I have been thinking a lot about the topic of aging parents lately, especially after spending five weeks with my dad, who came to visit from another country. He and I don’t get to spend the kind of quality time together like we used to when I was younger, prior to my marriage. I used to visit him overseas annually three weeks at a time and we would regularly have chat time during a walk or a hike. Since I became a wife, overseas trips have become less frequent with less time to spend in each country. I yearn for my father’s visits to the States. However, due to some immigration issues, his visits have dwindled as well. I was so excited when he decided to finally come after a hiatus of 2.5 years.
This visit was emotionally charged, which was highly unexpected for me. Life was a lot simpler when it was just me and me alone during my parents’ visits. When you add another person to it, namely my husband, the dynamics at home changed drastically. My parents are very easygoing people. Very considerate and kind. Bob was really trying his best to accommodate them. However, conflicts and misunderstanding still arose, as Bob struggled to share his personal space. The conflicts also had to do with this ongoing undercurrent with my brother, who conveniently never has to accommodate my parents just because he married early and started a family early. The lack of space at my brother’s house means our parents stay with the single daughter. This arrangement goes way back years ago. The continuation of this arrangement is a source of conflict for me and Bob. He is okay with my parents staying with us, but he does not understand why my brother does not share the responsibility.
One morning, a fight I had with Bob led to his overreaction to the noises that my dad made, which led to hurt feelings that lasted Bob, me, and my dad a whole day. (My mom, in the mean time, was oblivious to this conflict. Bless her heart.) That evening, Bob apologized to my dad. That apology opened a flood gate for my father and me. We talked and cried for an hour or two that night. There is nothing more emotional and heartbreaking than seeing your 70-year-old father cry. He talked about his disappointment in my brother for not having regular contact with him in the last couple of years. He told me the one regret of his life: uprooting our family and putting us here while he tried to make a living overseas, forcing us to be separate from him most of our teenage years. He shared about how my brother urged him to come visit so that he wouldn’t miss my niece and nephew’s childhood like how my dad had missed ours. He shared about the impossibility of retiring in the States due to high healthcare cost and thus eventually he’d stay overseas until he died, living far away from his children and grandchildren. He talked about how he chooses to be active by exercising daily, going biking and hiking regularly, so to extend this body of his so that he wouldn’t be a burden to anybody for as long as possible. All these were shared with tears, from the both of us. Never in the million years would I expect to experience this with my dad prior to his visit.
I heard the voice of an aging man that night, loud and clear. Since my dad had us relatively young, and has been such an active person all his life, I never saw him as an old person. This visit is the first time that I feel that my dad is reaching an age that I feared would come one day. The way he carried himself. How he talked about this time round he had to lift his legs higher for the steps at home, something that he never noticed or felt before. I cannot ignore the fact that… my dad is no longer middle-aged. I am approaching that period of my life and he is stepping into his advanced years. My father’s mother is still alive in her mid-90s. So I never really thought that my dad would leave me any time soon. However, you’d never know about one’s life expectancy. My dad mentioned about many of his friends who have passed and how he tries to make it to the monthly get togethers with his long-time friends because, really, who knows how many more times they could all see one another.
It’s inevitable that our parents will leave us one day. I feel fortunate that I can still do something about spending time with my dad. Every weekend, I got up extra early, went out to breakfast, and took an 1.5 hour walk with him. Some workday mornings, I took a half day off and did the same. These walks took place probably more than ten times in the duration of his visits. Sometimes Bob came. Sometimes just me and my dad. We chatted about anything and everything in his life and in my life. He knows everything about our fertility journey and is supportive of our decisions. I have made up my mind that I am going to be better at being in touch with my father now that he has gone back home. Daily texts will be my way of interacting with him. Come to think about it, it is really not that hard. Just a couple of minutes a day. But the effect on our relationship will be long lasting.
Now I have even more of an urge to get this egg donation business started. I would really like my dad (and my mom) to have the time to spend with my children. If we are fortunate enough, maybe we’ll still have more than 20 years of their time. It can be done, right?