Another weekend in June, another grandchild is graduating from high school. We are winging our way thither for a pre-ceremony celebration. While we sit on the airplane waiting to land, we wonder: What will we look like to our son and his family? We haven't seen them in person in a long time (thank you, Covid). Will they see how we've aged? We're slower walkers now. Sometimes we forget to stand up straight. Will we look like old people to them?
A vanity, yes. But still. We want to be seen as energetic, as parents who have come to visit, are helpful around the house and are able to play ball with the kids. That's how we see ourselves, even as we know there are limits on how physical we can be. (Kick the soccerball with a granddaughter? Maybe a few touches.)
What we learned on this trip is that everything's relative. Yes, we've aged. Yes, we're slower than we were. Long walks with our son and various family members are no longer three to four miles; more likely to be one or two. On this trip, we arrived on the heels of our daughter-in-law's parents. They had been there for a week and left three hours before we arrived. They too had slowed down a step or two. Fiercely independent and hardy folks, they live a nine- or ten-hour drive away from their only child--and, unlike us, with no easy airline flight back and forth. They had always maintained --not in these words but in words to the effect--that "over my dead body" would they move from their beloved Maine to live near their child. And yet, health issues were threatening their well-being; they, too, are getting older. On this visit when their daughter brought up the subject of their moving to her city, they were receptive to the idea.
My daughter-in-law was part relieved--if they moved she could be on hand when they needed help. But also part alarmed: There was the recognition that her parents were aging and struggling to maintain their independence. It made her sad to realize that change was coming and soon. It made me sad, too. When my mother became frail and ill, I remember feeling that there was a turnaround in our relationship. In effect, I had to become her parent. That's the direction we parents of older grown children are heading--if we're lucky or healthy enough to get there.
photo: Sunset by Maia Lemov