I had a lovely chat with an elderly couple today, selling their home to be closer to their family and move into an ‘independent lifestyle resort.’ They were excited about their new venture but told me that fourteen years ago, when they bought the home they are now selling, they would only leave it when they were being ‘taken out in a box.’ I didn’t ask them how old they are, but they were sprightly great-grandparents who absolutely adored their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
And it got me thinking… how many times are we adamant about what we will do with our lives, only for ‘life’ to make that decision for us. I know I’ve harped on about the ’till death do us part’ marriage vow and how cynical I am about it, due to so many people I personally know who have broken their marriage vows, divorced or purely just live a lie of a life. I snicker at Facebook pages of people I know who I know have had affairs, yet write soppy public notes to their wives and husbands dedicating their loyalty to each other, when in reality, there is no loyalty. Even the soppy love notes on Facebook that I read, and I have no idea if there have been infidelities within the marriage, make me think that something isn’t right and someone is trying to right their wrongs. Or it’s the constant pics of themselves with the kids, but nothing of their spouse… the idea that there is no unity within the family. So I’m sure you can understand my cynical thoughts.
But then, even if there is the happy marriage, once the children leave the nest, the parents decide to enjoy life as a couple again! Yippee! They spend their hard-earned and saved money on trips overseas, expensive toys and jewellery, pretend they are 20 again with the high-adrenalin sports like sky-diving, gliding or sailing, they take up expensive memberships at golf clubs and tell their kids that they are in the SKI club: the ‘Spend the Kids Inheritance’ Club. Most the kids don’t think much of it, as they are happy they are enjoying their twilight years and at last spending their own money on doing things they love and have sacrificed for. They move out of the family home as the house is too big for them and find something small enough so the kids never come back. It’s the dream house they always wanted – low maintenance, single level and room for all their hobbies and play equipment. It’s the house that they want to be ‘carried out of in a box.’
But then they have some health scares – a heart attack, arthritis, even the big ‘C’ word. And they realise that they aren’t 20 anymore. Picking up a hot saucepan becomes dangerous as their fingers don’t have the strength to carry it anymore. Or the porcelain tiled floor is too slippery and they have had one too many falls. There is too many steps between the garage and the house… The garden is out of control because their knees hurt too much to kneel down and weed. All the pleasures of life aren’t so pleasurable anymore. And they just can’t let their pride get in the way… they need to get some help.
So at some stage, if it’s their own decision or a decision made for them, they need to get some assisted help living. They either need to move in with their family members (God forbid, their children’s homes!) or into a retirement home style complex where there is 24/7 medical help if needed. It’s about 50/50 of the homes that I see that people choose to move out of their ‘carry me out in a box’ home on their own accord, and the other 50% are made to do it by family members after a slip and a broken hip, a pot of boiling water spilling on them or a trip in the ambulance for something that was life threatening. They are the ones who sob when I come to their homes as the reality has hit them that they have lost their independence forever.
And for all the sniggering that our parents do when they are in the SKI club, thinking they are invincible and don’t need their kids, or need to spend time and/or help out their kids when they need it most, there is always a time that they will need to lose their sense of pride and put their hand out for help. Most would love it if their children had the time, love and energy to look after them and spend their valuable last years with them, but some have burnt their bridges and their children don’t want to help shoving them off into a soulless nursing home to wither away. It’s so sad. But it also works the other way… I have seen children bend over backwards for their elderly parents only for their parents to be so un-accepting, cruel and ungrateful to their children for just wanting to help and have a bond with their mother or father before losing them completely.
What inspired this blog, was a saying I read on Facebook… “The most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” Whatever you can do… DO IT NOW!!! Life will never work out the way you want it to. Life will give you so many more positive surprises than you ever expected if you aren’t steadfast on how your life ‘should be.’ Be prepared to change the vision you have for your life as your circumstances change. Life presents us with challenges to ‘change our direction’ not keep us where we find ourselves stagnate and safe. Nothing you can do can ever be wrong for you, it’s a life lesson – you learn from it and move on, twist your thought patterns and come up with something new and better than what you had your heart set on.
‘Till death do us part’ happens for a very rare number of people who truly are ‘in love with’ each other and have no resentments towards each other in life. They are the ones who die only a few days or weeks apart from each other, or in the same tragic accident. They are the ones who remain completely faithful to each other, the ones who help their children raise their grandchildren, the ones who remain youthful in their hearts because they have no animosity with their loved ones. They are the ones who have lived life, enjoyed life and have no regrets. And the only way you can live with no regrets is if you allow yourself the freedom to what you can ‘when’ you physically have the ability to do so…