I was never delusional that one day I’d have to switch roles with my parents and have to start taking care of them. I just didn’t think it would be so soon as they both are still relatively young. Plus I had been enjoying life under the guise that the “30’s is the new 20’s.” I figured I had at least ten more years of recklessness abandonment until I had to act like a responsible adult. Then again who knew my parents fulfilling their dream trip to take a Viking River Cruise in Europe would lead to changing my immediate family’s entire world. We don’t agree on much, but if any of us had the psychic ability to see the future, that trip would have been cancelled even without a refund.
Within days of coming back from their trip, my dad woke up one night so sick and delusional that he thought he was in Paris and started getting dressed to go home to California. I’m not mad at him because if I were going to have delusional thoughts, I’d want to be balling in delusion just like him. Fortunately, my mom was there to call 911 and rushed him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a severe case of pneumonia and a mini stroke. That alone threw me into a tailspin, as he is my go-to-guy for everything. Yet, by the third day in the hospital we were watching the World Cup and chatting as if he had never been sick. He was sent home the next day with strict instructions to rest and my family was able to breathe a sigh of relief as we had dodged a life-threatening bullet.
And we did dodge a bullet with my dad, but it unfortunately hit my mom the next day. She woke up with a fever and was non-responsive resulting in another 911 call. My mom was also diagnosed with pneumonia, but on top of that she had a life-threatening infection called Sepsis. If you know anything about Sepsis, you know it is no joke. I started to question if I was getting punked. Would Ashton soon come running out with cameras? Seriously, how could both of my parents end up in the hospital within the same week and diagnosed with the same illness? I wasn’t ready for that one, but who is ready to see their parents lifeless with breathing tubes? The upside right now is that after a week in the Intensive Care Unit, the doctors were able to take my mom off the ventilator and she is slowly moving towards recovery.
People keep asking me how I am doing and all I can say is life is surreal and crazy. My mother who I am convinced taught me the art of a sharp tongue, can barely say her name. Her handwriting was so perfect that it was hard to forge as a teenage, is no longer legible. And now we are happy if she can kick her foot up or eats most of a meal, as it is a sign of a great day and one step closer to leaving the hospital. There have been days when I felt it might be her last. There are days I found a place to secretly cry when no one is around.
So how am I really doing? I am still in shock. There isn’t enough bourbon at Costco to make things feel like I’m doing great. Life has changed. Love life is on hold. Travel on hold. I am finally coming to terms (almost) that chain restaurants are the norm opposed to being in shock that someone would even suggest such a thing. The San Francisco Ballet is no longer in walking distance. My favorite coffee shop, Blue Bottle Coffee, is a 20-minute drive away. And the comfort of urban life and my own bed is now the uncomfortable familiarity of my childhood home and life in suburbia.
What can I say? My goal right now is to get both of my parents back to the way they were or as close as possible. If that means dramatically changing my life, then I am ready to tag myself into the role of pseudo-parenthood. I guess once you get past the shock of a major life change you learn to deal or get to some Zen spot. I’m not fully there yet, as all is still so fresh, but I can see it in my near future. All I know is one day your parents get sick and you grow up. Or maybe you don’t and you go into denial. Either way, life as you know it is not the same.