Growing up

“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
― J.D. Salinger

That’s one of the things we learn as we grow older — how to forgive. It comes easier at forty than it did at twenty.”
― L.M. Montgomery

(Guinea Wasp among the flowers / Julie Cook / 2015)

When did you know that you were all grown up?
Really grown up. . .
As in no longer childlike but rather the designated, tag you’re it, authority of all things known and those things yet known. As in you are now the expert, the one everyone has decided to turn to for help, advice, strength, guidance, knowledge, direction, responsibility. . . the one who had now been taxed with the hard decisions, the tough choices, the yeses and the nos. . .??

For some of us it was perhaps a catastrophic event early on in life. A harsh reality thrust upon us far too early and much too soon.
For others it seemed to come at the cold uncaring hand of fate, the economics of our world, the poor choices of others.

Some of us mark the milestone in much the same way as certain ethnic tribal groups who have ceremonial rites of passage. The hoopla of a 21st birthday, the last hooray of a bachelor or bachelorette party before one’s impending nuptials. Some of us know the passing of the torch occurs the moment our first child is born. . .

I thought my moment came at age 25 when my mom died and I had to care for a father who was suddenly a lost child, readily foregoing adulthood while wrapped in his utter grief. I was pretty certain it hadn’t come at 23 when I married—as I was still so green and terribly wet behind the ears back then.

I think it also happened again when my son was born. I had to put my wants and needs aside as I was now responsible for the well-being of another. Resposiblilty should equate to growing up, should it not? There was just something about losing a parent and then becoming a parent. . .
Surely that was it, the time. . . the time of losing a parent and becoming a parent that signified life as a grown up.

At 55 I figured I was pretty grown up.
No doubt about it, grown.
I had retired had I not?
One has got to be pretty old to be able to retire right?
One would think.

My son got married last year.
I have a daughter-n-law.
My hair is turning rather silveresque.
My bones are a bit more brittle.
My eyesight is eluding me.
My mind may not be exactly as sharp as it once was.
My husband keeps reminding me I’m not as young as I once was.
I’m not keen upon hearing that.

Yet events of recent weeks have once again reminded me, that I’m still not totally grown up. . .
not by a long shot.

It slowly dawned on me, as I sat splayed legged on the floor of my old bedroom, of which now acts as Dad’s office, sorting through a myriad, or more like a mountain, of unpaid bills, forgotten tax information, past due this and that, a plethora of saved junk mail, folder upon folder of the years past all while spending countless hours on the phone sorting out the disaster he had slowly created when, on the fateful day we can’t seem to recall which was which, that he woke up and his mind decided it no longer wanted to be the grownup mind of a dad, my dad.

It may have come when I began writing countless checks, signing my name where his name should have been. When I called the numerous insurance companies seeking help. When the nurse came from the insurance company to evaluate his needs. When I called a care service. When I had to tell him NO or YES to his insistence that there be no care service, that he indeed needed “help”.

Maybe it was today when we sat filling out the healthcare questionnaire for the new doctor. The personal, oh so personal, questions I had to ask, had to listen to his answers. Questions you never imagined asking your dad or having to have him explain. Maybe it was when I had to explain to him about how he had to work the blood occult test kit as he politely told me, “no thank you, I don’t want to do that.”

As he now looks to me, or rather at me, for reassurance, for direction, for help, for rescuing, with questioning rummy eyes, which now look while pleading and searching for answers. . .answers I don’t readily have. The same eyes that were the ones I looked to when, as a little girl, I would call out each night for the various stuffed animals elected to guard and protect me throughout the night, as he’d throw them to me from across the room from their daily resting spot, thrown to my excited open arms in order for me to catch them, one at a time, as we performed our nightly ritual. . .

We all know parents aren’t exactly human. . .they’re a lot like the teachers I’ve spent a lifetime alongside–superhuman, not like mere mortals. They don’t have the same ills or issues as others. They are invincible and beyond the ordinary.
That’s their role is it not. . .?

