Dealing with the role reversal

Lately, when I call my BFF back in Kansas to get caught up, it’s not the kids or the grandkids that we talk about. It’s the parents.

Like millions of other Baby Boomers, we’re no longer worrying about raising successful children and grandchildren. Our worries are focused on mom and dad and what will be the next thing we’ll have to take away from them.

My parents are now 87 years old. I feel very lucky to still have them with me. Many of my friends and relatives remind me often that they weren’t as lucky. But there are times when I catch myself wishing I didn’t have to watch the decline of the pair who brought me into this world.

Take the other day. We were deep into a family conversation about getting together for a family picnic. I have three sisters in the area and a slew of nieces and nephews. We set a date and handed out food assignments.

Then my mom said,”And we can draw names for Christmas.”

She’d lost half a year.

Not too long ago, my mom was preparing dinner for the grandkids, as she has done routinely once a week for years. I got there after she had already started the “spicy franks.” She was standing at the counter scraping burn off the slices of hot dogs, a burnt skillet in the distance.

“I got so busy making frosting for the cupcakes, I forgot all about the spicy franks on the stove,” she said.

Immediately I thought to myself, “we’re going to have to get her to stop cooking.” It was just the next thing on the list of many things my sisters and I had taken away from her.

Don’t get me wrong. We sought help and we know how to approach these subjects with her. The real dichotomy is that in many ways, she’s very capable. She can complete the crossword puzzle in the newspaper every day. And she recently went to a Mariners game with the grandkids, spouting all the current team statistics.

My dad is with her and his “forgetfulness” isn’t as rapid as her’s, it seems. He still drives to the donut shop every day, although I worry about how long that will last.

During a recent call to my best friend Pat, we talked about our parents. Pat is the sole caregiver to her father who is 87 years old also, and who has diabetes, among other health issues, is incontinent, and seems to wear out his welcome at each care facility where he goes to live. (She’s moved him three times in two years.)

She told me about a call she got from her dad. She was just getting ready to walk down the aisle at her daughter’s wedding rehearsal when her phone rang.

“Honey, I need some more hydrogen peroxide,” he said. “And I’ve decided I don’t like this place. I want to move.”

Get out the moving boxes, once again, my dear friend.

Parenting Parents is an occasional column that will run in Kitsap Weekly. Contributions from readers are welcome – both the heartfelt and the humorous. Email

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