I don’t know about others in my generation, but my parents are about ten years older than the parents of my friends/peers. This means, I’ve recently figured out, that my parents will need my help about ten years sooner than the parents of my friends/peers. And ten years sooner means, Right About Now.
Five years ago, my partner and I had it in our heads that we would be financially free. And so, we sold or donated or trashed everything that we’d hoarded, packed up the stuff we actually needed, and left. After getting all of our finances under control, we’ve returned Stateside to live and be near my family.
Sadly, this was never my intention. The stars aligned, however, and here I am now, forty-five minutes away from my aging parents, and my parents only arrived a few months ago after consistent nudging by my mother’s other sister to move near her. And honestly, it feels really good. Not only am I near my parents, but I’m also in a significant international hub, which means my forever-globe-trotting brother can easily fly in and check on them too, bear much of the weight of the responsibility.
Luckily, both my brother and I have taken and used this time as expats in very positive, forward-moving ways. And it’s kind of amazing to grow up with a sibling and then realize that you’re both adults, and then you look at each other and realize that you’re staring at a successful stranger. It’s quite odd.
My point, nevertheless, is that I have found myself here, in a place where I can be useful if (and the inevitable when) my parents really start to be unable to take care of themselves fully. Don’t get me wrong, they’re both in their seventies and are each puttering along just fine. In the city from where they moved, my mother was an avid volunteer within the community, sang in the worship group at her church, and cared for an ailing sister. My father volunteered during the construction of the San Salvador for the Maritime Museum in San Diego, volunteered his time teaching veterans how to sail, and fished regularly.
The problem is not that they cannot take care of themselves right now. The problem is that preparations need to be made for the inevitable end and any other physical/psychological problems that might come up between now and then. Not to mention all of the legal paperwork that needs to be drafted and signed in order to ensure my parents financial security from thieves targeting seniors.
It’s sort of unbelievable, after the four-month-long journey it took to get here, but now that I’m here, it feels so right. I came here to check in on my parents and prepare them for the evening of their lives, and to my surprise, I watched my dad calculate a 20% tip on a check and not round up, even when the total came to $119.67. When I asked my partner about why my dad wouldn’t just round up, he looked at me and said, “Because that’s what he owes the server. Nothing more, nothing less. I’m no longer worried about your dad.”