Theirs is to provide, to guard, to protect, to lead, to guide, to always be there. . .

. . . as now the child reluctantly finds herself becoming the parent,
the lonely role of grown-up. . .

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Proverbs 22:6

6 comments on “Growing up

  1. Melissa says:

    Beautiful, amen

  2. archaeopteryx1 says:

    When did you know that you were all grown up?” – My own hair is very “silveresque,” to the point that “esque” is no longer a credible suffix, and I’m still waiting for that question to occur to me.

    I have a friend, “Ain’tNoShrinkingViolet,” on whose blog Christians and atheists alike converse amicably, who not only suffers from Rheumatoid Arthritis, at 41, but has a 4-year old, incredibly handsome young son who is profoundly autistic. Feel free to join us if you’d like:

    • Well hello Arch, welcome. . . 🙂 I’m honored to have you pop in!
      Thank you for the link, I will certainly check it out. I have a dear friend who has suffered with RA since her 20’s—she has been taking the embrel shots for several years, finding such an improved quality of life but suffered a bout of bells parsley back in the fall due to the lowered immunity as per the embrel— the lasting paralysis in her face and swelling throughout is proving to be a huge frustration.
      We all have our trials in this life to be sure and how comforting it is to have one another’s support…
      I started this blog several months after retiring. Dad had been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s. He had pretty much decided to no longer “take care of business”.
      I’m the only remaining child and he lives about 70 miles away. It’s been three years now and I tend to write about the journey as part catharsis as well as to share with those who may be facing similar challenges.
      My stepmom is now suffering with the painful and paralyzing effects of arthritis and the frustration of her own failing mind while having lived with Dad as he has been fading for quite sometime .
      Life can certainly be full of frustrations, sadness, hardships and the overt unfair—but we must simply keep our focus one step ahead as we meet and greet each new day with its new challenges. . .some days that’s easier said than done—hence where my faith steps in. . . but as I always tell you, that’s me and what helps me. . .
      Again, thank you for the link, I will indeed check it out as I have greatly enjoyed the community of caring individuals I have met in this blogosphere of ours—
      Blessings my friend —Julie

      • archaeopteryx1 says:

        I’m the only remaining child and he lives about 70 miles away.” – My mother was that for my grandfather, but fortunately, he lived only a few blocks away. I loved that old man as much as I did my parents, and we had good times as I grew up. It really hurt, when in my teens, he looked at me and asked who I was. I told him, but you could see on his face that the name meant nothing.

  3. Lynda says:

    Julie, I think we do have different times in our lives when we “grow up” once again. I feel deeply for you – as I have shared previously both of my parents passed away when I was quite young (32 years old) and, in spite of missing them for longer than I had them, I am grateful that I never saw them suffer in the way in which your dad is suffering now. Please know that my prayers are with you as always. Blessings.

  4. Man did that strike a nerve and bring tears to my eyes. Towards the end of mom’s life I would hold onto her whenever we got to a curb or crossed in front of traffic and one day she said, “It never dawned on my that one day you would be holding my hand instead of me holding yours.” It’s such a sad, sad day, and now I can forsee when it will be my daughter’s turn to do the same for me. It’s as if we grow up so we can grow “down” again, and it’s not as fun as it was when we were growing up, that’s for sure! Part of me grew up when my dad died when I was 18, another part grew up when I got married, another when Nikki was born, and on and on it goes. When my two sisters betrayed and abandoned me at the end of mom’s life and left me to do everything, a caregiver who was helping us with mom after her dementia set in and who knew not about my siblings, asked me once if I was an only child, and I told her, “No, I have two younger sisters.” Then she said, “And you are the only one who’s been taking care of your mom because…?” I looked at her for a minute and then blurted out that I guessed it was because I was the only one willing to stand up at the plate, as it were. She replied, “I cannot tell you how many times that happens in a family.” That was a big step in the growing up process, but I feel the same on the inside as I always have. So I’m not really sure how grown up I am yet. Life is so hard sometimes. Hugs, N 🙂 ❤

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