Friday, September 30, 2011

Old Age is Everywhere

Man, I'm Old.  This past weekend, I flew home to NC for my 20th (yes, 20th) class reunion.

Except for the people I want to see, many of my classmates I quite literally haven't seen since graduation day back in 1991.  That all changed this past weekend.

I hadn't been to a previous reunion at all, so I was curious to see how this would all go down:  what would people look like? Answer:  half look exactly the same, half I didn't recognize.  Would everyone still be just as stupid (myself included...) as we were in high school? Answer: thankfully, no.  Would people stare at my husband and say 'you talk funny'? Answer: thankfully, no; rather, people were really sweet about his accent.  Would this be one of the lamest things I could be dong on a Saturday night-and regret every painful moment of it? Answer: thankfully, no.
All in all, it was a fantastic weekend.  No, I don't really have much in common with some of my classmates who, aside from college have remained in Hickory, North Carolina their entire lives.  No, I really don't have anything in common with my classmates who have two or three or five and who looked at the Saturday night event as their one evening out all month.  But, it was great fun to go back and just see how people were doing.  You can't have spent the first 18 years of your life with folks and not wonder how they eventually turned out!

On the flip side of this, as I was in my hometown for the reunion, we stayed with my dad-as we always do when we go to NC.  I had not been 'home' in over 18 months.  I've seen my father at other random locations (Charlotte, when we were passing thru on our way to Las Vegas.  Portland for my wedding), but I haven't seen the house in over 18 months until this past weekend.
I've been very aware for year of the progressing age of my father (he recently turned 74) for some time, but as he's in relatively good health, have probably been mentally postponing what I know is going to be an eventual reality.
The time I was at home this weekend however, made me realize that he is officially approaching the 'old person' status and adopting all of the odd behaviors that old people adopt:  stockpiling random things (Really Dad.  Do you need the beach hotel pricing guide from 2003?  When you also have the 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 issues?....and you've stayed at the same hotel for the past 15 years?), not cleaning the house as thoroughly as it should be cleaned, and just generally picking up some personality quirks that you only typically see in 'old folks.'   It's got me a bit concerned-and has really made me start thinking about how much longer I can continue to live in London, which is a good 8.5 hours away by plane-never mind the simple reality that when living this far away, I'll do good to get to NC once a year.

Can I continue to live in London guilt-free as my father ages, or is it time to put family first and think about moving back to the US and make seeing my dad more frequently a priority?  I knew the time would come when I would have to start thinking about this very issue.  I just thought I'd have a few more years.  Perhaps I'm overreacting a bit, but my mother passed away 16 years ago, and I'm an only child.  My Dad's girlfriend is 80. I am his support network.

This is life.  These are the types of decisions we're all faced with all the time.  I just don't think I'm quite ready to deal with the ramifications of a)making this decision and b)acknowledging what making this decision could mean.

Would it be so much to ask for things to go back to the way they were in High School when we were all younger-and maybe postpone the reality of this situation for another 20 years?


  1. Do it before you have kids because then, your family is the one you created and would be based in the UK. It is much harder to think about moving back "home" when your kids have been born and raised somewhere else. For example, if I choose to return to the UK when the Man-Child graduates high school in 3 years, I will be leaving two kids in the USA. Not good.

  2. I can totally relate to your dilemma. I'm heading home Thursday for my first visit in over 2 years. In my head my dad is still in his late 30's with black hair. In reality he has snow white hair, and next week is his 63rd birthday. The first 30 seconds off the plane seeing him is a bit of a jolt normally, but I've never gone this long without seeing him.

    Also I'm finding he is getting more stuck in his ways when I talk to him so I can relate to those signals you mention above.

    I have a sister but she lives 6000km the other direction on the opposite side of Canada. Luckily Dad has a younger girlfriend, so he isn't on his own, but to be fair his health is generally better than hers. I've only known him to be sick twice in my life.

    It is sad to see your parents less and less when you know they doesn't have all the time in the world. I am currently trying to figure out how I can make money and split my time better between my 2 countries. Fingers crossed I find a way.

  3. Thanks all for your comments (even the FB message, Jan!).
    Thank goodness, Expat Mum that we don't plan to have kids-I can completely understand how that would make a complicated situation even *more* complicated. For once in my life, I've taken the easy road on that one. :)

    Good luck to you BluenoseGirl on your trip home. Seeing your Dad will probably come as a bit of a surprise-especially after 2 years-but if your father is like mine ('old man' syndrome aside...), his spirit is still probably young!

  4. Your class reunion sounds a lot like mine, those kids started having babies right away never left Parma, or if they did, they left and never came back for any reunions and I don;t know how cool they may have turned out to be.
    I wish there was an easy answer for what to do about your dad, or any answer at all I could give you. Both my parents died by the time I was 26 and I was their only child, so I was spared having to make those kinds of decisions, though the trade-off isn't that great either, I'd much rather have them here. I sympathize for you though I don;t really understand how difficult that must be for you. I totally agree with Expat Mum that if you do it, it should be before you have kids (if you choose to), and with Simon being a citizen, you can always move back to the UK if you both prefer.
    When you get a free moment, I'm wondering if you would be willing to blog about the work culture in the UK, how it's different than the U.S. I see you have pointed out some things, like the deodorant in the bathrooms, but any other observations or things you've learned along the way would be greatly appreciated. Things like, here in the States, if I have a long way to walk on work days, I wear sneakers with my work clothes and then change into my heels once I get to the office. Do women do that there, or do they just wear their heels on the Tube and suffer the whole walk in? Do people take their lunches to work, or do they always go out to eat? Things like that.
    Again, wishing you well in all you do and your difficult decisions. :) G

  5. Wow--you read my mind. I'm an only child with a mom around 70 in the US, and she's quite healthy but I do have the feeling sometimes that I'm hiding out here. My dear friend in the US also has two small children that I'm missing out on. I truly think people underestimate how hard it is to go live abroad. We have this idea that the world is smaller, that we can send our lives back and forth like we do emails or faxes. I also went to my 20th high school reunion, and strangely enough, have lately envied those who stayed put--just a bit. My life may seem exciting to them, but the grass is always greener, right?