When you’re young you long for change. You want to get out, get gone, get going. But at some point you realize that you don’t have to go out seeking change. Change is the natural course of things in this life and will come whether you seek it out or not.
Our family is going through another phase of change. After my mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, our family began to experience even more change.
My father-in-law is old enough that he caught the very tail end of WWII. After that he worked for the government most of his life. So he has something you and I may never have, that thing we have heard of but not quite believed in; he has a pension. And so does my mother-in-law.
Grandma’s disease has progressed so that she needs nursing home care and despite pensions and Social Security, there is not enough money for both a nursing home and assisted living. The reason there is not enough money for both is it would cost $6,500 a month.
So, Grandpa is moving in with us. We are all looking forward to it one way and looking at it with a little trepidation in another.
We hope that it will be more fun for him to live here than in assisted living. We’re hoping he will go out with us when we go out and that he will enjoy seeing the kids and his old neighbors more often.
I’m very sure he has concerns about it, but I can’t guess what they might be. Of course he’ll miss the friends he made at the assisted living.
What else he worries about, other than Grandma, I can’t guess. I imagine he worries about money a little. That we will feed him weird food because he has heard about the kids’ unfortunate vegetarian tendencies.
He probably dreads having to ask for rides or wonders if I will do his laundry without being asked.
He might wonder if he will be able to get into a bathroom when he needs to or watch programs he is accustomed to watching. I don’t know.
He has mentioned some things he’d like to do. He asked for some dumbbells to exercise his arms. He mentioned fishing, going to church and visiting an old friend. He hasn’t been going out really at all for the last year because Grandma couldn’t go.
So it sounds like he might be looking forward to living with us a little bit.
We will all have to make adjustments. One of the boys and I spent a whole day emptying out the bedroom Grandpa will use. We’ll have to get used to his routine and he’ll have to get used to ours.
But the best part is that the kids may be able to get to know Grandpa in a new way, a better way than just visiting with him for the space of hours.
We just about got our kids raised and out into the world when it became time to really need to take care of our parents. And we are pleased and thankful that we have the resources to be able to do that.
What worries us is that we are a generation without pensions. We are a generation with 401K plans that melt like marshmallows in the rain every four years are so. We can help our parents and we can help ourselves while we are working, but what happens when we’re the Grandmas and Grandpas.
I wonder what our children will do. I wonder if they will have the resources to take care of us. And with people living so much longer, often well into their second century, I wonder if it’s our grandchildren who will really get the short end of the stick and have to figure out how to take care of parents and grandparents.
I’m thinking of Charlie’s house in "Willy Wonka" with four old folks in a bed. Change is exciting. Change can be good. But change can also be a little scary. Too bad it’s also inevitable.