friends in the picture in the last post returned from Dublin two years ago, after living there for more than 20 years, to take care of her parents, both over 90.
Her father, prone to frequent falls, moved into a retirement home; she visits daily. L. and her mother live in the family home.
Her mother, P., is 95, clear-minded and still eager to engage the world. (She can legally drive, but it's fraught.) They head to country inns, theatre festivals, visit P.'s beloved Algonquin Park, where she canoed at 92, nourished by the familiar natural beauty.
They have always deeply enjoyed one another's company and have little of the reflexive friction so many of my friends feel (and I had) towards one's mother.
(Years ago another friend turned up at my door with her tiny, furious mother in tow. She'd spent the morning trying to buy her a winter coat. "YOU take her", she hissed. After a restorative lunch (with martinis) in the department store dining room, we found a chic cobalt blue topper that she loved. She was sweet as churned honey with me, as I expected.)
L. is single, childless (which simplified her return), incandescently intelligent, wildly funny, and a fearless straight-shooter. Doesn't complain about the friends, work, cottage and world she put on hold to return.
She will say she misses them, and expects to once again spend time in own home. But for now she's assuaging her mother's loneliness and boredom, and listening to her father's stories.
Every woman friend is dealing with elder care- either her own parents, in-laws, or extended family, some with L.'s grace and goodwill, others with resignation, resentment, worry.
Years ago many of us were consumed with childcare, exhausted and anxious about how we were shaping those little lives.
Now we are at a bedside again, combing hair, urging someone to eat, visiting a doctor, but it's so different at the other end of life. I felt far more emotional turbulence in the last years with my mother, flaring irritation and tenderness intertwined.
When our children are small we look at the stars with them and think, what will your future bring? We look at the stars with our very old parents and think, I hope there is a heaven for you, whatever form it takes.