I was listening to some podcasts recently about the perimenopause and menopause. It was so interesting and relatable but one woman`s comment really hit the nail on the head. She referred to the menopausal years as the “Frantic Forties and Fifties”, where life just goes insane on so many levels whilst we face the onslaught of hormones going bonkers all at once causing a myriad of symptoms!
What she was referring to is a time in our lives when some of us really don`t feel that great (some do I know, and sail through to the final menopause stage) and are wanting time to deal with and process all these new, sometimes scary symptoms yet we may have so much else going on that we can`t or maternally put others first. It may be teens or marriage problems but one that really resonated with me, especially in the last month with my own experiences and listening to friends of a similar age, is that of the worry of elderly parents. It really is a double whammy.
And here`s why it resonated…..
My parents live in the UK and I, as you know, am here in Australia. When we emigrated back in 2004, they seemed so young in their mid-sixties. We didn`t even give the future a thought. Them coming to visit every year was always going to happen, and it did, every Christmas for fourteen years. Last Christmas was the last however as the journey has just got too hard and they are now 80 and my Dad has a multitude of health issues. This has brought a huge amount of feelings to the surface. I find myself thinking about them constantly. What will happen to them? Will they get a terminal illness? Will it be sudden? When will it happen? Who will be there? Well certainly not me!
Guilt is beginning to set in. Were we selfish to emigrate? My brother is dealing with everything and has even moved back to the village they live in. Hospital appointments, operation after care, the frustration it brings my parents and dropping in on them every day to check they are ok. I do know if I were to up sticks and go home for these final years, it would probably really upset them. It has crossed my mind but then I don`t want them to be upset or feel a burden. Which of course they are not. But it doesn`t stop the guilt I have and the toll it is taking on my brother. I sometimes hear it in his voice. I talk about it openly to him and he says not to think like that, but I do. I wonder if others feel the same and ask themselves if they made the right choice back in the days when life was simple and their parents were healthy as they boarded that plane to a new life. I think they probably do.
Two friends called me this month with news on their elderly parents. One call left me in a panic that I to could face a similar call to the one she received and the other left me feeling that guilt again. Both friends were in their own kind of grief.
The first call was from a friend who did the opposite to me and emigrated from Australia to the UK. It was a Saturday morning and she received a call to say that her Mum had suddenly passed away. Completely out of the blue, no warning signs. By the Monday she was here with her family to farewell her Mum. I dread this call. I may not receive it, an illness may take me home prior, but I could and maybe twice. This really bought it home to me. My passport and that of my daughters is always up to date. It`s not as if we can get in the car and drive to where we need to be. It`s a 24-hour flight !! Why did we go so far again? Selfishly it was so good to see my friend but so bitter sweet.
The second was from my crazy, gorgeous friend here who I can say absolutely anything to and she me. We laugh, we cry, we listen, we tell each other to shut up (or worse !) , we share hot flush stories and she calls me her “comfortable pair of old slippers” I love that. We are both from the UK but live here. She was full of anger, frustration and sadness that day. A year ago, she was loving life to the max, kids had left home, and they had bought a smaller house near the city. Think cafes, bars, restaurants, theatre. She had dreamed of this time. But then her Mum began to deteriorate and was eventually taken into a home and her dad is lost without her. She goes from work, to the home, makes sure her Dad has company, food, shopping etc. “I feel like I`ve got two toddlers” she wailed. It had been a bad week. I listened, I soothed but I knew she was feeling what many do, including my own brother. Yet I am too far away to share the appointments, the checking and the sadness of watching them age. I am a once a week Skype chat now, no more visits from them, no idea when I shall next get home to the UK and the elephant is always in the (Skype) room of when we shall see each other again. Because we dont know.
So, I am left pondering what to do. Perhaps there is nothing I can do but keep up the contact as much as possible from the other side of the world…..it`s a difficult one ☹
Promise to be cheerier next time