Last weekend I was watching “The Notebook” on TV.
My oldest daughter (known for saying whatever is on her mind at all times) walked into the room, noticed what I was watching, and commented, “Why are you watching this kind of movie? You’re not in love anymore!”
What she meant, as she continued to explain, was that Aileen and I were already married, therefore I had no reason to watch a romantic movie. I reassured her I was in fact very much still in love!
What I didn’t explain was the reason I was watching it. I had just found out my Mom was back in the hospital. By now, I’ve lost track of how many seizures she’s had in the last few years as a result of her chemotherapy for leukemia over 20 years ago. As a result, the doctors believe she is now showing symptoms of dementia. No one in my family wants to say it out loud, but it may not be much longer before she doesn’t know who any of us are, let alone herself.
I don’t think anyone can ever be ready for something like this to happen, and I know no one in our family is emotionally prepared to deal with these circumstances yet. Speaking only for myself, I have already become numb to the news of yet another hospital and rehab visit. The urgency to visit her in the hospital in the middle of the night has been replaced by a constant fear of the one phone call no one ever wants to receive.
So I couldn’t help but notice the parallels in the story from the movie that happened to come on TV as I was flipping through the channels. The premise is an old man who is so in love with his wife (who doesn’t remember who she or anyone else is in her old age) reads her their story in hopes that she will remember him, if only for a few minutes. By the end, they get just enough time together to dance, kiss, and fall asleep together one last time.
I can’t help but think of my wife and kids and the inevitability of getting older. I don’t know what’s a scarier thought: to be the one needing that kind of care or to be the one who has to provide it. What I do know is that either way, I have a partner who will love and care for me until the very end, regardless of how hard it gets. And I’m pretty sure we are raising our kids in a way that they will take care of us both if we need help someday.
I’m sure most people don’t think about the future as much as I have in my life. As a kid, I was always fantasizing about being an adult. Now, I spend a lot of time thinking about what could happen in the future, both positive and negative. I have realized this problem of not living in the present moment has kept me from doing a lot of things. I have spent as much time worrying what might happen if something I do is successful as much as if it will fail, if not more.
But my kids have helped me learn how to live in the moment and enjoy life more as it’s happening. They grow up so fast, it’s like you can’t blink without missing something. So I just want to treasure every moment I have, as long as I can, with my wife, kids, and parents. I guess that’s really all anyone can do.